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Homosexual and bisexual orientation

Current terminology related to sexual orientation

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The term "GLBT" is an acronym for "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
 Transgender/Transsexual. Sometimes, additional letters are
added: "Q" for Queer or Questioning, "I" for Intersexual.


Terms like gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, etc. are difficult to discuss because:


Different groups assign different meaning to these words.


There is heavy emotional baggage associated with some terms, particularly when used by some groups.

The conservative Protestant community, in particular, often defines commonly used words very differently from the rest of the culture. This makes discussion, dialogue and debate extremely difficult.

Examples follow:

Terms: homosexual, gay, lesbian, & bisexual:


Most human sexuality researchers, therapists, religious liberals, secularists, etc. consider "homosexual" to be an emotionally neutral term that refers to youths and adults who are sexually attracted only to members of the same gender. It is one of three morally neutral, normal, natural, and fixed sexual orientations among adults. Since a person's orientation is defined by their feelings, it is considered part of what they are, and is not necessarily defined by what they do.

The other two sexual orientations are:


Heterosexual: being attracted only to members of the opposite sex, and


Bisexual: being attracted to both genders, not necessarily to the same degree.


Many GLBT persons object to the term "homosexual" for two reasons:


It has become a medicalized term that implies that a gay or lesbian is mentally ill.


It has been intensely used as a snarl word by religious and social conservatives.

Thus, they promote the terms gay and lesbian in place of homosexual. Bisexual and heterosexual are still accepted.

To some, the terms "gay" and "lesbian" imply that the person is also actively involved in political action. To further complicate the matter, "gay" is sometimes used to refer only to male homosexuals; at other times, it also includes lesbians.


Most religious and social conservatives define "homosexual" to be an individual who engages in same-gender sexual behavior with a person or persons of the same gender. It is domething that a person does, not what they are. They view it as immoral, abnormal, unnatural, unsafe, changeable behavior, hated by God. It is a very negative term -- often a snarl word.

On this site, we use the terms homosexual, gay, lesbian and bisexual interchangeably without implying any emotional baggage.

As a religious website, are running a bit of a risk, because some GLBT individuals and groups are so used to hearing "homosexual" used as a hate-filled snarl word by religious conservatives, that they may be inclined to reject any religious information source that uses the term. We hope that this will not be a problem with this site. We try to explain all viewpoints objectively, and use terms like "homosexual" because that is what huma sexuality researchers, therapists and other professionals use.

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The terms: Sexual orientation, sexual preference:

As noted above, "sexual orientation" defines to which gender(s) an adult is sexually attracted:

bullet Homosexuals are attracted only to members of their own gender, and often have a strong aversion towards having sex with the opposite sex.

bullet Bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, although not necessarily to the same degree.

bullet Heterosexuals are attracted only to members of the opposite gender, and often have a strong aversion towards having sex with the same sex.

Some have suggested that asexuality -- having no feelings of sexual attraction at all -- can be considered a fourth sexual orientation. Others suggest that asexuality involves having a lack of a sexual orientation.

The term "sexual preference" is often used as a synonym for "sexual orientation." It is an accurate term when referring to many bisexuals who are attracted to persons of both genders but have a preference for one. The term is often used by religious and social conservatives to refer to homosexuals, because it implies that they merely have a preference -- not an exclusive attraction -- for persons of the same gender.

If gays and lesbians are viewed as:

bullet Only having a sexual preference, then it follows that they may be able to eventually develop a strong attraction to members of the opposite sex.

bullet Having a sexual orientation, then it follows that they are probably incapable of changing to develop sexual attraction to the opposite sex.

A novel fundamentalist Christian definition of sexual orientation:

Fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians often assign unique meanings to commonly used words. A few influential fundamentalist Christian groups have taken this to an extreme by broadened their own definition of "sexual orientation" far beyond the three that other groups recognize.

They combined:

bullet The three generally accepted, valid, sexual orientations: heterosexuality, bisexuality & homosexuality;

bullet Two sexual identities, transsexuality and being transgender;

bullet Over 30 paraphilias; and

bullet Some criminal acts like prostitution and incest.

A paraphilia is a type of sexual obsession. According to the American Psychiatric Association they form "... a family of persistent, intense fantasies, aberrant urges, or behaviors ..." involving human sexuality. 9 Examples are: sexually molesting children, having sex with animals, exhibiting foot fetishes, exhibitionism, necrophilia, etc. Including paraphilias as additional sexual orientations causes mass confusion and makes dialogue essentially impossible. More details.

