What causes sexual orientation?

By Parenthood

People line Christopher Street during a gathering of the LGBTQ community and supporters protesting U.S. President Donald Trump’s agenda in Manhattan, New York, US, February 4, 2017. /REUTERS

Sexual orientation is a natural part of who you are — it’s not a choice. Your sexual orientation can change over your lifetime.

It’s not completely known why someone might be lesbian, gay, straight, or bisexual. But research shows that sexual orientation is likely caused partly by biological factors that start before birth.

Although sexual orientation is usually set early in life, it isn’t at all uncommon for your desires and attractions to shift throughout your life. This is called “fluidity.” Many people, including sex researchers and scientists, believe that sexual orientation is like a scale with entirely gay on one end and entirely straight on the other. Lots of people would be not on the far ends, but somewhere in the middle.

How many people are LGBTQ?

LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning.

Although researchers try to study how many people are LGBTQ, it’s very difficult to get an accurate number. This is because gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, and sexual behavior are complicated for people.

Let’s break it down:

Gender identity is who you feel you are inside and how you express those feelings through how you act, talk, dress, etc.

Sexual attraction is the romantic or sexual feelings you have toward others.

Sexual identity is how you label yourself (for example, using labels such as queer, gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual).

Sexual behavior is who you have sex with and what kinds of sex you like to have.

Sometimes all of these things are in line for a person. For example, a woman may feel attracted only to women, identify as a lesbian, and have sexual relationships with only women.

But these things don’t always line up. Not everyone who has sexual feelings or attractions to the same gender will act on them. Some people may engage in same gender sexual behavior but not identify themselves as bisexual, lesbian, or gay.

In some situations, coming out as LGBTQ can provoke fear and discrimination, and not everyone is comfortable coming out. For some people, sexual orientation can shift at different periods in their lives and the labels they use for themselves may shift, too.

 

This article was published in Planned Parenthood website.

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