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Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s preference for emotional-sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex  heterosexuality), the same sex (homosexuality), or both (bisexuality). Some scholars believe that sexual orientation is rooted in biological factors that are present at birth others believe that sexuality has both biological and social components and is not preordained at birth. TIle terms homosexual and gly are most often used in association with males who prefer same-sex relationships the term lesbian is used in association with  females who prefer same-sex relationships. Hcterosexual individuals. who prefer opposite-sex relationships. arc sometimes referred to as straight. However. it is important to note that heterosexual people are much less likely to be labeled by their sexual orientation than are people who are gay. lesbian. or bisexual. What criteria do social scientists use to classify individuals as gay. lesbian. or homosexual? In a native study of sexuality in the mid- 1990s. researchers at the University of Chicago established three criteria for identifying people as homosexual or bisexual: (1) sexual tricolor to persons of one’s own gender. (2) sexual involvement with one or more persons of one’s . own gender. and (3) self identification as a gay. lesbian. or bisexual (Michael ET al 1994). According to these criteria. then. having engaged in a homosexual act does not necessarily classify a person as homosexual. In fact. many respondents in the University of Chicago study indicated that although they had at least one homosexual encounter when  were younger. they were no longer  involved in homosexual conduct and never identified themselves as gay. lesbian. or bisexual. Studies have examined how sexual orientation is linked to identity. Sociologist Kristin G_Berger(1997) interviewed lesbian and bisexual women to determination “perform” lesbian or bisexual identity through daily activities such as choice of clothing hairstyles. as well as how they use body language  and talk. According to Ester berg (1997). some of the women viewed themselves as being “lesbian from birth” whereas others had experienced sl”rt< in their identities. depending on social sTools age. and political conditions at  specific periods in their lives. Another study looked at gay and bisexual men. Human development scholar Ritch C. Savin-Williams (2004) found that gay/bisexual youths often believe from an earl)’ age that they are different from other boys: TIle pattern that most characterized the youths’  awareness. interpretation. and affective responses to childhood attractions consisted of an overwhelming desire to be in the company of men. They wanted to touch. smell. see. and hear masculinity. This awareness originated from earliest cutlet:  memories; in this sense. they “always felt gay.” However. most of the boys and young men realized that these feelings were not typical of other males and were uncomfortable when others attempted to make them conform to the established cultural definitions of masculinity. such as showing a great interest in team sports. competition, and aggressive pursuits,TLie term transgenders created to describe individuals whose appearance. behavior. or self-identification does not conform to common social rules of gender expression. Transgenders sometimes used to refer to those who cross-dress. to transsexuals. and to others outside mainstream categories. Although some gay and lesbian advocacy groups oppose the concept of transgender as being somewhat meaningless, others ap;,laud the term as one that might help unify diverse categories of people based on sexual identity. Various organizations of gays. lesbians. and transgendered persons have been unified in their desire to reduce hate crimes and other forms of homophobia-extreme prejudice directed at gays. lesbians. bisexuals. and others who are perceived as not being heterosexual. hermaphrodite a person in whom sexual differentiation is mbiguous or incomplete.0transsexual a person in whom the sex-related structures of the brain that define gender Identity are opposite from the physical sex organs of the person’s body.  transvestite a male whevolvess a woman or a female who lives as a man but does not alter thegenitalia.  sexual orientation a person’s preference for emotional-sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex (heterosexuality), the same sex (homosexuality), or both (bisexuality). homophobia extreme prejudice directed at gays, lesbians. bisexuals, and others who are perceived as not being heterosexual.

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