The Cleveland Clinic

Sexual Orientation: Homosexuality and Bisexuality

Sexuality is an important part of who we are as humans. Beyond the ability to reproduce, sexuality also defines how we see ourselves and how we physically relate to others. "Sexual orientation" is a term used to refer to a person's emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to individuals of a particular gender (male or female).

Sexual orientation generally is divided into 3 categories:

  • Heterosexual: attracted to individuals of the opposite sex
  • Bisexual: attracted to members of either sex
  • Homosexual: attracted to individuals of one's own sex

Sexual orientation involves a person's feelings and sense of identity; it may or may not be evident in the person's appearance or behavior. People may have attractions to people of the same or opposite sex but may elect not to act on these feelings. For example, a bisexual may choose to have a monogamous (one partner) relationship with one gender and, therefore, elect not to act on the attraction to the other gender.

Why Are Some People Homosexual or Bisexual?

Most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is the result of a combination of environmental, emotional, hormonal, and biological factors. In other words, there are many factors that contribute to a person's sexual orientation, and the factors may be different for different people.