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Sexual Orientation 

Sexual Orientation

Correct and Preferred Usage

Roxanne K. Young

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Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation should be indicated in a manuscript only when scientifically relevant. The term sexual preference should be avoided because it implies a voluntary choice of sexual orientation not supported by the scientific literature. In some contexts, reference to specific sexual behaviors (eg, men who have sex with men) may be more relevant than sexual orientation.

The nouns lesbians and gay men are preferred to the broader term homosexuals when referring to specific groups of women and men, respectively. Avoid using gay or gays as a noun. Heterosexual and homosexual may be used as adjectives (eg, heterosexual men).

A member of a heterosexual or homosexual couple may be referred to as spouse, companion, partner, or life partner. Same-sex couple and same-sex marriage are appropriate terminology.

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