Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s pattern of physical and emotional arousal toward other persons. Heterosexual individuals are attracted to persons of the opposite sex, homosexual individuals are attracted to persons of the same sex, and bisexual individuals are attracted to persons of both sexes. Homosexual males are often referred to as “gay”; homosexual females are often referred to as “lesbian.” In contrast, gender identity is the knowledge of oneself as being male or female, and gender role is the outward expression of maleness or femaleness. Gender identity and gender role usually conform to anatomic sex in both heterosexual and homosexual individuals. Exceptions to this are transgendered individuals and transvestites. Transgendered individuals feel themselves to be of a gender different from their biological sex; their gender identity does not match their anatomic or chromosomal sex. Transvestites are individuals who dress in the clothing of the opposite gender and derive pleasure from such actions; their gender role does not match societal norms. Transgendered individuals and transvestites can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual...
ETIOLOGY AND PREVALENCE
Homosexuality has existed in most societies for as long as recorded descriptions of sexual beliefs and practices have been available. Societal attitudes toward homosexuality have had a decisive effect on the extent to which individuals have hidden or made known their sexual orientation.
Human sexual orientation most likely exists as a continuum from solely heterosexual to solely homosexual. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association reclassified homosexuality as a sexual orientation or expression and not a mental disorder. The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual... Read complete paper – by Barbara L. Frankowski and Committee on Adolescence - Pediatrics 2004;113;1827-1832