We recommend the American Psychological Association (APA) as your best source for scientific information. The following definition and answers to questions can be found on the “APA Information Page” link below. If you would like more than a definition, you can find good scientific answers to any of these questions and others by following the APA links.
Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality
This information is designed to provide accurate information for those who want to better understand sexual orientation and the impact of prejudice and discrimination on those who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex. However, sexual orientation is usually discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to members of one’s own sex), and bisexual (having emotional, romantic or sexual attractions to both men and women). This range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world. 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 women), gay men (men attracted to men) and bisexual people (men or women attracted to both sexes). However, some people may use different labels or none at all.
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 female), gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female),* and social gender role (the cultural norms that define feminine and masculine behavior).
Other Questions Answered on the APA Information Page
- How do people know if they are lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB)?
- What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?
- What role do prejudice and discrimination play in the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people?
- What is the psychological impact of prejudice and discrimination?
- Is homosexuality a mental disorder?
- What about therapy intended to change sexual orientation from gay to straight?
- What is “coming out” and why is it important?
- What about sexual orientation and coming out during adolescence?
- At what age should lesbian, gay and bisexual youths come out?
- What is the nature of same-sex relationships?
- Can lesbians and gay men be good parents?
- What can people do to diminish prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people?
- Where can I find more information about homosexuality?
- APA’s Information Page on Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality
- APA’s “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel”
- APA’s “Resolution on Religious, Religion-Based and/or Religion-Derived Prejudice”
- American Psychological Association’s “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation” (this is very long (130 pages) and very technical, but if you want to study it in depth this is the authoritative scientific summary on the subject)
As can be seen in the links above, all the professional organizations are agreed on how affected individuals, parents, family and friends should view homosexuality. You will find in these APA links endorsements from 12 other major USA organizations in addition to APA.
IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONS FOR MORMONS
Questions in regard to change, celibacy, and the feasibility for a gay person to successfully marry heterosexually or to be in a committed same-sex relationship are shown below. These are the most difficult questions for you and your teen or young adult to answer. It is important to see what the research within Mormonism shows us about these specific questions:
- Will sexual orientation change efforts be successful?
- Is lifetime celibacy a realistic goal?
- Is heterosexual marriage feasible for someone who is predominantly homosexual?
- What about committed same-sex relationships?
MORE SCIENTIFIC RESOURCES:
We have linked here to two videos that explain the science and some of the research above by Mormon scientists. These presentations are a little technical but are worth your time when you are ready to dig in deeper.
This video made by National Geographic will help you understand some of the developmental processes that impact homosexuality.
We mentioned the Family Acceptance Project research in the section on protecting your child; however, it is worth mentioning again here, because their suggestions are based on research that identifies what exactly puts an LGBT teen or young adult at higher risk of suicide or other dangerous behaviors.