Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Dr. Jan Koontz
9 November 2017
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Sex is such an important part of our lives for obvious reasons such as survival and perpetuation of the species but sexual behavior in humans is far more complex beyond just reproduction. Sexual orientation also known as sexual preference, or even sexuality refers to a pattern of emotional, romantic, and sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Gender identity is defined as a person’s sense of being male or female. Orientations can be interpreted in various ways and identities are in the end, up to the individual to decide and define. There are a notable group of people, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community, who feel that they have a different sexual orientation or gender identity than the majority of Americans. According to the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) in 1968, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a book published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and offers a common language criteria for the classification of mental disorders. In this, the APA followed in a long tradition in medicine and psychiatry, trying to “cure” homosexuality (American Psychiatric Association, 1968). It was not until 1987 that being homosexual completely fall out of the DSM list. Today, between 3% and 10% of the population identify as homosexual. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; LeVay, 1996; Pillard & Bailey, 1995) With so many individuals feeling like they are different from the “norm”, lets first go into what the different types of sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation can be complicated because people can describe and categorize themselves however they’d like. According to Alfred Kinsley’s research (1948), Kinsley found that people did not fit into exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories, thus developing a continuum commonly known as the Kinsey scale. The Kinsey Scale is a seven-point scale that represents a continuum of human sexual behavior. The scores range from zero (exclusive heterosexuality) to six (exclusive homosexuality). Most people have a heterosexual orientation, while some people have a homosexual orientation or bisexual orientation. Heterosexuality (also known as being straight) is the most “accepted” form of sexuality. It means that they are attracted to someone of the opposite sex. On the other hand, Homosexuality (or being gay) is the attraction to someone of the same sex. Bisexuality is described as attracted to people of the same and opposite sex. There are many theories as to what causes Homosexuality and although there is still no clear direct cause found, research evidence suggests that sexual orientation has an underlying biological component. This research showed gene-level contributions to sexual orientation with researchers estimating that genes account for at least half of the variability seen in human sexual orientation (Pillard & Bailey, 1998). For many years people believed that homosexuality was caused by different socialization, familial or up-bringing experiences. However, research consistently demonstrated that the family backgrounds of heterosexuals and homosexuals are the same (Bell, Weinberg, & Hammersmith, 1981; Ross & Arrindell, 1988). So regardless of how sexual orientation is determined, research has made it clear that sexual orientation is not a choice but a stable characteristic that can’t be changed (Jenkins, 2010). Many people also confuse or intermix sexual orientation with gender identity because of stereotypical attitudes that exist about homosexual people. But, while these two are related, they are very different issues. What is gender identity?