Our identity is unique. We all have multiple identities influenced by social categories such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more that combine to influence how we experience our world and the groups we identify with and belong to.

  • We all have multiple identities that intersect to influence how we experience our world
  • Identity is influenced by social categories such as class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and by the social groups we belong to
  • Positive mental health and wellbeing and a sense of belonging are strongly influenced by an inclusive approach to identity
  • A person or a community’s identity is multi-faceted
  • Our identities are dynamic. They are influenced by social and historical contexts, including influences such as media, policies, and laws
  • Identity is intersectional: identities interact to produce different experiences of power, as well as individual and collective experiences of privilege and/or oppression
  • Experiences of oppression are interconnected
  • Not every person’s identity will be shaped by similar factors in the same way
  • Same sex attracted and gender diverse individuals from multicultural and faith based backgrounds negotiate identity in diverse and multi-layered ways; there is no one way

Diversity Wheel
The centre of the wheel represents characteristics that are usually most permanent or visible. The outside of the wheel represents dimensions that are acquired and change over the course of a lifetime. The combinations of all of these dimensions influence our values, beliefs, behaviours, experiences and expectations and make us all unique as individuals.
Johns Hopkins University and Medicine

The Complexity of Identity

We all have multiple identities that intersect to influence how we experience our world, connect to others, and create a sense of self. Research and lived experience tell us that positive mental health and wellbeing and a sense of belonging are strongly influenced by an inclusive approach to identity.1

Identity is often discussed in terms of social categories such as gender, class, nationality etc., with associated and implied values, and behaviours (e.g., identifying as Chinese due to having parents born in China), it is also expressed in terms of how strongly membership in these social categories influence a person’s sense of self2. Identity has also been defined in terms of a person’s sense of belonging to a specific social group or community (e.g. belonging to the Queer Community)3.

Identity is Dynamic

The meanings conveyed through our identities are not fixed, rather they are dynamic through time and culture, and influenced by our ‘social locations’ understood as the specific social and historical contexts that we exist in, including greater structural influences such as media, policies, and laws4. For example, gender identity and the concept of gender roles have undergone radical changes in the past century, and the expectations and views we have of gender today are different from the way we would have viewed gender in 1918.

An intersectional understanding of identity highlights that people often have multiple identities that may interact to produce different experiences of discrimination and social inequity, recognising the often layered and interconnected experiences of oppression.

Negotiating Multiple Forms of Identity

Individuals who are same sex attracted and gender diverse from multicultural and faith based communities face a unique task in navigating the expectations, values, and behaviours in regards to their gender identity, sexual orientation, and cultural and faith identity3.

Identity and belonging can be threatened by the viewpoint that identifying as same sex attracted and gender diverse conflicts with that of identifying as multicultural and/or of diverse faith and vice versa. Such attitudes have been shown to lead to individuals suppressing aspects of their identity depending on their social context, or feeling excluded and rejected by their communities. For example, not speaking about ones sexual orientation with one’s faith community or not speaking about one’s faith identity in queer communities.5

It should also be noted that not every person’s identity will be shaped by similar factors in the same way. For some people, their sexual orientation may play a large part in their personal identity but not their cultural identity. For others, both factors may be extremely important to their sense of self, and others still will be influenced by other factors such as ability, age, and class.

Ultimately, a person’s identity should be seen as a multi-faceted concept informed by a number of factors influenced by their specific social context.

With age, I have become more ok with not having to hide my sexual identity to anyone. I am still quite cautious around people I am not familiar with, particularly people in the Filipino community including my own family… In LGBTI community it can be very difficult to explain my culture or have people understand that I have not ‘come out’ to my parents or family, but that they know I am same-sex attracted. People not understanding my identity as a whole or have much interest in understanding has lowered my confidence in expressing any part of my identity to others.

LGBTQ | How You See Me

  • What aspects of your life have influenced your own sense of identity? Consider family background , migration status, sexual orientation, gender, class, education, ethnicity, spirituality, faith
  • Do you feel a stronger sense of connection to some aspects of your identity compared to others? Has this changed over time? Does it differ in different contexts or environments?
  • Do you ever need to negotiate multiple forms of identity in your professional practice or daily life? Do you have choice? How do you do this?
  • Have there been times when your identities have been ignored? What was this experience like for you?
  • How can an intersectional approach support person centred care?
  • How can starting a conversation with ‘tell me a little more about yourself, what would you like me to know…’ be helpful in building trust?


“How it feels not having all of my identities acknowledged…”

Kay Ulanday Barrett: a trans, Filipino, disabled person talks about their identities and how they intersect.

“All of my identities are intertwined.. ”

Sonia Guinansaca: a migrant queer, poet, cultural organiser talks about her identities and how they intersect.

QLives: Bonnie’s Story (Intersex)

This QLives film is the story of Bonnie, talking about her experience and what intersex means to her – the ‘I’ in LGBTI. It’s a beautiful and touching introduction into an often misunderstood world.

What it’s like to be intersex

The Inter/Act intersex youth advocacy group in the US filmed this introductory video about what it is to be intersex.


  1.  Beyond Blue: The Impact of Discrimination
  2. Fearon, J. D. (1999). What is identity (as we now use the word)? California, Stanford University.
  3. Pallotta-Chiarolli, M. (2016). Supporting same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people of multicultural and multifaith backgrounds: executive summary and full research report. Melbourne: Equality Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
  4. Chen, J. (2017). Intersectionality matters: a guide to engaging immigrant and refugee communities in Australia. Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health: Melbourne.
  5. Mann, R., Horsley, P., Saunders, M., Briggs, V., & Mitchell, A. (2006). Swimming upstream: making places welcoming. A report on the needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in ‘hard to reach’ groups. Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria; The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health, and Society, La Trobe University: Melbourne.