What does sexuality mean?
The short answer is different things to different people!
It is helpful to think of sexuality as a broad term that describes all aspects of who you are as a sexual being. Like we use the term personality to describe characteristics of them as a whole person – they could be funny, serious, silly, nervous outgoing, shy, etc. So sexuality includes all of the aspects of you as a whole sexual being.
The people in your life (family, friends, peers, gfs/bfs), your spiritual beliefs, your culture, your experiences, your body image, your gender identity, your sexual identity, your sexual orientation, your interests and desires, and your abilities will all shape your definition (and ultimately experience) of sexuality. Some youth we work with tell us that it can be helpful to think of your definition as your own personal puzzle – you’re the only one who can make the pieces fit just right for you.
At different times in your life, sexuality may mean different things to you and you may define it differently. The most important part of defining sexuality is that you are the person who defines it for you.
What does gender mean?
Another short answer is different things to different people!
Gender is complex, dynamic, and varying. Quite often, Western culture simplifies gender into opposites: male and female and connects it to biological sex – ie genitals = gender. Recently, more and more people have come to challenge this binary idea and view gender as a spectrum rather than the idea of either male or female. There are many influences on our understnding of gender: history, culture, society, media, family, etc.