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"Essentialists" typically believe that sexual preferences are determined by biological forces, while "constructionists" assume that sexual desires are learned.The philosopher of science Michael Ruse has stated that the social constructionist approach, which is influenced by Foucault, is based on a selective reading of the historical record that confuses the existence of homosexual people with the way in which they are labelled or treated.In 1886, the psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing used the terms homosexual and heterosexual in his book Psychopathia Sexualis.Krafft-Ebing's book was so popular among both laymen and doctors that the terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual" became the most widely accepted terms for sexual orientation. recommend against using homosexual as a noun, instead using gay man or lesbian.Although early writers also used the adjective homosexual to refer to any single-sex context (such as an all-girls school), today the term is used exclusively in reference to sexual attraction, activity, and orientation.The term homosocial is now used to describe single-sex contexts that are not specifically sexual.It "also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions." The most common terms for homosexual people are lesbian for females and gay for males, though gay is also used to refer generally to both homosexual males and females.The number of people who identify as gay or lesbian and the proportion of people who have same-sex sexual experiences are difficult for researchers to estimate reliably for a variety of reasons, including many gay or lesbian people not openly identifying as such due to homophobia and heterosexist discrimination.

Some synonyms for same-sex attraction or sexual activity include men who have sex with men or MSM (used in the medical community when specifically discussing sexual activity) and homoerotic (referring to works of art).Since the end of the 19th century, there has been a global movement towards increased visibility, recognition, and legal rights for gay people, including the rights to marriage and civil unions, adoption and parenting, employment, military service, equal access to health care, and the introduction of anti-bullying legislation to protect gay minors.The word homosexual is a Greek and Latin hybrid, with the first element derived from Greek ὁμός homos, "same" (not related to the Latin homo, "man", as in Homo sapiens), thus connoting sexual acts and affections between members of the same sex, including lesbianism.In East Asia, same-sex love has been referred to since the earliest recorded history.Homosexuality in China, known as the passions of the cut peach and various other euphemisms, has been recorded since approximately 600 BCE.

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