A person holding a rainbow flag

Sexual Identity & Expression

While your sexuality can be fluid and may change over the course of time, your sexual identity plays an important role in who you are.

Familiarizing yourself with the different concepts and terms that may be associated with sexual identity can better help you and others affirm, ally, and feel empowered in your romantic or sexual interests—no matter how you may choose to identify.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the four characteristics of sexual identity?

    The four components of sexual identity include: biological sex, gender identity, social sex-role, and sexual orientation—all of which may combine and/or conflict to form an individual's unique sexual identity.

  • What is your sexual identity?

    Your sexual identity is how you see yourself in relation to who you are attracted to romantically, emotionally, and/or sexually. Sexual identity terms refer to words and phrases used to describe human sexuality and orientation including (but not limited to) gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual.

  • Can your sexuality change over time?

    One study that examined sexual orientations of people from teenage years through early adulthood showed that changes occurred throughout the duration, noting that "Substantial changes were common not only from late adolescence to the early 20s but also from the early 20s to the late 20s, indicating that sexual orientation development continues throughout emerging adulthood."

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Page Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shively MG, De Cecco JP. Components of sexual identityJ Homosex. 1977;3(1):41-48. doi:10.1300/J082v03n01_04

  2. Kaestle CE. Sexual orientation trajectories based on sexual attractions, partners, and identity: a longitudinal investigation from adolescence through young adulthood using a U.S. Representative sampleJ Sex Res. 2019;56(7):811-826. doi:10.1080/00224499.2019.1577351