What is the difference between Sexual Identity and Gender Identity?
The primary difference is that sexual identity refers to how an individual relates sexually to others while gender identity refers to how an individual relates to their gendered self. Terms such as asexual, heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual are terms relating to sexual identity. Gender Identity--as it is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM ), “is the sense of knowing to which sex one belongs, that is, the awareness that ‘I am male’ or ‘I am female’. Gender identity is the private experience of gender role and gender role is the public expression of gender identity. Gender role can be defined as everything that one says and does, including sexual arousal, to indicate to others or to oneself the degree to which one is male or female.”.
So, sexual identity refers to who you are sexually attracted too – who you are interested in having sexual intercourse with. Gender identity does not dictate who you are physically attracted to, (even though, for promulgation of the human race you would think that sexual identity and gender identity need to be linked).
How do I tell my children?
This is currently the most frequently asked question that I’ve received. Every person and child is an individual and I guess this reply should be divided up into different age groups.
For young children perhaps you can try this approach:
You have all occasionally had feelings inside that only you knew about. Perhaps you were feeling sad one day but you didn’t want others to know and so you put a smile on your face. Everybody thought you were happy and only you knew that you were sad. For many years Dr. Berkowitz also had feelings inside that he felt that he couldn’t tell anyone about and now he has decided that he is comfortable to let his real feelings show. And one family suggested that they would add, “And now he wants to make his outside match his feelings inside.”
For older children and adolescents I think that the approach may need to be tailored to the your particular child. But, in general, being direct with your child will probably be best. Most children appreciate it when their parents talk to them about a difficult subject and treat them as a young adult. A frank discussion about what is usually a private issue (but one that does not deal directly with a family member) can set a very positive tone for future discussions that may arise during the teenage years (such as substance abuse and sexual relations). There is such a wide array of personalities and maturity in this age range that one approach will not be approriate for all. Email me if you would like to talk in more detail on this matter.