Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation is about who you are physically and emotionally attracted to. Everyone has a sexual orientation – lesbian, straight, bisexual, gay or one of many other types. And this might change over time.

A bit about sexuality

Some people know when they're very young who they fancy. For other people, it's not so simple. And it can take a while to work out.

People whose sexuality is something other than straight are often called LGB (short for lesbian, gay or bisexual) or LGBT' – the 'T' stands for transgender (a gender identity rather than an orientation). But there are many more different kinds of sexuality.

It might take some time to work out what your sexual orientation is. Remember there's no such thing as normal. And you don't have to feel pressured or rushed to give yourself a label.

If you ever want to talk about your feelings, don't forget you can always talk to us.

Things to remember about your sexuality:

  • only you can decide what your sexuality is
  • it takes different people different amounts of time to understand their sexuality
  • 'coming out' can be a tough experience but it can often get easier as you start to tell more people
  • there are lots of different types of sexuality
  • someone's sexuality may change over time - this is OK.

Questioning your sexuality

It's completely normal to need time to work out who you are. And it's okay not to be sure.

Liking a film, book or music video about same-sex relationships doesn't necessarily mean you must be a certain sexual orientation. It's possible to find a lot of different types of people sexually attractive. Only 1 person can decide who you fancy – and that's you.

Being gay, bisexual or any other sexuality doesn't mean you have to do sexual acts a certain way. Or do anything people do in films, TV shows or porn. And no one should pressure you into acting a certain way, having a relationship, having unsafe sex or doing anything you don't want to do.

Coming out

Telling someone else you're lesbian, gay, bisexual or another sexuality (LGB+) is often called 'coming out'. And people who haven't come out are sometimes described as being 'in the closet' or not 'openly' LGB+.

Life in the closet can be very isolating. Keeping such a big secret can be a lot of pressure. Coming out can be harder if people around you have negative views on being LGB+ or use it as an excuse to be unkind or discriminatory.

The first step to coming out is being able to tell yourself that you're lesbian, gay or bisexual. You might prefer a different word to describe yourself, such as pansexual or even asexual. You might also choose to identify as 'questioning' while you work things out.

Having LGB parents

Some young people live with lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) parents. Sometimes people like this may have to answer questions from friends who are curious or ignorant about different kinds of families.

Questions might include "Why do you have two mums?" or "Why do you have two dads?". Other people may ask "How can you have a family without a mum (or dad)?". Young people with a transgender parent may also face these kinds of questions.

Some people might think that because your mum or dad is in a same-sex relationship, you'll also be LGB. This simply isn't true and it could be homophobic. Like everyone else, you could grow up to be any sexual orientation.

being
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LGB pride

Many LGB people around the world celebrate who they are through pride festivals, youth groups and campaigns to change homophobic laws around the world. These things happen to:

  • help stop homophobia
  • educate people about LGB issues
  • stand up for the rights of LGB people
  • show the world that LGB people are everywhere.

When LGB people get together to do these things as a community, this is often called the 'pride movement'. Transgender people often also are part of the pride movement – LGB trans people may face homophobia as well as transphobia.

There might be a youth group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in your area. These groups can be a great way to get support, meet similar people and get involved in making your own community a better place.

Did you know?

The rainbow flag is the symbol for LGB pride. The different colours of the rainbow represent diversity among LGB people. You might see the flag at events like gay pride, where lots of gay and straight people celebrate LGB people

Homophobia and prejudice

Things have improved for LGB people over time – society treats people with different sexualities better than in the past. But some people's views about sexual orientation are based on ignorance. If you're an LGB person, you may have to deal with these attitudes. But it's getting better all the time.

However, if you've experienced bullying or harassment because of your sexuality, you can always get support by talking to us.

Types of prejudice

12 types of sexual orientation

There are lots of different types of sexuality – we've listed 12 below. This doesn't include every type of sexuality – there are lots of other types too. Some of them are quite similar. But feeling comfortable with your own sexuality – and any label you put on it – is what matters.

  1. Gay/homosexual people 
    are emotionally and physically attracted to people of the same sex. Gay is often used to describe boys fancying boys, although girls who fancy girls can also describe themselves as gay.
  2. Lesbian
    is another word to describe girls who are emotionally and physically attracted to other girls.
  3. Straight/heterosexual people
    are emotionally and physically attracted to people of the opposite sex. An example would be girls fancying boys. And boys fancying girls.
  4. Bisexual (or 'bi') people
    are emotionally and physically attracted to both sexes.
  5. Asexual people
    don't feel sexually attracted to anyone. Although they can still enjoy close, romantic, intimate and emotional relationships.
  6. Bicurious people
    see themselves as either heterosexual or homosexual, but may also sometimes be curious about the gender they're not normally attracted to.
  7. Questioning people
    are unsure about their sexual orientation. Often, they're still working out whether they might be LGB, straight or something else.
  8. Heteroflexible people
    think of themselves as straight but may also sometimes be attracted to people from the same sex. For example, a heteroflexible boy would mostly be attracted to girls but may occasionally be drawn to other boys when the situation feels right.
  9. Homoflexible people
    think of themselves as gay but may sometimes be attracted to someone of the opposite sex, if it feels right. For example, a homoflexible girl may have come out as a lesbian but might sometimes find boys attractive too.
  10. Demisexual people
    don't have any sexual attraction unless they have a strong emotional connection with someone first. This often isn't a choice.
  11. Pansexual people
    can be attracted to people of any gender or sexual orientation. This includes transgender people or people who feel they're neither male nor female (sometimes called 'genderqueer' or non-binary people).
  12. Crossed orientation (or mixed orientation) people
    experience a romantic or emotional attraction that is different from their sexual attraction. For example, someone may feel emotionally attracted to girls but sexually attracted to boys.

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