Defining sexuality is not as easy as you may think. As humans, we like to simplify topics to make them easier to understand. To illustrate this, look at how we define colours. As children, we are taught the six primary and secondary colours; red, blue, yellow, orange, purple and green. These make up six main categories that we can often use to define the colour of something.
However, as we get older, we gain more understanding about the world we live in and realise that things are not actually this simple. We can’t always categorise things easily into distinct boxes. If we look at colours properly, we realise there are actually thousands, if not millions, of different colours which form a spectrum.
Aspects of being human also fit into a spectrum – it’s not easy to categorise people because we are complex and diverse. For example, we all look different and also have varying personality traits, tastes and talents. This diversity makes the world an interesting place to live – if we were all the same, it would be very boring – imagine if the circle above only had one colour!
Likewise, human sexuality is also in a spectrum. This was famously described by Professor Alfred Kinsey where at one end of the scale you have heterosexuality and at the other end you have homosexuality. Inbetween are various degrees of bisexuality.
Sexual identity may change over time. For example, teenagers often experiment with different partners until they realise their true sexuality. Due to social norms, a homosexual girl of 14 may date boys to be like her peers. As she matures, she may realise that something doesn’t feel right and understand her sexual preference is actually to date women. For people who are bisexual, their preferences may change over time. A woman may be attracted to men 25% of the time and women for 75% of the time. This ratio may switch as she gets older, or it may stay the same. It’s similar to the way our tastes in food or music changes – nobody can force you to like or dislike something but over time, we mature and our tastes naturally change. Likewise, nobody can force you to be heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual – only you can listen to your own emotions and body to determine what feels right for you. There is no evidence that sexuality can be taught – you are simply naturally inclined to be attracted towards men, women or both at any given time.
Sexuality depends on whether you’re attracted to the same or opposite gender. This means you must be able to determine your own gender before you can understand your sexuality. For many people this is simply what genitals they have between their legs – a penis for a male and a vagina for a female. However, just as sexuality is complex, so too is gender. Some people don’t identify with their biological gender. Coming soon: ‘Defining Gender’.