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Sexual Orientation (LGB+)

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What is Sexuality?

A person’s sexuality, or sexual orientation, is the part of their identity that relates to who they find attractive/who they fancy. Although it’s in the name, the attraction to other people does not have to be sexual, it could be romantic. Some people are attracted to a particular gender/genders, some people are attracted to who the person is (their morals, values, humour, intelligence, etc.), and for some it’s a combination of the two. Attraction can feel different for different people; it can involve wanting to be around a person more, thinking about them when you are not with them, “butterflies” in your stomach, feeling giddy or nervous when you are together and more.

When speaking to primary school aged children about sexuality, we would talk about romantic feelings and what it feels like to be in love as no matter the gender you are attracted to, the feelings tend to be the same. As mentioned above, sexuality does not only refer to sexual attraction but also romantic and emotional attraction. Whilst discussing sexual attraction may not be age-appropriate, young people of all ages understand what it means to love another person.

Describing a Person’s Sexual Orientation

There are many ways in which people can describe their sexuality, and as people feel more able to explore how they are feeling the language continues to grow. Young people should not be put under any pressure to assign themselves a “label”; some people like having a word to describe their sexuality but others find labels too restrictive and so never label their sexuality.

Regardless, it is important that some of this language is shared with young people so they have words to describe feelings they may have and are aware that it is completely usual for people of the same gender to have romantic and loving relationships with one another. This helps to “normalise” same-gender relationships and LGBT+ people, and shares with LGBT+ young people that there is nothing wrong with how they are feeling and that there is a community of others who feel the same way they do.

Below are some of the more common and visible sexual orientations that you may want to explore with your young people. Click on each of the boxes to reveal a definition.

To explore some of the other ways people describe their sexual orientation, you can explore the Sexual Orientation (LGB+) webpage designed for ages 14+ by clicking here.


Myth Busting

There are many myths and misconceptions that surround the LGBT+ community and here we aim to unpick these myths.

A lot of the language we have to describe a person’s sexuality is fairly modern, but attraction between two people of the same gender has existed throughout history. You may have to look a little harder to find LGB+ people throughout history as many people had to hide their sexuality because of the LGBTphobic laws of the time. Others lived openly but their sexuality has been ignored or hidden by those who have written about and researched their lives years later. The earliest known record of a same-gender couple dates back to the 25th century BC (our written history only goes back to the 26th century BC). They were known as Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum which roughly translates to “joined in life” and “joined in death”.

For some people, their sexuality is static and doesn’t change as they get older, whilst for others it is more fluid and changes throughout their life. However, you cannot force a change in a person’s sexuality, and there is no element of choice in the people you find yourself attracted to.

It can be scary for a young person to realise they may be LGBT+; you can support them by creating a more LGBT+ inclusive space and reassuring them that being LGBT+ is “normal”, that they can still achieve everything they aspire to achieve, and that your relationship will not be negatively impacted as you respect their identity.

There is not a set age where young people realise their sexuality; whilst some realise in adulthood, some realise as a young person. Many of the young people we have worked with have told us that they were aware of their feelings towards others, be it a friend, teacher or celebrity, from a very young age, but lacked the language to describe these feelings and/or the courage to speak about them.

The age at which it is appropriate for children to know that different-gender couples exist and may get married to each other, is the same age at which it is appropriate for them to know same-gender couples exist and may get married to each other.

Even if you believe none of the children in your care are LGBT+, can you be sure? The existence of LGBT+ people should be shared with them as they may be at school with children from LGBT+ families, there is representation of LGBT+ people in children’s television, they will pass same-gender couples holding hands and kissing in public, and there are many influential LGBT+ celebrities. If they are not taught about these identities by a trusted adult, young people tend to turn to the internet where much of the content is not age-appropriate.

No, you cannot make young people LGBT+ by talking about LGBT+ identities, icons or history. But by talking about the LGBT+ community positively, you can create a space where young people feel safe to explore their identity, and a space where LGBT+ young people feel comfortable in sharing their identity.


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