(APA, 2008) An individual’s emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attraction to men, women, or both sexes. It also refers to an individual’s sense of identity based upon one’s attraction, behavior, and membership to a community with the shared attractions. Research has shown that there is a continuum that everyone falls on where one end of the spectrum is 100% attraction to the opposite sex and the other end of the spectrum is 100% attraction to the same sex. There are three major classification of sexual orientation, heterosexual (attraction to the opposite sex), homosexual or gay/lesbian (attraction to the same sex), or bisexual (attraction to both sex’s). Sexual orientation is different from physical sex, gender identity, or social gender role. Physical sex determines what sex you are based on what physical genitalia you are born with determining whether you are a male or a female. Gender Identity refers to the psychological sense of whether you are a male or a female. Social gender role is what defines the norms of what behaviors are masculine or feminine. Sexual orientation defines the types of relationships one has with others and the behaviors that come with that relationship.
The cause of what determines ones sexual orientation is still unclear but will typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence. Research has examined possible explanations such as genetics, hormones, development, social, and cultural influences but no clear answer has been determined. It is a common belief that there are multiple causes to determining one’s sexual orientation, that it is nature and nurture. Regardless of what the cause is most individual’s experience no sense of a choice in what they define themselves as when it comes to their sexual orientation.
American Psychological Association (APA). (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. [Retrieved from www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.pdf.]