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Sexual Orientation

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is a vital aspect of human sexuality. The term sexual orientation refers to the gender (that is, male or female) to which a person is attracted. There are several types of sexual orientation that are commonly described:

Heterosexual: People who are heterosexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex: males are attracted to females, and females are attracted to males. Heterosexuals are sometimes called “straight.”

Homosexual: People who are homosexual are romantically and physically attracted to people of the same sex: females are attracted to other females; males are attracted to other males. Homosexuals (whether male or female) are often called “gay.” Gay females are also called lesbian.

Bisexual: People who are bisexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of both sexes. There is some research that claims bisexuality is more of behaviour than an orientation.

Asexual: Of late, researchers are looking closely at a fourth category of orientation called asexuality (i.e. a person is not attracted physically/emotionally to another person of any gender). Up until now, a person not feeling sexually attracted could be seen as having a hormonal/sexual problem or on the other hand praised as a celibate.

Please note: A man cannot be called a “gay” just because he has sex (sexual intercourse or any form of sexual act) with another man. Such men are referred to MSM (men who have sex with other men). Being a gay is much more than physical (i.e. having sex).All gay men have sex with other men but not all MSM are necessarily gay.

Homosexuality was considered as an “atypical”, “unnatural” form of sexual expression and still continues to be so in many societies. The concept of ‘typical’ sexual expression has long been understood to be varied and diverse across cultures. Historically, in many cultures, religion has set the moral standard of appropriate sexual behaviour and attitudes and the appropriate penalties for individuals who may engage in, what is considered, deviant sexual expression. Over time the description of appropriate or typical sexual expression has changed, as has the labelling of what is considered pathological sexual expression. In 2015, the freedom to expression of sexuality is protected as a human right, on the condition that no harm comes to others from that expression, however this has not always been the case and, in many cultures, continues to be a right that is breached. Several factors have had a significant contribution to how appropriate sexual expression is classified including religion, medicine, mass media and government policy and legislation.

There are some claims that all of us are born bisexual and that our society suppresses homosexuality and endorses heterosexuality as the norm which eventually makes us all to be heterosexual. More research is needed to prove this though and it would not be ethically possible to conduct such studies. On the other hand, it is possible for humans to be fluid about their sexuality such that they the ability to move from one side of the pole (heterosexual) to the other side (homosexual) or stay in-between (bisexual).

No one fully understands exactly what determines a person’s sexual orientation, but it is likely explained by a variety of biological and genetic factors. The most vital point is that being gay is also not considered a mental disorder or abnormality.

Efforts to change gay people to straight (sometimes called “conversion therapy”) have been proven to be ineffective and can be harmful. Health and mental health professionals caution against any efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.