In my psychology- practice, it frequently happens that people tell me they are gay or lesbian. Although it seems less of a problem for the younger generation than for the 30+ ones, there still is a lot of controversy about sexual orientation in Sri Lanka. It’s usually a big relief for them to experience that I am open-minded and not biased. The mere fact that they can talk freely and without fear of being exposed to the outside world (everything clients say to me is very confidential) is often a therapy in itself…
Sexual orientation is about amorous or erotic feelings you have with regard to another person. The orientation is basically innate (‘nature’), but can also be influenced by external factors, such as society, education, or culture (‘nurture’). In one culture one form of orientation is less acceptable than the other and therefore will be less or even not at all expressed. However, this is only the expression, and not about the existence. The orientation itself is defined in a person and is consistent, but this need can be suppressed by acquired factors.
It can be said that there are basically three or four groups of sexual orientation:
Amorous or erotic feelings for a person of the opposite sex
Amorous or erotic feelings for a person of the same sex. The term homosexuality is a combination of the Greek word homoios which signifies ‘equal’, and sexus, the Latin word for sex. Research shows that five to 10 percent of the world’s population is homosexual or bisexual. However, this is difficult to calculate precisely because it is not always clear when somebody falls within these groups. The taboo on homosexuality has often emerged with the rise of religions, which prohibited a relationship or marriage between two men or two women. However, this does not mean that only in religious circles is homosexuality seen as ‘bad’.
Amorous or erotic feelings for a person of either sex. Just as homosexuality, bisexuality has to do with feelings, behavior and identity: what you feel for another, what kind of sexual contacts and relations you initiate and how you call yourself. Many people have bisexual feelings and fantasies, much fewer people do something with these and even less call themselves bi. Bisexuals are often categorized as heterosexuals or homosexuals, depending on the relationship they have. That’s why bisexuality is often invisible.
While asexuality is considered the fourth category of sexual orientation by some, researchers and has been defined as the absence of a traditional sexual orientation. An asexual has little to no sexual attraction to males or females. It may be considered a lack of a sexual orientation, and there is significant debate over whether or not it is a sexual orientation.
Human sexuality is often seen as a continuum with at both ends hetero- and homosexuality and bisexuality in the middle (the ‘Kinsey scale’), where asexuality has a place out of this continuum. However, this classification is also criticized because it ignores individuality and cultural issues. It’s an invention of 19th century Europe and therefore also culturally bound.
Sometimes deviations from heterosexuality are expressed in other culture-specific ways, such as Two Spirit (a male and a female spirit in one body) in North America and Hijra, (a man with a female gender identity) in the Indian subcontinent. The layout hetero-gay-bi is static and does not consider transitions as transgenderism (your gender identity does not correspond with your biological sex assigned at birth, for example John was born a male but as a person is a woman) and intersexuality (when your sexual anatomy doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male; they may also have male and /or female secondary sex characteristics, such as body shape).
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union banned any discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.