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Sexual Orientation Research Paper

Most people often talk about sexual orientation, making it one of the most discussed topics in the society today. Although numerous research studies have been carried on sexual orientation, there are still numerous questions that have remained unanswered. For example, no particular research study has ever identified or established the level of social influence on the formation of sexual orientation by an individual.

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What Is Sexual Orientation

According to Ellen and Perrin (2008), sexual orientation is very important in determining the psychological well-being of an individual. There is a close connection between sexual orientation, gender and sex of a person. These three concepts have been found to play a major role in determination of a person’s sexuality. Shmidt (2006) believes that sex is one of the physical characteristics of an individual that determines his or her self-identity.

In other words, sex is what one cannot choose while gender, on the other hand, is a thing one can define according to his or her personal perceptions. The concept of gender is also wider than that of sex, since it consists of the biological and psychological factors at the same time – it is determined not only by the sex, which was given to you by nature, but also by the influence of the society.

Questions about Sexual Orientation

Ellen and Perrin (2008) wrote that sexual orientation is governed by the definite level of appetence to the representatives of the same or of the different sex. There also exists an appetence to both sexes. Those persons, who prefer people of the same sex, are homosexual. Those, who like ones of the opposite sexes, are heterosexual, and those, who prefer both sexes, are bisexual. Some people do not feel appetence to any sexes. Such people are called asexual. However, these definitions are rather ambiguous and confusing.

For instance, a bisexual person may feel more lively attraction to one sex than to another, without being absolutely heterosexual or homosexual. Similarly, a homosexual person may depress his or her homosexual propensities because he or she is aware of possibilities of disapproval and antagonism by other people (Le Vay, 2005). Some homosexuals are also getting married and bring up children with heterosexual persons so that they would disguise their sexual orientations from others.

In my view, this act of avoiding the actuality relating to their sexual orientations may adversely affect the quality of their lives. Attempts to change one’s sexual orientation have been associated with development of serious psychological disorders that demean a person’s life. Thus, Stein (2008) asserts that a person may wish to come out and pronounce his or her sexual orientation, but may not choose the type of sexual orientation to have or develop.

To date, the exact cause of a person’s sexual orientation has never been determined. Numerous research studies have been carried out and an assumption that sexual orientation depends on genetic factors, influence of the society on the individual and the individual’s hormonal background has been made. In addition, the structure of the brain has been included as a determinant of sexual orientation in people. Research has approved that some of the brain zones of gay and lesbian people may be different from those of heterosexual people. On the other hand, the environment has been ruled out as a factor of influence on a person’s sexual orientation. Hence, cultural practices, traditions, beliefs and religious values do not cause development of certain types of sexual orientations, but rather may influence the process.

With this in mind, this research aims at exploring the environment surrounding person with unique sexual orientations such as homosexuals and bisexual as well as the various challenges that they face in the society. Other factors that have also been given consideration include societal stereotypes and laws relating to sexual orientations.

The Concept of Sexual Orientation

For the purposes of this research, sexual orientation will refer to the pattern of emotional or sexual attraction between two people of different sexes or of the same sex. Sexual orientation usually results from sexual preference of the individual. An individual who is sexually attracted to a person of different sex is referred to as heterosexual, while an individual who is sexually attracted to a person of the sex is referred to as homosexual. People who have erotic feelings towards both sexes are called bisexuals. Although most people are usually heterosexual, a good number of people today are homosexuals.

Homosexual males are commonly referred to as gay; meanwhile homosexual females are referred to as lesbians. Historically, the sex and gender of an individual have been believed to be the major determinant of a person’s sexual orientation. In addition, traditional practices and cultural beliefs and values are believed to be major determinants of a person’s sexual orientation, for example, males are believed to develop sexual attraction towards the females upon reaching adolescent stage. Moreover, certain traditional beliefs dictate the relationship between males and females.

According to Le Vay (2005), most people usually develop sexual attractions towards others based on their sexual orientations. However, other people may also develop sexual relationships with other people against their sexual orientations; for example, some gay people may have romantic relationships with the opposite sexes in order to conform to the expectations of his family members.

