• Dr. Blaise Ntacyabukura

Myth or fact: What is sexuality?

Human sexual development is as important as physical growth and cognitive development. As a person grows up, his or her sexual behaviors may bring mattering health implications especially if that person has some of the key risk factors for sexual related health problems. This is the first article in a series called“myth or facts: sexuality” where we will uncover the myths and facts about sexuality, orientation, and sexual wellbeing. Starting with:

Human sexuality per se is more than just whether you are identified as male or female, it is much more than just the act of sex! Sexuality involves the physical make-up, what you think about yourself, and how you feel about others and the society you live in. Sexuality is mainly determined by someone’s anatomically assigned sex, and psychologic or behavioral self-identification, the laters often given less value.

At birth, a baby gets assigned a gender identity defined by the biological sex born with. In most settings, a healthcare practitioner is the one to approve and document the sex or gender of the newborn. As a consequence, everyone grows up assigned as male if you have a penis and testicles or female if you have breasts, uterus, vagina, and ovaries.

However, in rare cases, some people are born with sex organs that are not normally developed and/or may appear to resemble both sexes; those individuals are said to have “ambiguous genitalia” or to be intersex. It is a malformation like others such as getting born with a malformed limb or heart.

With that said, sex assigned at birth is only one component of sexuality that does not necessarily correlate with or totally determine an individual’s future sexual behaviors.

Gender identity

We cannot discuss sexuality and leave behind gender identity. During human growth, our bodies start secreting sexual hormones which make us have a“feeling” inside, whether we are or "feel" like a boy or a girl, both, or neither. It is also referred to as "male" or "masculine" and as "female" or "feminine”.

Gender identity and gender expression are personal, psychologic, and cultural principles referring to various aspects of maleness, femaleness, or other nonbinary designation. Gender roles are on the other hand society's expectations of attitudes, behaviors, and personality traits typically based on biological sex. However, sometimes the gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not match. For example, a person can be born as a boy but feel like a girl, or can feel somewhere in between a boy and a girl, which is sometimes referred to as transgender.

Therefore, gender assignment similarly to sexuality must consider additional thought given to the individual's psychologic or behavioral self-identification, not only to the sex born with.

So, what is sexual orientation?

The sexual orientation itself refers to an individual's pattern of physical, emotional, and romantic arousal (including fantasies, activities, and behaviors) and the gender(s) of persons to whom an individual is physically or sexually attracted. To understand the implications of sexuality or sexual orientation and sexual behavior is a critical concept in our wellbeing and is influenced greatly by the culture in which one lives. During childhood, parents or other immediate family members help children define what is male and female and how they express themselves as members of their gender. As children become adolescents, influences broaden with peer, media, and community norms of gender and sexuality impacting their individual value systems. Media provide information and can exert some influence on adolescents' understanding of diversity, as well as their perception of gender roles and sexual behavior. Adolescents and young adults are exposed to several hours of media (television, radio, internet) each day, during which they experience significant exposure to sexual content, which often contains references to sexual intercourse. Problems may arise for the youth who encounter conflict between their emerging sexuality and the approach to sexuality that is imposed by families, peers, culture, and society as a whole.

So there you have it - sexuality and orientation is not just the biological sex that is assigned to you, there are a lot of parameters to take into account for individuals to find an orientation they feel comfortable with. Including individuals around them to accept the orientation they choose.

In our following articles, we will discuss different sexual orientations, sexual behaviors, and related health implications and what sexual wellbeing is. However, if you would like to know more about this topic, you can directly chat with our expert medical doctors via our BYON8 app.

See you soon - be well!


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