Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of romantic or sexual attraction or a combination of these to persons of the opposite sex or genderthe same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender.
These attractions are generally subsumed under heterosexualityhomosexualityand bisexuality  while asexuality the lack of sexual attraction to others is sometimes identified as the fourth category.
These categories are aspects of the more nuanced nature of sexual identity and terminology. Androphilia describes sexual attraction to masculinity ; gynephilia describes the sexual attraction to femininity.
Scientists do not know the exact cause of sexual orientation, but they theorize that it is caused by a complex interplay of genetichormonaland environmental influences. Sexual orientation is reported primarily within biology and psychology including sexologybut it is also a subject area in anthropologyhistory including social constructionismand law and there are other explanations that relate to sexual orientation and culture.
Sexual orientation is traditionally defined as including heterosexualitybisexualityand while asexuality is considered the fourth category of sexual orientation by some researchers and has been defined as the absence of What does sexual orientation means traditional sexual orientation. An asexual has little to no sexual attraction to people.
Some people prefer simply to follow an individual's self-definition or identity. Scientific and professional understanding is that "the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence".
Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions. In the United States, the most frequent labels are lesbians women attracted to womengay men men attracted to menand bisexual people men or women attracted to both sexes. However, some people may use different labels or none at all". They additionally state that sexual orientation "is distinct from other components of sex and gender, including biological sex the anatomical, physiological, and genetic characteristics associated with being male or femalegender identity the psychological sense of being male or femaleand social gender role What does sexual orientation means cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior ".
Sexual identity and sexual behavior are closely related to sexual orientation, but they are distinguished, with sexual identity referring to an individual's conception of themselves, behavior referring to actual sexual acts performed by the individual, and orientation referring to "fantasies, attachments and longings.
The term may, however, reflect a certain cultural context and particular stage of transition in societies which are gradually dealing with integrating sexual minorities. In studies related to sexual orientation, when dealing with the degree to which a person's sexual attractionsbehaviors and identity match, scientists usually use the terms concordance or discordance.
Thus, a woman who is attracted to other women, but calls herself heterosexual and only has sexual relations with men, can be said to experience discordance between her sexual orientation homosexual or lesbian and her sexual identity and behaviors heterosexual. Sexual identity may also be used to describe a person's perception of his or her own sexrather than sexual orientation. The term sexual preference has a similar meaning to sexual orientationand the two terms are often used interchangeably, but sexual suggests a degree of voluntary choice.
Androphilia and gynephilia or gynecophilia are terms used in behavioral science to describe sexual attraction, as an alternative to a homosexual and heterosexual conceptualization. They are used for identifying a subject's object of attraction without attributing a sex assignment or gender identity to the subject. Related terms such as pansexual and polysexual do not make any such assignations to the subject. Same gender loving SGL is considered to be more than a different term for gay; it introduces the concept of love into the discussion.
The complexity of transgender orientation is also more completely understood within this perspective. Using androphilia and gynephilia can avoid confusion and offense when describing people in non-western cultures, as well as when "What does sexual orientation means" intersex and transgender people. Psychiatrist Anil Aggrawal explains that androphilia, along with gynephilia, "is needed to overcome immense difficulties in characterizing the sexual orientation of trans men and trans women.
For instance, it is difficult to decide whether a trans man erotically attracted to males is a heterosexual female or a homosexual male; or a trans woman erotically attracted to females is a heterosexual male or a lesbian female. Any attempt to classify them may not only cause confusion but arouse offense among the affected subjects.
In such cases, while defining sexual attraction, it is best to focus on the object of their attraction rather than on the sex or gender of the subject. This usage is particularly advantageous when discussing the partners of transsexual or intersexed individuals.
These newer terms also do not carry the social weight of the former ones. Some researchers advocate use of the terminology to avoid bias inherent in Western conceptualizations of human sexuality. Writing about the Samoan fa'afafine demographic, sociologist Johanna Schmidt writes that in cultures where a third gender is recognized, a term like "homosexual transsexual" does not align with cultural categories.
Some researchers, such as Bruce Bagemihlhave criticized the labels "heterosexual" and "homosexual" as confusing and degrading. These labels thereby ignore the individual's personal sense of gender identity taking precedence over biological sex, rather than the other way around. The earliest writers on sexual orientation usually understood it to be intrinsically linked to the subject's own sex. For example, it was thought that a typical female-bodied person who is attracted to female-bodied persons would have masculine attributes, and vice versa.
