The term “sexual orientation” refers to a model of sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to the opposite sex, same sex or both sexes, which correspondingly are defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. There also unofficially exists the fourth orientation, which is asexuality (lack of sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to others).
These categories are more nuanced aspects of the nature of sexual identity. For example, some people use other labels, or none. It should be noted that an individual can identify himself according to a certain sexual orientation without agreement to its romantic or sexual behavior model, for example, many people are involved with relationships with people of both sexes to varying degrees, but they do not define themselves as bisexual, heterosexual, or homosexual.
Sexual orientation is classified according to the sex of the desired partners:
- Heterosexual, when it is directed only and exclusively on people of the opposite sex;
- Homosexual, when it is directed only and exclusively on people of the same-sex;
- Bisexual, when there are relations with people of both sexes to varying degrees;
- Asexual, when there is no specific sexual inclination.
The origins of sexual orientation, whether innate or acquired, are attributed by the individual to his personal feelings and ideas, sexual behavior of a person may differ from his orientation. For example, abstinence is not always the result of asexual orientation. People can practice different sexual orientation if they are constrained primarily by social circumstances (submission to authority real or imagined) or physical (incarceration in unisex environment). The possibility of changing the sexual orientation of a person through the influence (psychotherapy, authority, etc.) has not been proved, despite many questionable attempts over the centuries.
In the Preamble of the Yogyakarta Principles, document on the international law of human rights, sexual orientation is understood as an ability of each of profound emotional attraction, emotional and sexual relations with individuals of the opposite sex, the same sex or more than one gender, and intimate and sexual relations with these individuals.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits all forms of discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation. And in 2012, the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights issued a “Born Free and Equal” document relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in the international law of human rights.
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