Sexual Identity

Sexual identity refers to how one thinks of oneself in terms of whom one is sexually and romantically attracted to. Sexual identity and sexual behavior are closely related to sexual orientation, but they are distinguished, with identity referring to an individual's conception of themselves, behavior referring to actual sexual acts performed by the individual, and orientation referring to "fantasies, attachments and longings."

Sexual identity may or may not relate to their actual sexual orientation. In a 1990 study by the Social Organization of Sexuality, only 16% of women and 36% of men who reported some level of same-sex attraction had a homosexual or bisexual identity.

Sexual identity is more closely related to sexual behavior than sexual orientation is. The same survey found that 96% of women and 87% of men with a homosexual or bisexual identity had participated in sex with someone of the same sex, as contrasted to 32% of women and 43% of men who had same-sex attractions. Upon reviewing the results, the organization commented "Development of self-identification as homosexual or gay is a psychological and socially complex state, something which, in this society, is achieved only over time, often with considerable personal struggle and self-doubt, not to mention social discomfort."

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