gender and sexuality

Let’s Chat About Gender and Sexuality

Health is important for every gender and sexuality. In our latest Let’s Chat, Dr. Diana Bitner, Dr. Celia Egan, and counselor Dr. Ashley Wildman, Ph.D., explore this topic through a welcoming and non-judgmental conversation. This episode of Let’s Chat aims to empower women by equipping them with the knowledge and understanding they need to join the larger cultural conversation with more confidence and less fear.

The Genderbread Person

Dr. Wildman uses The Genderbread Person diagram to help define and clarify the nuances of gender and sexuality. First, it is important to think of gender and sexuality as a spectrum with a wide range of identities.  

A person’s identity and sexuality have multiple components, including biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation (attraction).

  • Biological Sex refers to the genitalia that a person is born with, typically male or female and sometimes intersex. 
  • Gender Identity refers to how you see yourself. This is your innate sense of who you are as a person. 
  • Gender Expression refers to what your identity looks like to people around you. 
  • Sexual Orientation refers to who you are attracted to, both sexually and romantically.  


the genderbread person

Take-Home Tips

  1. Biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are four different things.

    Patients should feel empowered to find a provider that they feel comfortable with and who understands these different areas. 

  2. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not contagious. 
  3. Gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be changed.
  4. Open conversations and direct questions do not guide a person (for example, your child) to feel or identify as one gender or another.

    It is okay to be curious! Curiosity is a form of support that allows for exploration and becoming closer without shame or secrets. As a parent, it can be helpful to speak with a trained therapist to develop language about how to talk with other people about your child’s identity. Therapists also help clients establish boundaries with individuals who are less affirming.

  5. There are serious risks for mental health concerns of the person who identifies differently than the sex they were assigned at birth.

    Studies show an increased risk of suicide and depression only when a person has a non-affirming family and community. There is a huge drop in depression when individuals are surrounded by family, friends, and communities who are accepting of their authentic selves.

Five Questions You Can Ask Your Healthcare Provider

  1. What do I do if I have questions about my gender identity or sexual orientation?

    We encourage you to find a provider that is knowledgeable about gender identity and sexuality and who is someone you’d feel comfortable discussing vulnerable questions and topics. Take a deep breath, be gentle with yourself, and remember that it’s okay to have questions. We are here to help.  

  2. What do I do if I feel my child is having questions or struggles about gender identity or sexual expression and is not speaking up?

    Allow your child to process their own thoughts and feelings in a safe environment and keep communication open. It is okay to honor their privacy and allow your child to share with you when they are ready. Taking a walk or talking in the car can also feel less confrontational than direct eye-contact conversations. 

  3. What if I am open to a discussion about my child, but my partner or parents (the grandparents) are not?

    There are a lot of layers to these situations. It’s okay to seek professional help. Talking to a therapist can provide you with clarity and a better understanding of ways to navigate these changes. A therapist can also help you to feel less alone. It is also important to remember that adults are adults, and your child is the vulnerable one in this situation. They don’t need to be burdened by adult issues. It is okay to set up boundaries on how these adults interact with your child! 

  4. Where do I look for more answers?

    One great resource in the Grand Rapids area is the Grand Rapids Pride Center. Their team can help connect you with physicians, mental health support, and resources for parents and caregivers. 

  5. What does medical care look like, or how is it different for someone who is in transition but still has biological sex organs from the sex they were assigned at birth?

    Depending on the gender-affirming hormones being utilized, a provider will screen for a number of things, including cholesterol, heart disease, etc. If biological organs are still in place, routine screens of these organs are important as well to rule out any health concerns.  

A Team Dedicated to Your Health

In a time when understanding and acceptance are crucial, the true. Women’s Health team is dedicated to providing an affirming, safe space to explore gender identity and sexuality. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our team. We look forward to helping you reach your health goals and live more authentically. We are honored to be part of your journey!