Both our gender identity and sexual identity make up a fundamental part of who we are. Some people identify with a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. Gender Dysmorphia involves a conflict between the gender an individual identifies with, and the one they were physically assigned. For people with Gender Dysmorphia, this conflict can involve being uncomfortable with their body, expectations of social gender roles, or both.
The experiences, and sometimes struggles, of those with who have conflicting feelings about their gender vary hugely. Whilst some individuals recall intense feelings from a young age and express they have always felt trapped in the wrong body, others become confused about their gender identity later in life, sometimes even after getting married and having children. In the latter case, this is often not because the individual has suddenly changed their mind, but because they have previously tried to deny or ignore feelings around their gender identification. As an adult, coming to terms with gender identity confusion can seem impossible. If you have grappled with anxiety and confusion about your gender identity, you may be terrified of the impact this will have on your family, and even your career. Seeking the support and advice of a psychologist is often the first step.
On the other hand, sexual orientation/identity is completely separate, and distinct from, gender identity. Sexual identity refers to a person’s thinking about who they are romantically and sexually attracted to. Sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the opposite sex, to exclusive attraction to the same sex, and can therefore also be a source of confusion and sometimes, distress. It is not uncommon to feel under pressure to identify with one sexual orientation. However it is becoming openly accepted that sexuality is more fluid, and individuals may be anywhere on the continuum. If you are experiencing distress as the result of confusion surrounding your sexual identity, fear of stigma and/or disapproval of family and friends may be stopping you from facing these feelings. Alternatively, you may feel confident that you understand your sexual identity but need the help of a professional to communicate this to family and colleagues.
Due to the difficulties members of the LGBTQIA+ often face, there are high rates of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol addiction. However, when able to live out their daily lives with both a physical embodiment and a social expression that most closely matches their internal sense of self, LGBTQIA+ individuals live successful, productive lives, indistinguishable from anyone else.
If you are struggling with either gender or sexual identity concerns, seek help from a psychologist. Some of the ways our psychologists can help include: