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."

Lesbian couple laughing in bed
What to Know About Sexual Fluidity
a couple under a starry night
What's the Difference Between Demisexuality and Pansexuality?
Colourful studio portrait of two women
What Is the Split Attraction Model?
Close-up of two lesbian couple holding hands in a park
What Is the Kinsey Scale?
This headache is getting in the way of her work
What Is Emotional Labor?
Pensive young man looking out of window
What Does It Mean to Be in the Closet?
a couple having a deep, meaningful discussion over coffee. The man is enamored with the woman due to the depth of the conversation.
Are You Attracted to Intelligence? You Might Be Sapiosexual
What does it mean to be bi-curious
What Does It Mean to Be Bi-curious?
How to support aromantic individuals
What Does It Mean to Be Aromantic?
Progress pride flag
What Do the Colors of the New Pride Flag Mean?
mental health resources for lgbtq
16 Mental Health Resources to Support the LGBTQ+ Community
people celebrating LGBTQ+ pride
What Does the LGBTQ+ Acronym Mean?
Two women kissing in a field at sunset
Sexual Minority Meaning and Characteristics
Five men of different nationalities at a pride parade
What Does It Mean to Be Heteroflexible?
Femme Invisibility
What Is Femme Invisibility?
People are holding a giant gay rainbow flag over the street at gay pride parade.
What Is Asexuality?`
Homophobia
What Is Homophobia?
LGBTQ+
What Does Pansexual Mean?
Sad teen being bullied
What Should Parents Do About Gay Bullying?
How to talk to your partner about your sexuality
Is Your Spouse Gay or Bisexual?
two men kissing on forehead
What Is a Demisexual?
Cis White man and his cis White girlfriend having a conversation with their gay friends at a restaurant
How to Navigate Your Own Privilege
what is othering
How Othering Contributes to Discrimination and Prejudice
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