Sexual Orientation (LGB+)
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What is a sexual orientation?
A person’s sexual orientation, or sexuality, 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.
Figuring out your sexual orientation
We currently live in a heteronormative society where everyone is assumed/expected to be straight. Because of this it can feel quite daunting to step back and ask yourself “Am I straight/gay/etc.?”. But you are the only person that is able to answer that question.
Nothing has “caused” you to feel this way and there is nothing wrong or weird about the way you are feeling. However, what you are feeling is completely valid and you shouldn’t put yourself under pressure to figure out your sexuality immediately. Take the time to explore your feelings and reflect on how you are feeling – it will be difficult to understand them if you ignore them.
You might find it helpful to talk to other people who have gone through or are going through the process of questioning their sexuality. You can meet other LGBT+ young people at your nearest LGBT+ youth group or you can talk to a trusted adult using our Proud Connections chat service.
It might help you to explore the rest of the information in the section on Sexual Orientation, especially the part on Ways People Describe Their Sexuality. It can be comforting to find a word that fits how you are feeling. Do not feel any pressure to “label” your identity but take the time to explore it. If you do choose to label your sexuality, be aware that later you might choose to change how you describe yourself; this is completely usual, and many other people do this too as they come to better understand their feelings.
Words people may use to describe their sexual orientation
We have put together some of the words people may use to describe their sexuality. You should not feel any pressure to assign yourself a “label”. Although some people like having a word to describe their sexuality, others do not like to label themselves and so never do.
Click on the boxes below to reveal a definition.
There are other ways people describe their sexual orientation that are not on the list, and the language we have to describe sexuality continues to grow and evolve.
Let us know via the form below if your identity is missing or you can’t find a word to describe your feelings.
Busting myths and misconceptions
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 LGBT+ people through history as many people had to hide their sexuality because of the LGBTphobic laws of the time, laws which were introduced to many other countries beyond the UK by Western colonialism. 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, while for others it is more fluid and changes throughout their life. You cannot force or will your sexuality to change, and if it does change it won’t happen overnight.
It can be scary when a person first realises who they find attractive as they may start to question their identity and feelings they have had for other people. It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with feeling attraction to a person of the same gender, a different gender, more than one gender, etc.
If you have any worries about how you are feeling you can speak to a trusted adult using our Proud Connections chat service.
There is no such thing as normal, everyone is different and in different ways! When people ask, “Am I normal?” they usually want to know, “Are other people like me?”.
It is estimated that around 6% of the UK’s population does not identify as straight/heterosexual. So, although there are fewer LGBT+ people than non-LGBT+ people, there are still lots of us with an estimated three to four million LGBT+ people in the UK alone!
Although there appears to be fewer LGBT+ people than non-LGBT+ people, it is not weird or strange to be LGBT+. Being LGBT+ is usual and “normal”, just maybe less common. If you’d like to meet other LGBT+ young people, you can look for your nearest LGBT+ youth group here.
No, you do not have to label your sexuality. Some people like to have a word that describes their feelings, but there are many others who find labels restrictive. If you would like an umbrella term that lets others know you are not straight you could use terms like “queer” or “LGBT+”. Or, if others ask, you can just let them know that you do not, and that you do not wish to, label your sexuality.
No, being LGBT+ is not contagious. You cannot become LGBT+ by being around or learning about LGBT+ people.
Sometimes schools and colleges make an effort to be more LGBT+ inclusive places and people you did not realise were LGBT+ come out and share their identity. They haven’t become LGBT+ because of the changes the school has made or because other people have come out. They have probably come out because they feel safe and their identity is respected, so they no longer feel like they have to hide it. Or sometimes, because people have been talking about LGBT+ identities they now have the language to describe how they are feeling.
When and how an LGBT+ person comes out is a choice, but it’s likely a choice they will have to make many times. When an LGBT+ person is ready they may choose to share their identity with their friends and family. But they may also come out again and again as they start at a new job, make new friends, meet new neighbours, etc.
Some people ask same-gender couples “who is the ‘man’ and who is the ‘woman’?”. It’s a strange question as successful relationships don’t need two people of different genders. Successful, happy, healthy relationships need the people involved to be respectful, caring and considerate of one another.
Who a person is attracted to/fancies is not a choice or something that can be controlled, it just happens and is something we realise we are feeling. Some people have a “type”, for others it is more varied. It is completely usual for some people to be attracted to more than one gender; some people who feel this way describe themselves as bisexual or pansexual.
We often see only one “type” of LGBT+ person represented in the media. The LGBT+ people we often see on TV are very outgoing, have careers in entertainment and are often cis gay men. But the LGBT+ community is very diverse; we are of different genders, races, ethnicities, religions, etc. Some LGBT+ people are very confident and outgoing whereas others are quiet and shy. There is not one way to be LGBT+. You can find out more about other LGBT+ people by exploring People Like Me.
There is not a “right” age where people realise their sexuality; some people realise they are LGBT+ in primary school, while for others it is years into adulthood. You may also find that how you feel now changes over time – this is completely usual and does not mean you are wrong about how you are feeling now.
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