Sexual orientation is a term that means what kinds of people a person loves or has sexual or romantic feelings about. A person can love somebody of the same gender (sex), somebody of the other gender, both, or neither.
The words that are used the most to talk about somebody's sexual orientation are:
- heterosexual - they can be sexually attracted to somebody of the other gender
- homosexual - they can be sexually attracted to somebody of the same gender as themselves
- bisexual - they can be sexually attracted to either the same gender or the other gender
- asexual - they aren't sexually attracted to anybody
Words that are sometimes also used to talk about somebody's sexual orientation are:
- transgender and transsexual - the person believes they are the other gender than their body is
- paraphilia - the person gets sexual pleasure from other things which are not usually seen as sexual, called fetishes.
- zoophilia - sexual attraction to other species
Not everyone agrees that some of these last terms are really sexual orientations. For example, a person can have a fetish and still be either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. A person can also be transgender or transsexual and still be either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
Many people have been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. In many cultures, people who are homosexual or bisexual have been teased (made fun of), fired from their job, or subjected to violence because of who they are. In many countries and states, there are laws against having sex with somebody of the same gender, and people can be put in jail because of who they have sex with. In the United States, these laws were struck down (repealed) by the United States Supreme Court in the last few years.