Information Resource - Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation

Gender identity is a complex concept. Many people confuse gender and sex. Sex refers to birth sex. Gender is in the mind of the person and not so concrete. Gender identity is one's inner perception of one's gender.

Sexual orientation refers to one's attractions and feelings toward women and/or men.

Transgender: Person whose gender identity or gender expression contrasts with traditional social norms and expectations for their physical sex. Transgenderism has to do with one's gender identity, as opposed to one's sexual orientation.

Questioning: Anyone who is uncertain about their sexual orientation, that is, anyone who is unsure whether they are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.

Sexual orientation prejudice: This includes all negative attitudes towards someone based on the person's sexual orientation (sometimes people use the term "homophobia"). Lesbian, gay and bisexual people face tremendous prejudice on a daily basis.

Coming out: The process by which a person acknowledges that he/she is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning. Usually this begins as an acknowledgement to himself/herself and later to others. Coming out to another person can often be anxiety-producing, because one is never certain whether he/she will be rejected for his/her sexual orientation. In some instances, coming out can put the person in physical danger or even cause his/her family to disown him/her. There is no perfect formula for coming out that will work for everyone.

Things to consider before coming out:

  • Am I comfortable with my sexual orientation?
  • Am I informed about homosexuality?
  • Is this my decision or is someone pushing me to come out?
  • What do I hope will happen as a result of coming out?
  • What are the risks to my personal and professional relationships?
  • Do I have support if my coming out doesn't go as planned?
How can counseling help?

Individual and group counseling offer confidential and safe places to talk about personal concerns in an accepting and nonjudgmental environment. Counseling can also help people feel more comfortable telling their family or friends about their sexual orientations. Counseling can provide support if family or friends are rejecting. It can also help people integrate their gay and religious identities as well as sorting out spiritual issues.

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