Sexual Orientation, not to be confused with the terms Gender, or Sex, is what describes a human’s attraction to another being. It is a broad topic that encompasses many categories including the well known and mostly accepted definitions (heterosexuality: attraction to one of the opposite sex, homosexuality: attraction to one of the same sex, etc.), as well as many other categories that are not often spoken of or accepted. It should be noted that, this type of attraction is not limited to explicitly sexual acts; it can also be attraction based on an emotional, intellectual or various other levels as well.
Determining One’s Sexual Orientation
Many subscribe to the definition of sexual orientation being simply a facet of life one is born with. However, there are also many who believe that people have the ability to define their own orientation. This argument specifically, has been used within social spheres in the universal marriage debate. Usually, proponents of the LGBTQ campaigns side with the belief that it is simply a genetic makeup. However, this is not a universal truth, there are many who believe it is simply a choice that one can make at some point in their life. Kate Bornstein personifies this this belief when she says “I’m what’s called a transsexual person. This means I was assigned one gender at birth, and now I live my life as something else” (Foss, Foss, & Domenico 5).
In the current scientific environment, there is no general consensus as to where one’s sexual orientation derives from. The American Psychological Association states that: “Although much research has been examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors” (American Psychological Association, “Sexual Orientation and homosexuality”). There are many who believe it particularly to be a combination of one’s genetic makeup, as well as how they were raised. This is just one aspect of the Nature Vs. Nurture debate which was first coined by Sir Francis Galton. In his writing Galton writes: “The phrase ‘nature and nurture’ is a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture is every influence from without that affects him after his birth” (Galton 9).Dichotomy of Straight Vs. Gay
In the United States, and most of the world there exists a common practice that splits
sexual orientations between two “accepted” categories. If one is understood to be “straight”, then they are attracted to a member of the opposite sex (male attracted to female, heterosexual). Thus, if they fall into the other category, they are attracted to members of the same sex (Female attracted to female, male attracted to male, homosexual). This second category is known simply as being “gay”.
While this dichotomy is well accepted, there are also many that refuse to accept it as truth. Opponents of this dichotomy attempt to identify other sexual orientations such as asexuals and bisexuals, or even more broadly to all those who don’t fit into the “idealized or normative gender expectations- people who are white, male, and heterosexual” (Foss, Foss & Domenico 58).
Related but not synonymous with Queer Theory, the term queer has been used in this subject to define several different types of people. Some understand it as pertaining to those who do not fit into the “straight” category of sexual orientation. Thus, examples of those who fit into the queer category can include transgendered individuals, homosexuals, or bisexuals. However, a conclusive definition has never been found, despite how often it has been debated. Lisa Duggan chooses to define the term in broader senses by saying that “It is often used to construct a collectivity no longer defined solely by the gender of its members’ sexual partners. This new community is unified only by a shared dissent from the dominant organization of sex and gender” (Duggan 213).
Often what also falls into the topic of “queer” isnot only one’s sexual orientation, but one’s sexual preferences as well. This is because there are many sexual acts people practice that may be deemed to be strange or not normal. Examples of these could be acts such as B.D.S.M. (bondage, dominance, & sadomasochism), Cos Play (use of costumes), or Role Play (acting in roles other than one’s own). This plays explicitly into Miguel Gutierrez’s understanding of a a queer individual when he states that “Queerness means a nonassimilationist to me” (Duggan 214).
Foss, Sonja K., Karen A. Foss, and Mary E. Domenico. Gender Stories: Negotiating Identity in a Binary World. Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2013. Print.
Galton, Francis. English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture. London: Macmillan &, 1874. Print.
Grewal, Inderpal, and Caren Kaplan. "Making It Perfectly Queer Lisa Duggan." An Introduction to Women's Studies: Gender in a Transnational World. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2006. 211-15. Print.
"Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality." Sexual Orientation, Homosexuality and Bisexuality. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2013. <http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx>.