by Ben Roe
If you want to explore your own sexual orientation, here is a simple research instrument that was used by Fritz Klein and others. It is a refinement of the Kinsey Scale which ranked behavior and "psychologic reactions" on a scale from 0 to 6, with 0 being exclusively heterosexual, 6 being exclusively homosexual, and 3 being equally homosexual/heterosexual.
Klein wanted to test his idea that sexual orientation was a "dynamic, multi-variable process," so he developed the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid. He thought that an individual's sexual orientation was composed of sexual and non-sexual variables which differed over time. There are
three variables which directly describe the sexual self (attraction, fantasy, and behavior), three which describe aspects considered crucial to the composition of sexual orientation (emotional preference, social preference, and heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle), and also the variable of self-identification.
This form can be used privately for your own reflection or in a sharing group, or in less personal educational settings. You may make a copy of the Grid with the scales and explanatory text and then fill it out. Following the presentation of the instrument is a series of things to think about or explore in a group.
The following text closely follows that of the Klein article.
|A. Sexual Attraction|
|B. Sexual Behavior|
|C. Sexual Fantasies|
|D. Emotional Preference|
|E. Social Preference|
|G. Hetero/Gay Lifestyle|
|Other sex only||Other sex mostly||Other sex somewhat more||Both sexes equally||Same sex somewhat more||Same sex mostly||Same sex only|
|Hetero only||Hetero mostly||Hetero somewhat more||Hetero/Gay||Gay somewhat more||Gay mostly||Gay only|
A. Sexual Attraction
In this grid, you will be choosing three numbers, one for each of three aspects of your life: your past, your present, and your ideal. Beginning with your past (up to a year ago), ask yourself where you fit on this scale and select the number that best describes you. Write this number in the corresponding box marked "past" on the line for Variable A (Sexual Attraction) on the grid. Then select a number that describes your present sexual attraction using the preceding year as the time period you consider. For a number of people it is the same number; for others it is different. Write this number in the box marked "present" on the line for Variable A. Now ask yourself which number you would choose to be if it were a matter of choice or will. Remember there are no right or wrong numbers. When you finish writing this last number in the box marked Ideal for Variable A on the grid you should have completed the three boxes for Variable A.
B. Sexual Behavior
Here we look at actual behavior as opposed to sexual attraction. With whom do you have sex? Use the scale to rate yourself. As with the previous scale, choose a number for past, present, and ideal sexual behavior, then enter the numbers on the grid, this time under Variable B.
C. Sexual Fantasies
The third variable is sexual fantasy. Whether they occur during masturbation, while daydreaming, as part of our real lives or purely in our imaginations, fantasies provide insight. Rate yourself on the scale, then enter the numbers on the grid.
D. Emotional Preference
Our emotions directly influence, if not define, the actual physical act of love. Ask yourself if you love and like only the opposite sex or if you are also emotionally close to the same sex. Find out where you fit on the scale; rate yourself as with the other scales. Enter the numbers on the grid.
E. Social Preference
Though closely allied to emotional preference, social preference is often different. You may love only women but spend most of your social life with men. Some people, of all orientations, only socialize with their own sex, while others socialize with the opposite gender exclusively. Where are you on the scale?" Choose three numbers as you have on the other scales.
Your sexual self-definition is a strong variable since self-image strongly affects our thoughts and actions. In several cases, a person's present and past self-identification differs markedly from their ideal. Choose three numbers on Scale 2 and fill in the numbers on the grid.
G. Heterosexual/Homosexual Lifestyle
Some heterosexuals only have sex with the opposite sex but prefer to spend the majority of their time with gay people. On the other hand, homosexual or bisexual persons may prefer to live exclusively in the gay world, the heterosexual world, or even to live in both worlds. Lifestyle is the seventh variable of sexual orientation. Where do you tend to spend time and with whom? Choose three numbers on Scale 2 as you have on the other scales and enter them on the grid.
Bobbi Keppel is a social worker who used this grid in educational workshops. She and Alan Hamilton write, "New concepts and new research offer opportunities to change the way people understand and conceptualize sexual orientation." They have found that using this type of exercise has helped people "to ask questions and discuss sexual orientation more easily." In their paper, they present the grid as a set of scales which form a 3-dimensional stack of cards or block. (She also adds "Political Identity," "Physical Affection Preference," and "Community Affiliation" as additional scales, replacing "Hetero/Gay Lifestyle.")
They write that it is helpful to start with an introduction of the Kinsey Scale as the first opportunity to reconceptualize sexual orientation. This scale was the main influence towards reconceptualization of sexual orientation for many years. Klein, Sepekoff and Wolf's work offered the opportunity to broaden understanding even further.
The element of time is more explicit in the Klein Grid, and the addition of the Ideal allows consideration of intention and the future. Taking all of the scales or grid locations as a whole gives a picture of one's sexual orientation over time and can be helpful in discussing the concept as well as "identifying commonalities and differences."
If you are doing this exercise alone, try to reflect on how your "constellation" of ratings differs from that of someone you know well, a close friend or partner. If you are in a small study group with a high enough level of trust, those who are comfortable sharing their choices may do so. It will become clear that even those who share the same self-identification differ in their makeup in interesting ways. Similarities will also emerge, not only between those who share self-identifications but between those who identify differently.
Keppel and Hamilton write, "Sexual identity (how people think of themselves) sometimes has little to do with their sexual behavior. Three different people may have the same distribution of sexual behavior in the past and/or present, but have three different sexual identities: homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual." Those who identify as heterosexual may not have the exact same behavior, or those who identify as bisexual may not have the same lifestyle, as another example.
Be observant of how people's identity, behavior, or fantasies may change over time. Research such as Klein's, and the experience of many people shows significant fluidity in self-identification. Keppel and Hamilton observe,
Many people were sure that they would be, for instance, heterosexual all their lives, but discovered later that they no longer were. It there behooves one to treat others as one would like to be treated, regardless of one's current sexual identity, as one's sexual identity may change.
(One hears an echo of Jesus in this statement.)
As you reflect on any fluidity in your own ratings (or those shared with you), also reflect how your particular self-identification and self-understanding was valid for you at each particular time of your life.
Also note how one's community of support (or lack thereof) can influence one's self-identification or identity. Someone may identify as homosexual or heterosexual, for example, where there is no support for being bisexual. Some may even identify as heterosexual where there is no support for being bisexual or homosexual.
One of the main outcomes of using this grid can be to illustrate that there is not just one sexual orientation: heterosexual; that there are not just two sexual orientations, heterosexual and homosexual; and even that there are not just three sexual orientations, heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual, but indeed a whole range of complex, interacting, and fluid factors in our sexuality.
If you use this grid in a larger group, it may be helpful to have people share in groups or 6 or 8, or perhaps only take the worksheet home to fill out and think about.
You can visit The American Institute on Bisexuality (or here) to see the original version of this grid.
Ben Roe was an educator with Ministry in Human Sexuality from 1981-1988 and taught the human sexuality class at a community college in Lincoln, Nebraska, for several years. This article was published in the Summer 1998 Issue of Open Hands, Resources for Ministries Affirming the Diversity of Human Sexuality