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|Reach around the subject|
Sexual orientation refers to the direction an individual's sexuality takes, usually classified in relation to the sex or gender the individual is sexually attracted to. This is divided into four main categories of heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality/autosexuality.
Medical science has not proven what factors influence sexual orientation, however most agree that it is a complex combination ranging from a person's genetic code, the fetal environment, and the environment and experiences the child faces in the first 5-10 years of life.
Most experts agree that sexual orientation is fixed, and there is a general consensus that it is fixed in most people by the time they are 6. Most adults exist on some continuum between truly "straight" and "100%", from being able to truly notice who is 'hot', to having had sexually arousing dreams about someone from the gender not normally attracted to, to "experimentation". Most adults will experience some minor shifting throughout their lives and several cases are on record as truly having a noticeable change in active orientation in their adult life.
As numerous evangelicals will tell you, sexual orientation is a choice and anyone who chooses to be gay will roast on Satan's Special Sodomite Spit.
Reparative therapies that are designed to 'change' the icky types of sexual orientation have never been shown to actually work on changing the actual orientation, though they can so amass a person with guilt or shame that he or she "chooses" to live as a so-called straight person.
Identity and behavior
Sexual orientation is not "sexual identity" - which is how one portrays oneself to the world. A person may be biologically bisexual, but may be in a heterosexual relationship. Someone who has undergone "reparative therapy" may claim to be straight, even if bathroom stall appearances might suggest otherwise.
Sexual orientation is also not "sexual behavior" which includes such concepts as sadomasochism, pedophilia, or zoophilia -- regardless of what the Religious Right claims regarding those whose sexual orientation is not the "approved" one.
Sexual orientation has nothing to do with men liking Broadway, or women disliking make-up. In fact, again despite claims generally coming from the agenda driven "Right", you cannot tell another person's sexual orientation by their personality, their job choice, their creativity - as none of the stereotypes of what makes someone straight or gay have any rational backing. Even actions are not a true way to identify a person's sexual orientation, as a person may be closeted (gay, straight or bi).
- Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality, American Psychological Association
- Edward Stein. Précis of "The Mismeasure of Desire: The Science, Theory and Ethics of Sexual Orientation." Law and Philosophy, Vol. 21, pp. 305-316, 2002.