Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth

Sexual Orientation: How is it Developed?

Sexual orientation refers to an individual’s emotional and sexual attraction to other individuals. While this attraction may extend along a continuum, it is most frequently discussed as falling into three categories: heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Like many human behaviors, sexual orientation is influenced by various biological and psychosocial factors, such as evolutionary predispositions and early experiences, but it is generally not determined by any one factor. The timing of its emergence in everyone varies.

Sexual orientation is distinct from sexual activity and not necessarily linked to sexual behavior. Many adolescents who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) have had no sexual experiences. Conversely, some youths who identify as heterosexual have had some homosexual experiences.

Therapy attempts to modify sexual orientation

Sexual orientation conversion therapy—or reparative therapy—refers to counseling and psychotherapy to eliminate or suppress homosexuality. Such therapies are based on an outdated view of homosexuality as a mental disorder, and all mainstream health and mental health professional organizations support the American Psychiatric Association’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973.

No research has found credible evidence that therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation.

Religious ministries’ attempts to modify sexual orientation

Deliverance or transformational ministries and reparative-therapy organizations are religious groups that seek to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals. They generally see homosexuality as a sinful behavior or condition, which they believe can be changed with the proper degree of religious fervor and prayer.

Homosexual students may feel marginalized and even harassed if ex-gay or transformational ministries are promoted on their campuses.