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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Just Different: Some people take comfort in labeling their sexuality: gay or straight, dominant or submissive, and so on. Having that label allows people to feel part of a group and to get support from others. But what if you're unable or unwilling to pin down your sexuality in this way?

 Perhaps you've been attracted to both guys and girls. Perhaps you're turned on by the thought of being the "doer" or the "done to," sexually speaking. Perhaps you've experimented with cross-dressing or even "passing" as the opposite gender, but don't wish to take a permanent step in that direction. You may identify with the Aboriginal concept of a "two-spirit" person: someone who has both male and female identities.

If you can't put your sexual identity in a box, you face unique challenges and opportunities.In a black-and-white world. Grey people tend to be misunderstood. Even if you feel no need to label your own sexuality, others may want to label you anyway. Not fitting into any obvious group could make it harder for you to get the emotional and practical support you may need. On the other hand, many of today's sexual-diversity groups - particularly those who cater to GLBT (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgendered) youth - welcome just about anybody who stands outside the big box of heterosexuality.

Your free-spirited sexuality will give you the opportunity to form relationships with a diverse group of people. And you're also in a unique position to help other people understand sexual diversity. Just remember that being different doesn't mean you can exploit or harm people, sexually or otherwise. If you handle your sexuality responsibly, there's every chance you'll find a safe place in today's diverse sexual world.

At some point you'll probably want to disclose your sexual identity to the important people in your life, such as parents or close friends. You may find it helpful to use some of the principles outlined in the coming out section for homosexuals, bearing in mind that your own coming-out process may be even more challenging. Even after you've explained why the usual labels don't apply to you, people may want to label you as something you're not.

You may want to launch the discussion by touching on this problem. For example:

 "It seems there's a lot of pressure for people to label themselves as straight, gay, or whatever. I'm having a hard time with that idea. I'd like to talk to you about how I've been experiencing my sexuality, which doesn't seem to fit into any of these categories."
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