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As many readers are probably aware, this idea originated in the mid-twentieth century based on extensive research by Alfred Kinsey.His research and theories have since been expanded and expounded upon by numerous other sexologists, most notably Fritz Klein.Even though many people don’t like to label or be labeled, I find that basic definitions are sometimes helpful to those who don’t fit the “sexual norm” (and also to their families, friends, and therapists).From personal experience I can tell you that when I found out at 14 years old that being gay was an actual thing, I experienced incredible relief.Today, Kinsey’s continuum theory is almost universally accepted.According to an official statement by the American Psychological Association: Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectionate attraction toward others.Terms I hear fairly often include pansexual, polysexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, queer, sexually open-minded, MSM (men who have sex with men), and WSW (women who have sex with women).And there are many more terms than this in common usage, each expressing various points on the Kinsey continuum.
Of course, a lot of folks out there find the terms heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual somewhat limiting, and sometimes even degrading.Part of the issue stems from the fact that despite numerous recent legal and social advances we still live in a heteronormative society, where people who are biologically male marry people who are biologically female, and together they have babies who are raised to do the same. And when that is the primary socio-sexual message received from family, friends, and society at large, it can be difficult for people who are “sexually different” to accept and integrate their nontraditional reality.It is also difficult for their friends, family members, and therapists—the majority of whom are not sexually different—to understand and empathize with these people’s experience.The simple knowledge that I wasn’t the only boy on Earth who felt “that way” made my teenaged years considerably less unbearable.
So, given my personal experience, I offer the following very basic (and eminently debatable) definitions: To be a homosexual man or woman means having a personally significant and meaningful romantic and/or sexual attraction primarily to adults of the same sex.
This, of course, doesn’t stop the universal attempt to label.