Human sexuality and gender identity are two complex and intertwined parts of who we are, and both exist on spectrums, rather than binaries as we are often taught as children. Our sexuality is who we are, or are not, attracted to, while our gender identity is about our self-expression, and how we behave and interact with the world. While the two are related, they do not dictate the other; your gender identity and sexuality exist separate from each other and can each change on their own as well.
The idea of a spectrum versus a binary implies that gender and sexuality exist in many forms, and everyone can have their own experience that may be entirely unique to them. In addition, a spectrum leaves room for change during our lives, our gender and sexuality may shift as we go through life, sometimes based on experiences, other times based on self-exploration and reflection. This is something that we often need support in, sometimes through talking to our friends, loved ones, or a therapist.
Common sexualities include straight/heterosexual (attraction to a different or “opposite” gender), gay/homosexual (attraction to the same gender), bisexual (attraction to two or more genders), pansexual (attraction to all/many genders), and asexuality (a lack of sexual attraction to others). Common gender identities include cisgender (identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth based on your genetic markers), transgender (identifying with another gender different from the one you were assigned at birth), and non-binary (identifying outside of the cultural concepts of male and female).
These examples are by no means exhaustive, there are many identities that people have explored and find comfort and validation in. Labels can help us to feel seen, when we are able to label our sexuality or gender identity, we can feel safe and at peace, but it is important to remember that labels can change if they become limiting or are no longer accurate for us. Talking about gender identity and sexuality in therapy can be a great way to feel heard, to have a safe space to explore, and to work on strategies to feel safe and seen in our lives, such as coming out to family or friends, or navigating our identities in settings like school or the workplace.