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According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is commonly discussed as if it were solely a characteristic of an individual, like biological sex, gender identity or age. “This perspective is incomplete because sexual orientation is defined in terms of relationships with others,” they write on their website. “People express their sexual orientation through behaviors with others, including such simple actions as holding hands or kissing. Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy. In addition to sexual behaviors, these bonds include nonsexual physical affection between partners, shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment. Therefore, sexual orientation is not merely a personal characteristic within an individual. Rather, one’s sexual orientation defines the group of people in which one is likely to find satisfying and fulfilling romantic relationships that are an essential component of personal identity for many people.”

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Interestingly, there is still no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

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