However, this understanding of homosexuality as "What does sexual orientation means" inversion was disputed at the time, and, through the second half of the twentieth century, gender identity came to be increasingly seen as a phenomenon distinct from sexual orientation.
Transgender and cisgender people may be attracted to men, women, or both, although the prevalence of different sexual orientations is quite different in these two populations. An individual homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual person may be masculine, feminine, or androgynousand in addition, many members and supporters of lesbian and gay communities now see the "gender-conforming heterosexual" and the "gender-nonconforming homosexual" as negative stereotypes.
Nevertheless, studies by J. Michael Bailey and Kenneth Zucker found a majority of the gay men and lesbians sampled reporting various degrees of gender-nonconformity during their childhood years. Transgender people today identify with the sexual orientation that corresponds with their gender; meaning that a trans woman who is What does sexual orientation means attracted to women would often identify as a lesbian.
A trans man solely attracted to women would be a straight man. Sexual orientation sees greater intricacy when non-binary understandings of both sex male, female, or intersex and gender man, woman, transgender, third genderetc. Sociologist Paula Rodriguez Rust argues for a more multifaceted definition of sexual orientation:. Most alternative models of sexuality Gay and lesbian people can have sexual with someone of the opposite sex for a variety of reasons, including the desire for a perceived traditional family and concerns of discrimination and religious ostracism.
Often, sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity are not distinguished, which can impact accurately assessing sexual identity and "What does sexual orientation means" or not sexual orientation is able to change; sexual orientation identity can
What does sexual orientation means throughout an individual's life, and may or may not align with biological sex, sexual behavior or actual sexual orientation. Some research suggests that "[f]or some [people] the focus of sexual interest will shift at various points through the life span Innate bisexuality is an idea introduced by Sigmund Freud.
According to this theory, all humans are born bisexual in a very broad sense of the term, that of incorporating general aspects of both sexes. In Freud's view, this was true anatomically and therefore also psychologically, with sexual attraction to both sexes being one part of this psychological bisexuality. Freud believed that in the course of sexual development the masculine side would normally become dominant in men and the feminine side in women, but that as adults everyone still has desires derived from both the masculine and the feminine sides of their natures.
Freud did not claim that everyone is bisexual in the What does sexual orientation means of feeling the same level of sexual attraction to both genders. The exact causes for the development of a particular sexual orientation have yet to be established. To date, a lot of research has been conducted to determine the influence of genetics, hormonal action, development dynamics, social and cultural influences—which has led many to think that biology and environment factors play a complex role in forming it.
It was once thought that What does sexual orientation means was the result of faulty psychological development, resulting from childhood experiences and troubled relationships, including childhood sexual abuse. It has been found that this was based on prejudice and misinformation. Research has identified several biological factors which may be related to the development of sexual orientation, including genesprenatal hormonesand brain structure. No single controlling cause has been identified, and research is continuing in this area.
Though researchers generally believe that sexual orientation is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences,    with biological factors involving a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment,   they favor biological models for the cause. Current scientific investigation usually seeks to find biological explanations for the adoption of a particular sexual orientation.
Genes may be related the development of sexual orientation. A twin study from appears to exclude genes as a major factor,  while a twin study from found that homosexuality was explained by both genes and environmental factors.
The authors concluded that "our findings, taken in context with previous work, suggest that genetic variation in each of these regions contributes to development of the important psychological trait of male sexual orientation.
The hormonal theory of sexuality holds that just as exposure to certain hormones plays a role in fetal sex differentiationhormonal exposure also influences the sexual orientation that emerges later in the adult.
Fetal hormones may be seen as either the primary influence upon adult sexual orientation or as a co-factor interacting with genes or environmental and social conditions. For humans, the norm is that females possess two X sex chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y.
The default developmental pathway for a human fetus being female, the Y chromosome is what induces the changes necessary to shift to the male developmental pathway. This differentiation process is driven by androgen hormones, mainly testosterone and dihydrotestosterone DHT. The newly formed testicles in the fetus are responsible for the secretion of androgens, that will cooperate in driving the sexual differentiation of the developing fetus, including its brain.
This results in sexual differences between males and females. Recent studies found an increased chance of homosexuality in men whose mothers previously carried to term many male children. This effect is nullified if the man is left-handed.