T he four components of sexuality are biological sex (determined by chromosomes XX and XY), sexual orientation, gender identity and the social role of sex (in respect for cultural norms of female and male behavior).
S exual orientation is the emotional, romantic, sexual or affective attraction to other people. It is a continuum that goes from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual people may experience attraction to people of the same sex and the opposite sex. People with a homosexual orientation are sometimes called gay (men or women) or lesbian (women).
Gay and bisexual people have traditionally lived under the stigma of being considered mentally ill. It was not until 1975 that the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from the mental illness list and asked psychologists to remove such a stigma. Prejudice and discrimination on a regular basis have negative psychological effects.
H omosexuality and bisexuality are not mental illnesses, and research has shown that there is no association between these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality are normal behaviors in human sexuality and are documented in different cultures and times.
N o, therapies to change sexual orientation (sometimes called “reparative” or “conversion therapies”) are neither effective nor safe. Usually, people seeking these kind of therapies are being coerced by members of their family or religious groups. The reality is that homosexuality is not a disease. It does not require treatment and cannot be changed.
Not all gay, lesbian and bisexual people seeking help from professionals want to change their sexual orientation. Often they seek psychological help through the process of discovering their sexual orientation or developing strategies to deal with prejudice. But in general, homosexual or bisexual people go to therapy for the same reasons and life problems that lead heterosexual people to the consultation of mental health professionals, regardless of their sexual orientation.
G ender identity is the perception we have of our own gender. It may match the gender assigned at birth or may differ completely from it.
Gender is the set of socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a society deems appropriate for boys and girls or men and women.
Gender has traditionally been divided into binary: male and female. But there are other identities:
I ntersexuality is a variety of conditions that lead to an atypical development of physical sexual characteristics. These conditions can be at the level of the external genitalia, the internal reproductive organs, the sex chromosomes, or the hormones related to sex.
It is a common mistake to think that an intersex person is “a man and a woman at the same time”. Intersex people can have any gender identity.