Our sexuality is the way in which we experience and express ourselves as sexual people. It includes our sexual behaviours, gender identity, sexual orientation, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction.
Does everyone have a sexuality?
Yes! Sexuality is a normal and important part of human life.
Does sexuality look the same for everyone?
No. A person’s sexuality can be influenced by lots of different things like their society, politics, culture, religion, laws, history or financial status. Sexuality can be expressed through a person’s actions, thoughts, beliefs, values, fantasies and relationships. Your sexuality is unique to you.
Is it important?
Yes! Sexuality is a fundamental part of life for everyone regardless of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities or sexual orientation.
What does this mean for me?
We think that children and young people of all ages should be entitled to age appropriate, evidence based information about sexuality. It’s really important that information about sexuality should be available to everyone, regardless of whether they are sexually active or not so that they can make safe, informed and healthy decisions about their sexuality.
We think that everyone should feel happy and confident about their sexuality.
Sexual rights are our human rights that involve our sexuality. Everyone, including children and young people, have these. For more info, check out the IPPF guide to Young People’s Sexual Rights.
Sexuality vs sexual orientation
So, if sexuality is about how we express our sexual identity, what is sexual orientation?
Our sexual orientation is our emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. It’s not just about sex, it’s about who we like, who we fall in love with and who we want to spend our lives with.
Many people think that our sexual orientation falls on a spectrum.
- Far left: only attracted to people who are a different gender to you
- Middle: attracted to all genders
- Far right: only attracted to people who are the same gender as you
This means that a person’s sexual orientation can fall anywhere on the line and doesn’t always fit neatly into one category. Sexual orientation is not just about gay people.
So, let’s talk about different sexual orientations.
The majority of people in the world are attracted to people who are the opposite gender to them. These people are called heterosexual or sometimes ‘straight’.
LGBT is an umbrella term that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Gay is usually the word used to describe a boy or man who is sexually and emotionally attracted to other boys and men. Sometimes the word gay is used to describe lesbian and bisexual people too but it now usually means men.
Bisexual is the word used to describe a person who is attracted to both men and women.
A lesbian is a girl or woman who is sexually and emotionally attracted to other girls and women.
Transgender is used to describe a person who does not fit into society’s idea that everyone is born and lives as either male or female. This word is used to describe lots of different people so for more information, check out our gender section.
Asexual people are people who do not experience sexual attraction.
Am I normal?
You might not feel that any of these sexual orientations apply to you. That’s okay too. There are as many ways to experience and identify your sexual orientations as there are people in the world.
Wherever you fall on the sexual orientation spectrum, your attractions, feelings and desires are totally normal. Whether you are attracted to people that are the same gender as you, a different gender to you, to all genders or find that your sexual attractions change at different stages in your life, you are completely normal. It’s really important to remember that there is no right or wrong sexual orientation and that there is no fixed time or age to realise your sexual orientation. Some young people know that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual from a young age and some people only realise in later life. Everyone has different experiences and that’s okay too.
For tons more information and advice on LGBT issues, including information on coming out and bullying, check out LGBT Youth Scotland.
Homophobia is the irrational hatred, intolerance and fear of L, G and B people. Negative thoughts and perceptions of L, G and B people lead to discrimination and violence. Unfortunately this is still common across the world.
In schools in the UK, 99% of young L, G or B people hear the word ‘gay’ being used negatively or as an insult. This is an example of homophobia in action. Everyone has the right to live their lives without being subjected to homophobic insults or bullying.
Check out Stonewall’s campaign for more info or if you think your school needs to do more to prevent homophobia.