Normal range of sexuality and gender

Being sexual is part of being human.

All of us are sexual beings whether we’re young or old, married, unmarried, partnered, single or celibate; widowed or divorced; able-bodied or differently able—and wherever we are on the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Like so many other aspects of humanity, we can express our sexuality and gender in a variety of ways. Yet as human beings, we are most comfortable when faced with the familiar and when we can neatly sort everything, including sexuality.  We like the ease of “checking the boxes.” We want to know if someone’s gender is male or female, or if their sexual orientation is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.  

But quick and easy either/or categories don’t describe the diversity and complexity that make up human sexuality. Simplistic categories exclude people and limit our vocabulary and understanding.

Circles of Sexuality

A helpful model for understanding human sexuality in its broadest sense uses five interconnecting circles that each represent an important component of our sexuality.  In this Circles of Sexuality model,* all the circles interrelate and are influenced by factors such as our family background, culture, religion, and the media.  The five circles are:

  1. Sensuality
  2. Intimacy 
  3. Sexual Identity
  4. Reproduction and Sexual Health 
  5. Sexualization

Many people in our society view sexuality narrowly, focusing only on the circle representing sexual health and reproduction. This broader, more comprehensive model helps us to understand the complexity of this important aspect of our being and helps us relate to others with compassion and understanding.

*Learn more about Circles of Sexuality originally developed by social worker Dr. Dennis Dailey at the University of Kansas.