Sexuality & Gender: Difference & Definitions

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  • 0:04 Sexual Identity
  • 0:43 Gender Terminology
  • 1:56 Sexual Orientation
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson defines many important concepts, including sexual identity, sexual orientation, sexual preference, gender identity, gender preference, gender adoption, and gender identification. We also go over the three forms of sexual orientation.

Sexual Identity

The way we view ourselves is not always the way others see us. Someone you've recently met that seems cold and distant may simply be very shy and anxious about talking to you, despite wanting to. A person who is overly gregarious may be trying to cover up a flaw they're obsessing about internally. This is just as true when it comes down to sexual identity, the way a person thinks of themselves in terms of whom they are romantically and sexually attracted to, be it a person of their own gender or otherwise. We may come off one way in society but be quite different on the inside.

Gender Terminology

Sexual identity shouldn't be confused with gender identity, the way a person thinks about or recognizes their own gender, meaning whether you think of yourself as a man or a woman. By the time children reach the age of 18 months, many can correctly point out whether they are a boy or girl. As children grow and attend preschool, they develop gender preference, the intellectual and emotional acceptance of a person's own birth gender. Gender preference needs to be delineated from sexual preference, an emotional and/or sexual attraction to sexual partners.

But it takes a lot longer than preschool for a person to fully understand how differently men and women think, act, and feel. The long process of learning what a man and woman are like in terms of traditional gender characteristics is known as gender adoption. When a person gets to late adolescence they will reach a point of gender identification, a personally gratifying interpretation of a person's own masculinity or femininity.

Sexual Orientation

Okay, there were quite a few definitions there, so I promise this is the last one as we have a big topic to discuss: sexual orientation, an enduring inclination of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to either one or both sexes. There are three major sexual orientations.

One of these is known as heterosexuality. The prefix 'hetero' is a Greek term that means 'the other or different.' In colloquial terminology, a heterosexual person is straight. Heterosexuality is the most common sexual orientation and is the most fundamental orientation precisely because it's rooted in our evolutionary and biological survival. For obvious reasons, it takes two different genders to have a child and, therefore, ensure survival of a species.

In the majority of the world, in the recent past and today, laws and cultures are supportive of heterosexual relationships unlike those of another sexual orientation: homosexuality. The Greek prefix 'homos' refers to 'the same.' Therefore, a homosexual individual is attracted to the same gender. The terms gay and lesbian are used in common language to describe a sexual orientation of a homosexual nature.

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