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1. What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation can be understood as a term that is frequently used to define a person’s emotional, sexual and romantic attraction to another human being. Individuals who are attracted to people of the opposite sex have a sexual orientation that can be defined as heterosexual. When an individual is attracted to someone of the same sex, we define his or her sexual orientation as homosexual. Individuals who have a homosexual orientation are commonly called gay (this can be used about both men and women) or lesbian (women only). Sexual orientations can be understood to fall on a continuum, and individuals who are attracted to people of both the same and opposite sex, have a sexual orientation known as, bisexual. The concept of sexual orientation can be understood as more than just sexual behaviour as it also includes the person’s sense of identity and their feelings. This means that someone can identify as being gay, lesbian or bisexual without actually engaging in any sexual behaviour with the identified group.
2. What causes Homosexuality or Bisexuality?
At present there is no consensus in the scientific community about what causes an individual to develop a heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual orientation. No scientific findings have yet been proposed that conclude that a person’s sexual orientation is a result of a specific factor or factors. Yet plenty of research has been conducted examining the cultural, social, developmental, genetic and hormonal influences on a person’s sexual orientation. Although some researchers believe that both nature and nurture play an important and complex role in the development of a person’s sexual orientation, it is widely accepted within the scientific community that most people have no or little choice about their own sexual orientation. Homosexuality was once believed to be the result of damaged psychological development or disturbed family dynamics. However, these days it is widely recognised that such assumptions were based on prejudice and fabrication. Some researchers are currently searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. One research paper published at the Salk Institute, explored how a scientist had autopsied a number of people and confirmed that men on average, have a larger proportion of nerve cells in the INAH3 region of the hypothalamus, than women do. The same researcher also discovered that in reportedly gay men, this region bore a closer resemblance to the average woman’s than to the average man’s. Other studies have illustrated sexual dimorphism in humans and the gender shifting of sexually dimorphic traits in homosexuals and bisexuals. Further research has shown how hormone levels in foetuses have a large effect on those foetuses growing into children who become heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual adults. According to some researchers female foetuses exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb are more likely to be gay. Researchers have also suggested that male foetuses exposed to less testosterone or more androgen or both are more likely to be gay or gender shifted.
However, at present there are no replicated scientific studies that suggest or support that there is a biological aetiology for homosexuality. To date there are also no replicated scientific studies that suggest that family dynamics or psychosocial factors play a role the development of a sexual orientation.
3. How can we help?
From birth, most of us are raised to think of ourselves as fitting into a certain mould. Our culture and our families may teach us that we are “supposed” to be attracted to people of a different sex, and that boys and girls are supposed to look, act and feel certain ways. Few of us were told we might fall in love with someone of the same sex. That’s why so many people face fear, worry or confusion when facing such truths. Opening up to the possibility that you may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or even just questioning this possibility, may be difficult and include fear of ridicule, guilt, anxiety, depression or shame. However, it also means opening up to the idea that you’re on a path that’s your own. For many, coming to terms with their own sexual orientation and sharing this with others can be terrifying and may result in withdrawal, isolation, avoidance and other unhelpful behaviours. This is where we come in. We offer a supportive, non-judgmental, and empathic therapeutic approach that allows you to explore and process your own sexual orientation at a pace that feels appropriate to you. We recognise that each person’s experience of “coming out” is unique and that this process can result in anxiety, however, we also believe that this process can provide an opportunity for emotional growth and personal empowerment.