Sexual Orientation Identity Development

Identity development is a central psychological task for all people. Each person’s identity is made up of the intersection of many dimensions of social location, as well as unique individual personality, skills, and interests. In today’s society, gender and sexual orientation are two of the key components of identity. This entry defines the term sexual orientation and provides a brief history of sexual orientation identity. The changing psychosocial context is described—including long periods of widespread antigay attitudes—that has had a powerful influence on nonheterosexual identity development. Two opposing ways of understanding identity—essentialism and postmodern social construction—are explained. Next, stage models of identity development are described. This discussion is followed by a theory of life span identity processes.

Sexual orientation is defined as an enduring pattern of ...

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