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Impact of Sexual Orientation on Economic, Social and Cultural Statuses

Although most people argue that sexual orientation may have little effect on economic status of an individual, previous research studies have indicated that the sexual orientation of an individual may have negative impacts on the economic successof a person, especially if that particular type of sexual orientation is not acceptable in the society. For example, most homosexuals have been discriminated at the workplaces, hence reducing their access to employment opportunities. This has negatively affected their economic prosperity. Moreover, Baumle, Compton and Poston (2009) postulate that most people with sexual orientations that are not acceptable by a majority in their communities often face maltreatment and discriminations.

Most people, who have sexual orientations that the society deem unacceptable, have also found it difficult to easily intermingle and associate with other members of the society. For example, Herek, Jared and Carney (2002) established that gays and lesbians are often treated as outcasts based on their unique sexual orientations towards people of the same sex.

Various cultural factors such as formation of families within the community often favor people with specific sexual orientations. Generally, almost all communities across the globe advocate for marriages between people of opposite sexes, that is marriages between a man and a woman. Consequently, people who are not heterosexual often find numerous challenges arising from cultural practices and values of the society. For instance, gay people may not be allowed to marry in most communities that prohibit homosexual marriages. Various religious practices and values also discriminate against people with certain types of sexual orientations, for instance, Christians and Muslims do not advocate for marriages between people of the same sex.

Developmental Theories on Sexual Orientation

Various theories have been formulated in attempts to explain the development of sexual orientation.

  1. Sexual Orientation Theory

The sexual orientation theory proposes that the sexual preference of an individual is determined at birth and cannot be changed as well. Therefore, the society should accept the individual as he or she is without trying to change his or her sexual orientation. Since its development, the sexual orientation theory has received numerous supports from human developmental psychologists and sociologists. According to this theory, different sexual preferences are developed by individuals due to unknown biological factors; hence, sexual orientation is not a choice a person can make. Sexual orientation theory further argues that it is senseless and meaningless to try to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Moreover, most human rights activists, who advocate for equal rights of people with different sexual orientations such as gays and lesbians, argue that sexual preferences are fixed at birth; hence attempting to change the sexual orientation of an individual may cause serious harm to the person. Various scientists have also claimed that human homosexuality is natural, for other species, such as monkeys, also have homosexuals amongst them.

However, opponents of homosexuality argue that sexual orientation is not fixed, because there is no particular gene in humans that has been found to be responsible for homosexuality or bisexuality. These opponents urge that a person’s behavior or character is habitual, thus, gays and bisexuals may opt to abstain from activities related to homosexuality and finally change their sexual orientations. For example, alcoholism develops as a person becomes more interested in alcohol.

According to the opponents of this theory, sexual orientation is developed during middle childhood or early adolescence. Thus, a person may develop specific patterns of sexual attractions towards other people due to prior sexual experience.

  1. Reparative Therapy Theory

The reparative therapy theory proposes that a person may change his or her sexual orientation. However, there has been no published scientific evidence to support this assumption. According to Powers and Ellis (1995), most people often seek conversion of their sexual orientations due to the difficulties that they encounter as members of stigmatized groups. Such people are, thus, able to modify their sexual orientations. In my view, one of the major drawbacks of reparative therapy theory is that it fails to provide adequate evidence to support its assumptions.

Life Challenges Related To Sexual Orientation

Most people who have developed certain sexual orientations that do not conform to societal expectation are facing numerous challenges such as stigmatization, social discrimination, marginalization and vilification amongst others.

Stigmatization, Discrimination and Harassment

Most people, who have sexual orientations that have not been widely accepted in the society such as gay and lesbian people, often get stigmatized due to maltreatment by other people. According to Powers and Ellis (1995), people who come out as lesbians, gays or bisexual have often been discriminated within the society. In most cases, those who come out as homosexual have reported a decrease in social, emotional and economic support from friends, and sometimes members of their families. A research study by Stein (2006) established that most people often develop strong negative feelings towards homosexuals. Moreover, the study revealed that homosexual people are the most stigmatized persons in the society.

For example, gays and lesbians are not allowed to serve in the United States Military Army. Various human rights such as child custody rights also discriminate against people of homosexual orientations, for instance, gay and lesbian people are not allowed to adopt children or become parents.

On the other hand, harassment refers to any conduct that is unwanted or offensive in nature. Harassments also include behaviors that are intended to create humiliation or intimidation to an individual. In the United States of America, the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1997 makes it illegal to harass a person, because of his or her sexual orientation. According to Diamond and Mc Anulty (2002), most professionals in major occupations are still fearful of coming out as gay, lesbian or bisexual persons at their workplaces due to high chances of discrimination and layoffs.


