Scientific and professional understanding is that "the core attractions that form the basis for adult sexual orientation typically emerge between middle childhood and early adolescence".
Sexual orientation differs from sexual identity in that it encompasses relationships with others, while sexual identity is a concept of self.
The term may, however, reflect a certain cultural context and particular stage of transition in societies which are gradually dealing with integrating sexual minorities.
Same gender loving (SGL) is considered to be more than a different term for gay; it introduces the concept of love into the discussion.
SGL also acknowledges relationships between people of like identities; for example, third gender individuals who may be oriented toward each other, and expands the discussion of sexuality beyond the original man/woman gender duality.
The term sexual preference has a similar meaning to sexual orientation, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, but sexual preference suggests a degree of voluntary choice.
Androphilia and gynephilia (or gynecophilia) are terms used in behavioral science to describe sexual attraction, as an alternative to a homosexual and heterosexual conceptualization.
The American Psychological Association states that "[s]exual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes" and that "[t]his range of behaviors and attractions has been described in various cultures and nations throughout the world.
Many cultures use identity labels to describe people who express these attractions.
The complexity of transgender orientation is also more completely understood within this perspective.
Using androphilia and gynephilia can avoid confusion and offense when describing people in non-western cultures, as well as when describing intersex and transgender people.
Thus, a woman who is attracted to other women, but calls herself heterosexual and only has sexual relations with men, can be said to experience discordance between her sexual orientation (homosexual or lesbian) and her sexual identity and behaviors (heterosexual).