The Invisible Orientation – Socio-Legal Implications of Gender and Sexuality in Modern Society


In earlier societies, people were only aware of sexual orientation as male or female. With the passage of time as societies are growing and developing people are becoming more aware of their sexuality and sexual orientation and now it is not restricted only to males and females, its scope has widened. At present, people are slowly getting acquainted with the various personalities existing in men and women and with the terminologies such as homosexual, gay, lesbian, binary, etc. Earlier societies do not differentiate between sex and gender, they were used interchangeably. Sensitivity has grown in this regard and people are getting aware of the difference between these two terms. Sex is attributed to the biological traits of males or females. Sex is assigned at birth based on biological features and chromosome composition. This assigned sex is termed “natal sex”.

While on the other hand, gender determines the basic traits set by society that comes with gender. These traits are not biologically determined rather they are determined by society, norms, etc. It is a wider spectrum and a person can fall inside and outside of this spectrum entirely. Structural functionalists believe that gender roles were established much before the pre-industrial era when men would handle responsibilities outside of the house such as hunting, gathering, protection, etc whereas, on the other side, women were given the responsibility to take care of the house, children and other associated activities. This paper will discuss the change in the concept of gender in society and the legal recognition being asked by people falling entirely outside of the standardized gender norms.

Is Sexual Orientation a Person’s Sense of Individuality?


Sexual Orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/ or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. It is a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Sexual orientation is not just related to physical intimacy rather it is much wider and also involves emotional, social, and cultural features. There are various identities associated with sexual orientation such as:

  • Heterosexual: This term is used to identify those people who are attracted to a different gender.
  • Homosexual: Those people who are attracted to the opposite gender.
  • Gay / Lesbian: People who are attracted to the same gender are gay. The lesbian term is widely used for women who are attracted to women.
  • Bisexual: Those who are attracted to both men and women are called bisexual.
  • Curious: Those unsure about their sexual preference are curious.
  • Queer / Pansexual: Those people whose attraction changes with periods across different gender.
  • Asexual: These are those groups of people who don’t experience any kind of attraction towards anyone.

This categorization of people based on their sexual orientation is done to give each of these groups a certain identity and representation in society. This categorization is also made on the premises that how these groups wanted themselves to be identified in the society at large. Sexual Orientation is the kind of person someone is attracted to which is different from gender identity. Gender identity is someone’s sense of what their gender is. It indicates how they wanted to behave in society and how they wish to express themselves externally.

The Connection between Gender and Sexuality


Gender and sexuality are two different terms that are usually seen as one and used interchangeably. However, there is a big difference between the two terms. Gender is related to socially established and acceptable roles, behaviors, and identities of men and women. Key aspects to describe a gender are gender identity, gender roles, and gender expression. Gender identity is a way one identifies his gender. Gender expressions are related to the way one wants to portray oneself in society at last gender roles are the associated expected roles that a particular gender must take up.

However, sexuality is a completely different term and it relates to whom one is sexually, emotionally intellectually attracted. The sexuality of a person has nothing to do with his gender. When people’s sexual orientation and gender does not coincide, it leads to much disapproval from society. The people of the society believe that concepts like being gay or lesbian are all caused by a psychological disturbance in the mind and that it is a sickness that is needed to be cured. People in this regard tend to be rigid and they believe that such people who do not follow the set rules of the society must be socially boycotted. 

Issues of gender and sexuality are part and parcel of everybody’s life. It affects cultural and social institutions from religion, education, workplace, popular culture, and law which also shapes over perspective and our shapes our minds towards the needs of people belonging to different genders. However, society tends to reject everything new and different from the established norms. Not being happy with the expected gender invites social disapproval and discrimination from the people around them. They are seen as aliens and an extreme aversion can be seen to people belonging to the LGBTQ community.

Since time immemorial women are believed to be submissive and must involve homemaking and nurturing children whereas men are believed to be aggressive and the ones that must bring income to the family. Moreover, even today 63% of families see sons as the ones primarily responsible for their parent’s last rites. These norms were challenged by many women such as actress Mandira Bedi and India’s former Chief of Defense Staff by giving fire to the funeral pyres of their family members. Such acts challenge generational established norms and bring a positive outlook to society. 

Then some people do not feel sexually attracted to anyone they are asexual. It is the invisible orientation. These people oppose generational running notions that everyone feels attracted to other people and everyone is required to have sex in their lives. These people are not sexually attracted to anyone as they consider it as a sexual orientation just like other sexual orientations- gay, straight, or bisexual.

However, such notions are not acceptable in society and asexual people are treated as aliens even in the LGBTQ community as well. It is hardly believed that they do not have an attraction for anyone and the reason for the same is believed to be love failure, psychological disease, etc. The reactions of the people render them socially unacceptable and they feel alienated. The sexuality of a person is a concept under scrutiny since time immemorial. It carries various connotations and it is widely dynamic. Societies time and again have questioned as well as accepted the dynamic nature of sexuality that we see today.

Legal Perspective on Sexuality

Sexual Orientation

Every person is born free and he/ she has the right to live their life as they desire with whosoever they wish to do. It is a fundamental right of humans to have freedom of choice imbibed upon them by virtue of their birth. The right to choose a partner is one of those freedom provided to people that makes their life meaningful. Thus, taking away a person’s right to choose his/her partner is rendering him/her of his right to have a good life.

The apex court of India, the Supreme Court in its landmark judgment National Legal Services Authority of India vs. Union of India has given recognition to the fundamental rights of transgender persons arising out of Articles 14, 15, 16, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India. In another landmark case, consensual sexual relationships between adults of game gender were decriminalized by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. With this judgment, Supreme Court has widened the scope of LGBTQ+ rights in India. Decriminalizing consensual sex between people belonging to the same gender and recognizing the rights of such people have provided them with an identity and freedom to enjoy their sexuality. However, providing them equivalent rights is still a distant dream as even today most of the legislation recognizes only two genders male and female.

The marriages between transgender persons, and transgender and cisgender persons, are registered under the Special Marriage Act, of 1954. The law only recognizes persons of opposite genders in a romantic monogamous unit as a legitimate unit worthy of protection. Presently, personal laws only recognize males and females as a union for marriage, adoption, succession, etc. Laws punishing sexual offenses such as section 375 & and 376 of the IPC only recognizes the cisgender woman as the victim of sexual violence thus, making this legislation narrow and leaving out multiple identities from the scope of protection.


The sexuality of a person has always been a concept that is widely dynamic and it’s all aspects are yet to be discovered. Human beings are born free and shall remain free during different decisions he takes to make their life worthy. Everyone has the right to take up any behavior, expression, or role they want to take in their lives. Even though society might question the ways of the LGBTQ community but it must be borne in mind that it is a person’s personal choice to live their life according to their choice. Society is gradually accepting these communities and they are now getting a fair share of protection from the law as well.