Sexual identity, also known as sexual orientation, refers to your romantic feelings, attractions, and desires (or lack thereof) towards others. Though often listed as categories, there are an unlimited number of sexual identities and orientations, and for some, sexual identity is fluid and may evolve throughout one’s life. Sexual orientation is a fundamental part of who we are, and it can often shape other life experiences. Located in North York, The Medical Station offers resources, support, a safe space, and care for individuals of all sexual identities and orientations.
Understanding Your Own Sexual Identity
While many individuals begin to get a sense of their own sexual identity during childhood or early teenage years, this is not always the case. Some individuals may have been aware of their sexual identity for as long as they can remember, and others may still be questioning their identity in adulthood. While it is not understood what determines sexual identity, it is known that sexual orientation is not a choice and that you are the only person who can determine and identify your sexual orientation.
It is important to note that there is a distinction between sexual behaviours and sexual orientation – your sexual behaviours refer to the sexual acts and activities you undertake, while your identity or orientation refers to your sexual preferences. They may not always be aligned, especially for those who are still exploring and trying to determine their own sexual orientation. Though it can be extremely challenging, The Medical Station encourages you to define and express your sexual orientation and identity on your own terms. It is such a big part of your life, and it is important to be true to who you are.
Exploring Different Sexual Identities
As we already mentioned, there are unlimited sexual orientations. That being said, the majority of individuals fall into existing identities (which have become more inclusive over time) and there are many benefits to being able to identify with an existing community. It is important to note, however, that categories and labels can exclude individuals and be used for harm and discrimination (this has occurred in the past, and unfortunately continues today). Never jump to conclusions or try to categorize someone else, and always make sure that an individual is comfortable being identified in the given manner. Our clinic is presenting these identities as an educational tool, and for individuals in their own sexual orientation discovery.
Some of the common sexual orientations and identities are as follows:
- Asexual – a person who does not experience sexual attraction. They may still have intimate relationships with others, but it would not have a sexual component
- Bisexual – a person who is attracted to both men and women (and potentially other genders)
- Heterosexual – a person who is attracted to individuals of the opposite gender
- Homosexual – a person who is attracted to someone of their own gender (this includes the common categorizations of gay and lesbian)
- Pansexual/Omnisexual – a person who is attracted to members of any gender
- Queer – an umbrella term for sexual identities other than heterosexual
- Questioning – an individual who is unsure of and exploring their sexual identity
- Two-Spirited –a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit person who is not heterosexual (Two-Spirited can also be used to refer to gender identities in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities)
Sexual Identity and Health
An individual’s sexual identity may not affect their health. Often times, however, individuals who identify as non-heterosexual face increased health challenges, particularly with respect to mental health. Though not always the case, non-heterosexual, or queer, individuals may experience stigma and discrimination, which can result in higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. It may also lead to increased engagement in unhealthy behaviours, such as substance and alcohol abuse or suicidal behaviours. Additionally, the process of identifying and “coming out” as queer can be extremely stressful and challenging for some individuals. Lastly, sexual health is extremely important, and those who identify as queer may be less likely to have access to the necessary sexual health education or safe and comfortable health care environments.
A Safe Space at The Medical Station
The Medical Station offers a safe, confortable, and non-judgmental space for individuals of all sexual identities and orientations. Our clinic staff and care providers are aware of the health care barriers and challenges faced by many queer individuals and we are actively working to ensure we are providing excellent and empowering care. Additionally, our on-site Social Worker is available to work with you to better understand your sexual identity or any challenges you may be facing as a result.