Sexual Orientation

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Sexual orientation refers to the sex, sexes, gender or genders, to which a person is attracted and which form the focus of a person’s amorous or erotic desires, fantasies, and spontaneous feelings. The alternative terms sexual preference and sexual inclination have similar meanings. Clinicians and those who believe sexuality is fixed early in life tend to use the former term; those believing sexuality is fluid and reflects preference and choice tend towards the latter terms.

The alternative term sexual preference encompasses heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual desire. It was used in the 20th century by gay rights advocates who sought to promote the view that each person should have the right to seek out the partner they prefer, whether of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both sexes.

Later, gay rights advocates preferred the term sexual orientation to avoid the connotation that homosexuality and heterosexuality were matters of “preference” or lifestyle choices, since they viewed them as inherent and unchangeable (Since it became commonly, yet not universally, believed among them that homosexuality was something one is born with).

“Sexual orientation” is the term recommended by the Associated Press stylebook when used in print.

Typically a person may be identified as primarily heterosexual (the focus is primarily people of the opposite sex), homosexual (people of the same sex), bisexual (potentially both or either sexes), or asexual (no sexual desire for either sex). (But compare Homosexuality and transgender for a discussion on the use of homo- and heterosexual when referring to transgender or intersex people.)

The term sexual orientation may also refer to the “identity” of a person, either by choice or as an expression of an inner attribute.

These categories are also used to describe sexual behavior, which may depart from an individual’s chosen identity or spontaneous desires.

”Sexual orientation“ is also a legal term that has a meaning developed through case law that is separate from the meaning used in other fields. It is the most common term used in laws that prohibit discrimination based on homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality.

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