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Two people looking at computers with brain images with an imaging equipment room in the background.
Figure 22.1 The etiology of psychological and mental health disorders can be multifaceted, ranging from genetic and biological to environmental; often, specific causes are a combination of the types of factors or remain a mystery. (credit: “National Nurses Week: Capt. Stephanie Smiddy” by Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes/Air Force Medical Service, Public Domain)

Sexuality is a central aspect of human identity. As children grow and develop, they are socialized into categories dictated by the dominant culture by things such as their name, their clothes, and their toys. Young children soon learn to identify with a particular gender, denoting a masculine or feminine status according to cultural expectations. Gender identity continues to develop through the process of puberty to be sexually mature, capable of giving rise to the next generation of human beings (Testa et al., 2015).

The concept of sexuality and its many dimensions is extremely complex and varied. Consider recent changes in completing demographic forms. No longer are individuals asked to identify as merely male or female, but now have many other choices, such as neither male nor female, binary, nonbinary, or prefer not to state. Regardless of these changes in terminology, the concepts of sexuality and identity, and their overlap, are rife with emotion for many people. Nurses are entrusted with many of the intimate details of people’s lives, and issues surrounding these concepts frequently arise. Nursing education programs vary in their approach to human sexual development and sexual behavior. Regardless of any formal preparation and knowledge about human sexuality, psychiatric nurses sooner or later find themselves drawn into a conversation where a client is experiencing distress related to their sexual identity, orientation, health, illness, or specific behavior.

Nurses are encouraged to think and speak in terms of gender inclusivity, and to welcome those in their care to share their preferences. This positively affects access to health care by supporting inclusivity.


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