Sexual Orientation

Lens: Type: Characteristic
Sexual Orientation:

Emotional and/or romantic attraction to another person.

Sexual orientation describes a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (Brabaw, 2019). Addressing a person’s sexual orientation is not relevant to every design project. However, for some projects, sexual orientation can represent a crucial aspect of a person’s identity that should not be ignored. For example, designing Valentine’s Day cards or creating financial planning services for same-sex couples highlight when sexual orientation is an essential aspect of experience design.

In different cultures and at different times, society has prescribed norms that have defined “acceptable” emotional attractions between people. These norms have created challenges for people who were not attracted to the “correct” people. People have been isolated and even killed because of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation does not always align a person’s assigned sex or gender identity.

Sexual Orientation Examples

  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Pansexual
  • Heterosexual/Straight
  • Polyamorous
  • Queer

Researching Sexual Orientation

It is not appropriate for designers to consider sexual orientation for every project. Researching people’s sexual orientation reveals their romantic and emotional attraction to others, which can be helpful when creating products, services, and systems that involve these relationships.

Questions to Ask About Sexual Orientation

  • To whom is this person romantically attracted?
  • In what ways is this person’s sexual orientation accepted or not accepted by the community in which they live?

Look for These When Researching Sexual Orientation

  • Ways sexual orientation influences where people live and go to have fun.
  • Where designers have used sexual orientation as a defining feature of a product, service, or system.
  • Ways sexual orientation has become a point of pride or celebration.
  • Ways people are oppressed because of their sexual orientation.


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.

Social Sciences

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Sexual Orientation, APA dictionary of psychology. Retrieved October 27, 2019 from

Bridge, L., Smith, P., & Rimes, K. A. (2019). Sexual orientation differences in the self-esteem of men and women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity

Wang, Y., Wu, H., & Sun, Z. S. (2019). The biological basis of sexual orientation: How hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors influence to whom we are sexually attracted. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology


Brabaw, K. (2019). Allosexual, Demisexual, Bicurious — & Other Sexualities You Need To Know. Retrieved September 4, 2019 from

Sexuality Education Resource Centre MB, & Klinic Community Health Education. (n.d.). Teen Talk: Gender Identity. Retrieved September 10, 2019 from

The Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Glossary of Terms. Retrieved October 27, 2019 from