Some have suggested that when a religious group defines sexual orientation so broadly, they are promoting a hidden agenda:

  • They can then claim that any legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation will protect not only heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals, but pedophiles, exhibitionists, child molestors, etc.

  • Also, hate-crimes legislation that assigns heavier sentences for violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation, would lose credibility because, for example, it would send an elderly woman to jail if she protected her grandchild by hitting an abusive pedophile with her purse.

Their hope was to prevent such legislation from becoming law. Unfortunately, the Democrats left their legislation open to attack by not bothering to define "sexual orientation."

Terms: Gay marriage, same-sex marriage, SSM, homosexual marriage, traditional marriage, pro-family, counterfeit marriage....

In the battle for and against marriage equality,


Religious and social conservatives generally use terms like "gay marriage" or "homosexual marriage." They often enclose the word "marriage" in quotation marks to indicate that they do not consider SSM to be a legitimate form of marriage. They also use the term "traditional marriage" to refer to marriage by an opposite-sex couple. The term "Pro-family" generally means that the group is supportive of families led by opposite-sex couples while being energetically opposed to families led by same-sex couples.


Gay-positive groups generally use "same-sex marriage" and "marriage equality."

Many secular news sources use "same-sex marriage" and "gay marriage" interchangeably even though they are not really synonyms. A particularly confusing example came from the Agence France-Presse (AFP) and was published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) web site on 2010-MAY-18:

"Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva has approved a law authorising gay marriages, making Portugal the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex unions."

"Mr Silva, a practicing Roman Catholic from Portugal's main opposition centre-right party, says he has put his "personal convictions" aside in deciding to approve the legislation."

"The law, adopted in February by the centre-left dominated parliament, removes the reference in Portugal's statutes to marriage being between two people of different sexes."

"However, the new law explicitly states married homosexual couples do not have the right to adopt children."

"Pope Benedict XVI criticised gay marriage and abortion as "insidious and dangerous threats to the common good" during a visit to Portugal last week."

"Portugal follows Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway in allowing same-sex marriages." (Emphasis ours)

This 6 sentence article uses four terms to discuss the new law in Portugal that implementd marriage equality in that country. That legislation changes the definition of marriage so that any loving, committed couple can marry, whether of opposite-sexes or of the same-sex.

  • "Gay marriage(s)" is an ambiguous term. "Gay" can refer to a male homosexual or a lesbian, or both. "Gay marriage" might be interpreted as excluding a same-sex marriage where one or both spouses are bisexual.

  • "Same-sex union" is also ambiguous. In the U.S. it might refer to:
    • Same-sex domestic partnerships that give a couple only some of the state benefits, protections and obligations to the couple and their children, and none of the 1,050 federal benefits.
    • Same-sex civil unions that give registered couples all of the state benefits.
    • Same-sex marriages that give all of the state benefits plus the use of the term "marriage" and the social acceptance that goes along with that term.

  • The term "Married homosexual couples" accurately describes most same-sex married couples. However, there are also many same-sex couples composed of one bisexual and one homosexual, or two bisexuals. Some might incorrectly assume that they would be excluded.

  • "Same sex marriage(s)" is the only clear and unambiguous term.

We recommend that only the terms "domestic partnerships, "civil unions" and "same-sex marriages" be used to describe the three most common forms of legislation by which governments recognize and register the relationships of same-sex couples.

We sent an Email to ABC about the ambiguities in this article on 2010-MAY-20.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. National Freedom to Marry Day logos are available at:
  2. From the Family Research Council's Washington Update mailing list of 2003-OCT-8.
  3. The Marriage Project, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. See: You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  4. Raymond Miller, "United Church welcomes 'sinners'," The Toronto Star, letters to the editor, 2005-OCT-04.
  5. "Marriage Protection Amendment," Episode 940, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 2006-JUN-02, at:
  6. Stanley M. Elkins, "Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life," University of Chicago Press, (1976). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  7. Anil Aggrawal, "Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices," CRC Press. Pages 369-382
  8. "List of paraphilias," Wikipedia, at:
  9. "Paraphilia," Wikipedia, 2007-APR-18, at:
  10. "Portugal allows same-sex marriage," AFP, 2010-MAY-18, at:

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Home > Homosexuality > here

Copyright 2009 & 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-APR`24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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