transgender man. For research purposes, transsexuals are more often the focus of study than other transgender groups since they are more likely to seek clinical intervention, making data on this subgroup more accessible (Rosser et al., 2007).

Transgender people may be sexually oriented toward men, women, other transgender people, or any combination of these groups. There is no consensus in the research literature as to whether, when describing a transgender person’s sexual orientation, sexual orientation labels should be based on the person’s sex at birth or gender identity. However, transgender people themselves, especially those who live full time in the cross-gender role, more often than not anchor their sexual orientation on gender identity (e.g., a male-to-female transsexual woman who is attracted primarily to women is most likely to refer to herself as lesbian rather than heterosexual or straight) (Amercian Psychological Association, 2009a,b).

Sexual Orientation

The committee’s working definition of sexual orientation incorporates three core ideas. First, sexual orientation is about intimate human relationships—sexual, romantic, or both. These relationships can be actualized through behavior or can remain simply an object of desire. Second, the focus of sexual orientation is the biological sex of a person’s actual or potential relationship partners—that is, people of the same sex as the individual, people of the other sex, or people of either sex. Third, sexual orientation is about enduring patterns of experience and behavior. A single instance of sexual desire or a single sexual act generally is not regarded as defining an individual’s sexual orientation.

Based on these considerations, the committee adopted the following working definition: sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual or romantic desires for, and relationships with, people of one’s same sex, the other sex, or both sexes. As this definition makes clear, sexual orientation is inherently a relational construct. Whether a sexual act or romantic attraction is characterized as homosexual or heterosexual depends on the biological sex of the individuals involved, relative to each other. One’s sexual orientation defines the population of individuals with whom one can potentially create satisfying and fulfilling sexual or romantic relationships. Such relationships help to meet basic human needs for love, attachment, and intimacy and are, for many people, an essential aspect of the self (Herek, 2006; Peplau and Garnets, 2000).

This working definition encompasses attraction, behavior, and identity. As explained in Chapter 3, most researchers studying sexual orientation have defined it operationally in terms of one or more of these three components. Defined in terms of attraction (or desire), sexual orientation is



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