sex; sexuality; sexual; homosexual; heterosexual; homosexuality; gay; lesbian; bisexual; discrimination; puberty; homophobia;
Sexuality is a combination of people's sex, their sexual feelings for others, their feelings about themselves as sexual beings, their sexual orientation and their sexual behaviour. Exploring and discovering your sexuality can be confusing, exciting, difficult and wonderful.
- Are you noticing changes within yourself that are making you feel like a sexual person all of a sudden?
- Do you feel like the changes in your body have changed the way you are feeling emotionally? (See the topic Puberty – what it feels like.)
Discovering your sexuality means 'getting in touch' with who you are sexually. You may start to want or desire things or people that you didn't before.
- For example, if you are female, remember when as a young girl you hated all the boys at school, just because they were boys. But now you may be feeling an attraction to boys?
- You may be experiencing different sensations in your body that make you want to experience intimacy with another person.
This is all related to your developing sexuality. These changes happen to everybody. These new feelings and emotions that you have towards yourself and others and sexuality can come as quite a shock and you may not feel like yourself for a while. It may be useful to talk to someone who you trust about what is happening to you and what you are feeling.
Because development of sexual feelings and attractions happen at a different rate for each person, it is important to explore your sexuality at a rate that you feel comfortable with. Don't let anyone pressure you into anything that you do not want to do (see our topic Are you ready for sex?). If you are worried, talk to someone you trust about it.
Many young people go through a stage of being attracted to someone of the same sex, but eventually become attracted to people of the other sex. This is a natural part of growing up. Other young people know that their attraction is to the same sex and will not change.
Some of the questions you might be asking yourself about your sexuality could include:
- What is happening to me?
- Why is this happening to me?
- Am I heterosexual/lesbian/gay/bisexual?
- Is there anyone I can tell?
If somebody identifies that he or she is homosexual (gay or lesbian) or bisexual, then understanding and developing their own sexuality can be especially difficult.
- Although the challenge of coming out about your sexual identity may be frightening, having to mask your real feelings can also be very difficult.
- Accepting yourself may take some time. It may take weeks, months or years to move from those initial feelings and thoughts to identifying as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, or transgender.
- Many people have positive experiences of disclosing to loved ones that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. If you want to openly identify your sexual identity, see our topic Coming out.
The terms homosexual and heterosexual are clinical terms, and many homosexual young people prefer to use the terms gay, lesbian or bisexual.
- Some young gay, lesbian and bisexual people have 'reclaimed' or started using slang words to describe their sexuality that could be considered 'put-downs'. Such words include 'queer', 'dyke', and 'poof'.
- Be careful if you use these words that you are not offending anyone. Not all gay, lesbian and bisexual people are comfortable with using these words in a positive way.
- Another word for heterosexual is 'straight'.
Like most things, there are many myths surrounding sexuality and sexual orientation. It is always good to take the opportunity to destroy myths and let the truth prevail.
Myth No.1 - Everybody develops their sexuality at the same rate.
Wrong!. People go through puberty at different rates to others. Developing your sexuality is much the same; you can only do it at the right time for you, and at the right rate!
Myth No. 2 - Going through puberty and developing your sexuality is easy.
No way! Some adults forget how difficult and confronting this time can be in your life. It means getting used to a whole new set of feelings and learning about who you are and what you like and dislike.
Myth No. 3 - You can tell if someone is gay or lesbian.
False. Being lesbian or gay is not about what you look like or what you do for a job. Anyone can be gay or lesbian. Be careful not to make assumptions and judgements.
Myth No. 4 - Gay and lesbian people always 'carry on' sexually in public. Their relationships are just about sex.
Gay relationships are not just about sex. They are as much about sex as a heterosexual relationship. Did you ever stop and think how often you see heterosexual people 'carry on' sexually in public? It is about your comfort levels, not how sexual gay and lesbians are.
Myth No. 5 - Gay relationships don't last.
Many people believe that gay relationships are just short flings and never long lasting relationships. This is not true. They are relationships just like any other, and like any other relationships, some last and some do not. It is not to do with sexual orientation.
Myth No. 6 - All gay people get AIDS.
Being gay does not mean that you will get AIDS. It is important for everyone to know about the risks of HIV/AIDS and how to take precautions. It is what you do and how you behave that can put you at risk of contracting the virus, not your sexual orientation.
sexuality and your family and friends
Your family will probably notice the changes that you go through relating to your sexuality - they will see the change in your behaviour, lifestyle, personality, values and so on. If this time in your life is difficult, try to let them know that you are going through a difficult time and that you don't want to be teased, but respected. You could even give them a copy of this article.
Heterosexism is the belief that people who aren't heterosexual are not 'normal' and are therefore excluded, joked about, hated and so on.
Many societies support heterosexism by not portraying lesbians, gays and bisexuals as 'normal', happy or healthy.
- Try and think of a movie you have seen lately that showed either a gay, lesbian or bisexual person to be happy and healthy, which did not have a special 'theme' about gay life.
- In many cases, if a gay, lesbian or bisexual person is in a movie, then the movie is about their sexual identity, and not about anything else.
Heterosexism will be reduced when the focus is on who someone is and not what his or her sexual choices are.
Many people who are open with their homosexual orientation encounter discrimination, prejudice, put-downs and disappointment from people they don't know, and from people they love because of homophobia, a fear of homosexuality.
If you or someone close to you, are experiencing homophobia or questioning of your sexual identity or orientation, and you don't feel supported, try linking into a support group or talk to a counsellor who can help you with your situation. Homophobia is discrimination.
and supporting sexuality
You may or may not know anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual (or other), but you can still contribute to an equal, supportive and non-discriminatory society. Here are some tips to accepting any identity.
- Be open in conversations about your acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual people. Make sure your friends know that you are accepting of people's choice.
- Assume that about 10% of people you go to school with, play sport with, work with and socialise with have gay, lesbian or bisexual family members and friends.
- Respond to anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bisexual comments just as you would to any other injustice.
- Try to educate people about the issues surrounding sexual identity.
- The Second Story Youth Health Service
- Youth Healthline 1300 13 17 19
- Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service South Australia
7pm - 10pm every day
- The Inside Out Project (same-sex attracted young men)
The Second Story Youth Health Service
Contact is via the Youth Healthline 1300 13 17 19
- The Out LBW Project (same-sex attracted young women)
The Second Story Youth Health Service
Contact is via the Youth Healthline during business hours
(Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm) 1300 13 17 19
- Bfriend (Support service for people who are coming out and their family and friends)
(08) 8202 5192 or 8202 5805
- SHine SA - Sexual Health information, networking and education
Sexual Healthline: Tel: 1300 883 793 - Country callers 1800 188 171
- Gay & Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO) are available in many places in Australia. These officers are there to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities to get support around homophobia, abuse and human rights issues. Check with your local station. The South Australian Police have an online GLLO list: http://www.police.sa.gov.au/sapol/community_services/...
Hershberger, Scott L, D'Augelli, Anthony R & Pilkington, Neil W (1998). 'Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth and their Families: Disclosure of Sexual Orientation and Its Consequences'. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68 (3).
Liggins, Sally, Wille, Annemarie, Hawthorne Shaun & Rampton, Leigh (1994). 'Affirming Diversity - An Educational Resource on Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Orientations'.
Owens, Robert (1998). 'Queer Kids - the Challenges and Promise for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth'.
Rothblatt, Martine (1995). 'The Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on the Freedom of the Gender'.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).