Human sexuality refers to the way humans experience and express themselves as sexual beings. It plays a vital role in every human’s life. There are several terms that are used to describe human sexuality, namely, biological sex, gender identity, gender roles and sexual orientation. Much has been previously done by research and scholarly writing to examine human sexuality. This paper defines and examines the relationship between these four terms. The paper will do a review of the previous works, theories and models related to these terms and come up with a conclusion as to how those terms relate.
Biological sex means the distinctive features that classify organisms as either male or female. This is a result of sexual reproduction; a process that involves the combination and mixture of genetic traits. The biological sex of an organism is determined in the embryonic stage. A male produces sperms (male gametes) while females produce ova (female gametes). Gender identity is one’s internal sense that makes him or her feel like, experience and accept to be a male or female. Many societies have basic gender attributes towards individuals based on their biological sex (Balen, 2004). These attributes form a basic division between both sexes; individuals identify with one or both of them. Gender role is the external manifestations of an individual that reflects his or her gender identity. It is manifested by the observable factors such as dress, behavior or mannerisms that the society considers as appropriate for either a man or a woman. For instance, girls carry dolls, while boys are more attached to electronic toys such as cars and camera toys.
Sexual orientation is a term that describes a long-term pattern of romantic, emotional or sexual attraction to the same sex (known as homosexuality orientation), opposite sex (heterosexuality orientation) or both sexes (bisexuality orientation) (Balen, 2004). In the American society one may be identified as a lesbian, homosexual or transgender. Kinsey (1948) asserts that sex is the set of biological differences found in humans, such as hormones, sex organs and chromosomes, while gender is the cultural values-feminine or masculine or both-attributed to each sex, male or female. American Psychiatric Association, in its study, indicates that there is no known or scientifically-proved cause for sexual orientation. In his theory, Sigmund Freud indicates that all people are born bisexuals; psychological development is what makes them mono-sexual or bisexual. Mildrod C (2008), in her study of previous researcher’s work, brings out the differences between these terms.
All the four terms are interrelated, where biological sex seems to form the basis of definition of gender identity, gender role and sexual orientation as explained hereby. Biological sex is the main determinant of the differences between male and female. It is according to ones biological sex that the society attaches cultural values and behaviors of either masculine or feminine, known as gender. Gender identity refers to the way an individual thinks of his own gender; whether a man if masculine or a woman if feminine. Gender role is the way the society expects a masculine or feminine person to act, speak, relate to others, dress etc. Sexual orientation refers to the way a male or female is romantically, sexually and emotionally attracted to an individual of the same, opposite or both sexes or genders.