Sexual orientation

Types of sexual orientation

Sexual orientation refers to love and physical attraction toward members of the same or opposite sex, or both.

There are three sexual orientations: heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. In addition, it is possible to be asexual, or lacking in sexual inclinations.


It is important to understand that people do not choose their sexual orientation. It is a matter of physical and emotional attraction to another person.

Tens of thousands of studies have been conducted on the causes of homosexuality. However, none has come to any definitive conclusions that are scientifically valid and applicable to all gay people (Dorais, 1994). Thus, it is impossible to determine whether homosexuality is innate or acquired – a matter of nature or nurture.

What is certain is that sexual orientation is dictated by a person’s feelings and viewpoint.

In some case, people’s sexual behaviour may not reflect their orientation. For example, in the case of priests and nuns, sexual abstinence is not always the result of an asexual orientation.

Individuals may practice a different sexual orientation from their own if circumstances force them to do so. These circumstances are largely social (submission to a real or imagined authority) or physical (incarceration in a unisex environment).


Homophobia refers to all manifestations of discrimination against persons considered homosexual, including exclusion or violence that is sometimes called gay bashing.

Even if the discrimination and violence experienced by gay people may be similar to that which other minority groups are exposed to, homophobia is distinguished by characteristics that are unique to the daily realities of gays and lesbians.

Some individuals still live their homosexuality in a hidden, clandestine or unacknowledged manner for social, moral or religious reasons.

Sadly, homophobia is one of the reasons that young gay or bisexual men are 6 to 16 times more likely to attempt suicide than young heterosexual men.

The legalization of civil union

Despite the prevalence of homophobia, the recognition of gay rights has made great strides in Western countries.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is held annually on May 17 because on May 17, 1990 the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Quebec prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In Quebec, in June 2002, the Quebec National Assembly passed the Act instituting civil union for couples, regardless of sexual orientation. With civil union, the Quebec law now recognizes three types of conjugal situation: marriage, common-law union and civil union. A civil union is equivalent to marriage in Quebec, allowing gay parents to raise children.

On July 28, 2005 the federal government of Canada adopted the Civil Marriage Act to legalize civil unions between partners of the same sex.