Vilification refers to behaviors that are intended to public ridicule, contempt, or show disrespect to an individual or a group of individuals. Although most federal laws in the U.S. do not allow acts of vilification, most gays and lesbian have been vulnerable to vilification, due to their sexual orientations.

In my opinion, any unfair treatment of a person on the basis of his or her sexual orientation should be highly discouraged. Although homosexual and bisexual persons have not received societal acceptance, it is important for the society to change their perceptions and prejudices regarding such people.

Other Aspects of Diversity That May Lead To Increased Needs or Issues for Persons with Unique Sexual Orientations

In my opinion, the sexual orientation of an individual has greater influence on his or her life. For example, most gay people often face discrimination from some members of the community. This leads to increased need for emotional support so that they do not consider themselves as outcasts or indulge into self-destructive activities. According to Ellen and Perrin (2008), black Americans, who are gay, are the most affected people. Gay blacks are usually discriminated; hence, they do not easily get formal employment. Consequently, their economic capability has been greatly deteriorated.

Sexual Orientation and Race

Most people argue that African American people are more likely to become homosexuals or bisexuals than Native Americans. However, no research evidence has been put across to support this assumption. In my opinion, this is merely racial discrimination against a certain group of people based on their skin colors or racial origin. Therefore, I would urge that such notions should be highly disregarded, because they lead to social disintegration within our society.

Sources of Help

People, who face discrimination based on their sexual orientation, may find help from human rights organizations. These organizations usually fight for equal rights for the gays and lesbians. Additionally, people who suffer because of their sexual orientations may also seek help from religious organizations that provide spiritual support to the victims. They may also seek assistance from social support groups.

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Personal Experiences and New Insights In Relation To Sexual Orientation

In relation to my personal experiences with homosexual and bisexual persons, I would argue that such people often lack the ability to modify their sexual preference. Therefore, it is important for the society to accept them as they are. Trying to force them change their sexual orientation may prove more harmful or dangerous both to the individual and the society as a whole, because the homosexuals or bisexuals may opt to seclude themselves from the society.

Moreover, they get engaged in activities that are dangerous for them, for example, they may indulge into excessive consumption of alcohol due to depression from social discrimination, loneliness or loss of hope. In my opinion, all human beings must be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientations.

Personal Characteristics

Personal characteristics such as generosity, open mind, ability to provide guidance and counseling, and open-handedness may provide great social relief to such persons. From my part, people should be willing and ready to help others who have unique sexual orientation that do not conform to traditional beliefs. This would help in psychological development of such people.

In most cases, people often hold unnecessary prejudices and biases towards other people who have sexual orientation that do not match theirs. For example, most lesbian are often viewed as abnormal human beings. In my view, such biases and prejudices should be done away with to provide room for accommodation of the people who have unique sexual orientations.

Laws Relating To Discrimination of People with Varied Sexual Orientations

In the United States of America there are various laws that prohibit the discrimination of persons based on their sexual orientations and gender identities. Such laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 that prohibit employment discrimination based on gender, sex, or gender identity, and Title VIII of the Civil Rights that does not allow housing discrimination of persons based on race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation amongst other factors.

Moreover, various states such as California, Alaska, Delaware and Indiana have enacted state laws that make illegal discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation in relation to access to both private and public employment, housing, educational facilities and public accommodation.


In my opinion, the mnemonic GARREACS helped me in remembering the list of possible areas of diversity that I could encounter in human service work by presenting a simple formula for all the major areas concerned that includes gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, ability, class and sexual orientation. The use of the first letter of each word made it simple and easy to remember. From my part, the new mnemonic that I would use to remember the above areas of diversity in human service work is SCARGEAR, which represents:

  • Sexual Orientation
  • Class
  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Ability
  • Race.


I would conclude that although most nations have imposed various laws that give people freedom of choice and respect, the society has not yet accepted individuals with unique sexual orientations. Thus, the sexual orientation of the majority consists of heterosexual individuals, while the minority is composed of homosexual and bisexual persons. This has led to development of unnecessary prejudices, biases and discrimination of such people. It is important for the society to change its view in relation to sexual orientations, and be able to tolerate variations in sexuality.

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