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 factor 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 highlights when sexual orientation is an essential factor 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 are not attracted to the “correct” people. People have been isolated and even killed because of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation does not always align with a person’s assigned sex or gender identity.

Examples of Sexual Orientation

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.



Updated: June 22, 2024 1:20 pm
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