Sexual orientation is a term used to describe one person’s sexual or romantic attraction to another person, whether from the same gender or opposite sex. The attractions are generally categorized as bisexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality. Asexuality is often identified as the fourth category.
Sexual Orientation Categories
- Bisexuality – Romantic or physical attraction toward both genders. For example, a male attracted toward both males and females.
- Homosexuality – Sexual or romantic attraction toward one’s own gender. For example, a man is attracted toward another man, and a woman finding another female as sexually or romantically attracted.
- Heterosexuality – Romantic, physical, and sexual attraction toward the opposite gender. For example, a man attracted toward a woman, and vice versa.
- Asexuality – Lack of sexual attraction toward people from any gender. Such people aren’t attracted toward anyone.
The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as an individual’s “sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.”
Causes of Sexual Orientation
It is believed that sexual orientation is based on one’s biological factors, though there is no one cause that describes why one is attracted toward the other person. Adolescence or puberty, when hormonal changes start taking place in a person’s body, is often considered the dawn of sexual orientation. It is this time when sexual feelings, desires, practices, and identification may start to show up in a person.
No one fully understands the exact cause of sexual orientation, but it is often believed to be a contribution of one’s biological, genetic, and environmental influences. A majority of scientists believe that biological factors influence one’s orientation, though there isn’t any substantial evidence to prove that early childhood, parenting, or uterine environment influences one’s sexual orientation.
Is Sexual Orientation Changeable?
The American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics view it as part of one’s nature, which cannot be changed. One starts to become aware of their sexual attraction toward others right from a very young age. Childhood crushes either on someone from the same gender or opposite sex reveal one’s sexual orientation.
Efforts to change one’s sexual feelings have proven ineffective. Medical and mental health professionals believe that any efforts to change a person’s sexual inclination can prove harmful.
Some confuse sexual orientation with gender identity, which is incorrect, as both are different from each other. Gender identity is used to describe one’s inner sense of being; it could be a man, woman, both, or none of these. This is what defines their gender expression, that is, their masculinity, femininity, none of the two, or both.