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Gender and Sexuality Identity Development

Gender and Sexuality Identity Development & Social Experiences. Perhaps the most salient of the many tasks faced during adolescence is the formation of individual identity (Erikson, 1968). During this critical period, adolescents are expected to negotiate developmental tasks including forming a cohesive sense of self, achieving autonomy while maintaining belongingness, and demonstrating independence while balancing being supported (Tharinger & Wells, 2000). Often these important tasks are achieved through social comparison or identifying with the standards and norms of the main population. Those who are unable to identify with the dominant culture may experience a different developmental trajectory. Adolescent sexual minorities differ from the dominant culture in sexual orientation, and this divergence from the main culture’s assumed developmental path creates a novel point of reference in identity formation. Striepe and Tolman (2003) offered further insight into the unique developmental challenges experienced in identity formation by sexual minority adolescents.

Gender and Sexuality Identity Development

Recent research on sexual identity development among GLBT youths draws from a social constructionist theoretical perspective, of which a key feature is emphasis on how individuals interrelate, how culture and society impact this process, and finally, the phenomenological reality taken from these integrated parts (Owen, 1992). Social constructionism underscores that human behavior and development cannot be understood in a social or cultural vacuum (Schaller, 2002), but must be understood through the meaning given to different outcomes via personal, social, and cultural perspectives.

  1. Regardless of your gender and/or sexual identity, think about the first time you disclosed your gender and/or sexual identity to someone, what was that like? If you are cisgender and you’ve never had to disclose your identity, think about what that might look like for you if you had to.

Alternative for 1: If you do not feel comfortable disclosing your sexual and/or gender identity, imagine what it might be like for some who does (hypothetically), what do you think that experience might be like for them?

2.   Describe your thoughts on what it might be like to be asexual in our society, especially with the emphasis that society places on sexuality (e.g. (cis)males should always desire sex, (cis)females should always be sexually passive).

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