Sexual orientation and gender identity are frequently misunderstood, and simultaneously more and less complicated than they seem. Matthew Daude Laurents, a philosopher, educator and clinician, came to speak with us in May regarding this very topic. He relayed a quote by Brendan Jordan: “Sexuality is who you go to bed with; gender identity is who you go to bed as.”
Sex, sexual orientation and gender identity are often bundled together, although they are distinctly different. When a baby is born, they are assigned a sex, typically defined by their secondary sexual characteristics. As this baby becomes a child, an adolescent, and an adult, this assigned sex may or may not align with what they feel about themselves or their bodies. Gender is a more complicated construct, taking into consideration not one’s secondary sexual characteristics, but rather how they feel about who they are, and how they choose to express themselves to the outside world. While sex is what a person is assigned a birth and is most commonly broken down into male and female, gender identity can be more fluid.
If one’s sex assigned at birth aligns with how they feel, they are considered cisgender. If someone feels that their assigned sex is different than how they identify, how they feel, this is called transgender. There are also a number of additional terms that people feel suit them better, such as genderfluid, or gender queer, while others prefer not to be labeled altogether.
Sexual orientation, on the contrary, is not about who you are. Sexual orientation is who you like, who you are attracted to. We are familiar with heterosexuality and homosexuality, but similar to gender identity, sexual orientation is more fluid than these two boxes. Asexuality, for instance, fits into neither of these boxes. Those who identify as asexual, or “ace” for short, may find others physically attractive, but they do not feel sexual attraction. Bisexuality is another orientation that does not fit in to these boxes as well, allowing for a more diverse orientation, with the definition varying from person to person.
People like to fit each other into boxes, and boxes provide a useful framework to understand the world, but not to understand all individuals. At Sullivan Physical Therapy, we treat those of all orientations, identities and lifestyles. We strive to continue learning and adapting to best serve all of our patients, regardless of who you are, who you like, and what you like.