Definitions of the term "sexual orientation"
By the "Just the facts coalition,"
and by a couple of "APAs"
Defining "sexual orientation:"
A broad group of professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists,
educators, social workers agree that sexual orientation relates to feelings of
attraction to members of the opposite sex and/or the same sex. This definition
is generally used also by GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual) persons and
groups, religious liberals, human sexuality researchers and others. A sampling
of statements on sexual orientation from these sources is shown below.
However, this definition is not universally used. Religious and social
conservatives frequently use a definition that is based on behavior -- what a
person does -- rather than on feelings of attraction -- what a person is. Many
conservatives rarely mention bisexuality and stress only two orientations:
heterosexuality and homosexuality. The result is confusion; dialogue becomes
A few conservative groups have folded a few dozen paraphilias into their
definition of sexual orientation to produce 30 or more sexual orientations.
(Paraphilias are compulsive sexual behaviors independent of sexual orientation;
many are criminal acts. Examples are having sex with animals, having sex with
corpses, pedophilia, etc.) Some conservatives have picked up this definition in
order to fight hate crimes legislation. They claim that if a law protects
persons from violent crimes motivated by hatred of a victim's sexual
orientation, then the law will protect pedophiles, rapists, etc.
In the following quotes, emphasis was added by us to
highlight the most important text.
Fact sheet by the "Just the Facts Coalition:"
In 1998, a conservative political group organized a conference near Columbus
OH to promote reparative therapy in public schools.
The goal was to convert students with a bisexual or homosexual orientation into
heterosexuals. Some staff from the Gay, Lesbian and
Straight Education Network (GLSEN) attended the conference and were
disturbed at its content. One month later, Kate Frankfurt, Director of Advocacy
for GLSEN shared information about the conference with leaders of a number of
national education, health and mental health organizations. The end result was
an essay titled "Just the Facts About
Sexual Orientation & Youth: A
Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel."
The primer was prepared and endorsed by:
|American Academy of Pediatrics |
|American Counseling Association |
|American Association of School Administrators |
|American Federation of Teachers |
|American Psychological Association |
|American School Health Association |
|Interfaith Alliance Foundation |
|National Association of School Psychologists |
|National Association of Social Workers |
|National Education Association |
It says in part:
"Sexual orientation is one component of a person's identity, which is
made up of many other components, such as culture, ethnicity, gender, and
personality traits. Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic,
sexual, or affectional attraction that a person feels toward another person.
Sexual orientation falls along a continuum. In other words, someone does not
have to be exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, but can feel varying
degrees of attraction for both genders. Sexual orientation develops across a
person's lifetime. Different people realize at different points in their
lives that they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual."
"Sexual behavior does not necessarily equate to sexual orientation. Many
adolescents -- as well as many adults -- may identify themselves as
homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience. Other young
people have had sexual experiences with a person of the same gender, but do
not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This is
particularly relevant during adolescence because it is a time for
experimentation -- a hallmark of this developmental period." 1
Sexual orientation defined by the American Psychiatric Association:
The American Psychiatric Association has written a series of
essays for the general public called "Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives."
essay in the series is on "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues." It states in
Note that this definition applies to persons who are:
|Sexually active, or|
|Have never engaged in sexual activity, or who|
|Have been sexually active and are now celibate.|
Virtually all religious liberals,
Humanists, secularists -- as well as those therapists, counselors, gays,
lesbians and bisexuals who are not religious conservatives -- would probably
accept this definition of "sexual orientation."
Sexual orientation defined by the American Psychological Assoc.: In congressional
testimony during 1997 in support of the ENDA bill, the American
Psychological Association (APA) stated:
|"Sexual orientation is a component of sexuality that is
characterized by enduring emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attractions to individuals of a particular gender. Thus,
sexual orientation refers to more than just certain behaviors.
Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their
behaviors. Some people may engage in sexual behaviors with persons
of the same gender but not identify themselves as gay. On the other
hand, homosexual intimate relationships, like their heterosexual
counterparts, do not always include sexually overt behavior. Three
sexual orientations are commonly recognized: homosexual, attraction
to individuals of one's own gender; heterosexual, attraction to
individuals of the opposite gender; and bisexual, attractions to
individuals of both genders."
In the 2008 edition of their brochure "Answers to your questions for a
better understanding of sexual orientation & homosexuality" they state:
|"Sexual orientation refers to an
enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men,
women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense
of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in
a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several
decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum,
from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the
same sex. However, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three
categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions
to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic, or
sexual attractions to members of one's own sex), and bisexual (having
emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to both men and women). "
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel,"
APA Online, at:
- "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues," American Psychiatric Association,
- "Testimony of the American Psychological Association," 1997-OCT-23, at:
- "Answers to your questions for a better understanding of sexual
orientation & homosexuality," Copyright © 2008 by the American Psychological
http://www.apa.org/ This is a PDF file.
Copyright © 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2007-JUN-05
Latest update: 2009-MAY-16
Author: B.A. Robinson