Select Page

Clinical Definitions of Same-Sex Attraction and Same-Gender Attraction

Sex and Gender

Gender and sex are not synonymous. Sex is a biological given (male and female). Gender refers to traits and roles (like masculinity and femininity). Gender traits used to be closely aligned with sex—for example, masculinity with men and femininity with women. But that is no longer the case in today’s world. Today, gender identities include not just masculinity and femininity, but also transgender, bigender, transsexual, androgyne, etc.

Same-Sex Attraction

Same-sex attraction refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to people of the same sex—a man attracted to another man or a woman attracted to another woman. This interest may include desires for their attention, friendship, intimacy, and/or a fascination with their bodies and other gender traits.

Same-Gender Attraction

Same-gender attraction is an attraction to someone with a common gender role.

Most heterosexual men feel a kinship, affinity, or attraction to other men who manifest gender traits and roles that they find appealing or comfortable to be around. Since they are drawn to men who have similar gender traits, most heterosexual men experience same-gender attraction.

Most men who experience same-sex attraction do not experience same-gender attraction. A man with same-sex attraction is typically attracted to gender traits that he feels he lacks—gender traits that he sees as being different from himself. For example, he may see other men as having masculinity than he does not have, or he may be attracted to other gender characteristics of men that he feels he lacks. He is actually experiencing opposite-gender attraction toward a member of the same sex.

However, on this website, the terms same-sex attraction and same-gender attraction are use synonymously, notwithstanding the technical differences between the two terms as explained above.

Some people and organizations favor the term same-gender attraction as a euphemism to avoid the frequent repetition of the word sex, even though they are referring to same-sex attraction.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation refers to the sex to which a person is attracted and which forms the focus of the person’s amorous or erotic desires, fantasies, and spontaneous feelings. The terms sexual preference and sexual inclination have similar meanings.

A person may be heterosexual (their focus is primarily people of the opposite sex), homosexual (their focus is primarily people of the same sex), bisexual (their focus may be both or either sex in varying degrees), or asexual (no sexual desire for either sex).

The term sexual orientation may also refer to the identity of a person, either by choice or as an expression of an inner attribute. It may also be used to describe sexual behavior. Sexual orientation is also a legal term used in laws that prohibit discrimination based on homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality.