Our top tips!
- Take your time
Understanding our sexuality takes time and is not always a straightforward process. Don’t rush trying to understand who you are and take the time you need.
- It OK not to know
Sexuality is complex. It is OK to feel like you don’t really know who you are yet. As you grow and develop, things will start to fall into place the more you learn about yourself.
- Don’t force yourself
Never feel like you have to put a label on yourself or force yourself to fit anyone else’s assumptions. While you are still trying to understand more about your sexuality, don’t force any labels on yourself.
What does it mean to be gay or lesbian?
Being gay or being lesbian (often referred to as homosexual) means that we are attracted to people who are the same sex as ourselves:
Gay – Usually relates to a male who is attracted to other males.
Lesbian – Usually relates to a female who is attracted to other females.
People who are gay or lesbian are exclusively attracted to people of the same sex, and don’t usually feel attracted to people of the opposite sex.
There are a lot of concerns that someone might have when they start to understand that they might be gay. Some concerns might be “can I get married?” or “can I still have children?”.
It is totally normal to have concerns like this, but it is also important to remember that life for same-sex couples in the UK is the same for opposite-sex couples, so there are always ways to get around any concerns that you might have. For example, same-sex marriage is legal and adoption is an option for same-sex couples.
How do I know if I am gay or lesbian?
There are lots of different ways in which people start to realise that they might be gay or lesbian and each person will do so in their own time. Some people start to realise at a really young age, while others do not begin understanding more about their sexuality until much later in their lives. There is no right or wrong time to understand more about your own sexuality.
If you are gay or lesbian, you may start to notice some signs that help you realise this. These signs do not necessarily mean that you are, and may just be part of your development as you are growing up. These include:
- Paying more attention to people of the same sex as you
- Feeling attracted to, or sexually aroused by, others of the same sex as you
- Fantasising about being in relationships or having sexual relations with others of the same sex as you
Understanding my sexuality
It is completely normal to experiment with your sexuality. We all have natural feelings to try and understand our sexuality, and this can involve experimenting with both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. If you are feeling these urges, don’t be scared of them as they will help you to understand your own sexuality.
Different people realise how they feel about other people in different ways and at different times in their lives. Some people start to understand their sexuality based on feelings of attraction towards particular people, and other people may find out through their sexual experiences. Everyone is individual and there is no ‘right way’ to find out.
Feeling comfortable about your sexuality is a really important step to achieve. Quite often, when people start to realise they are not heterosexual, they may feel uncomfortable and that they are not ‘normal’. This is not the case, and everyone in this situation should try to understand their feelings in order to feel more comfortable.
Sharing how you feel
Once you feel comfortable, you can share how you feel. This is known as coming out. Sharing how you feel opens up opportunities for you to have relationships that will help you further understand your own sexuality. There is nothing wrong with coming out, entering into a relationship, then realising it’s not for you. These experiences help us understand our sexuality better.
Coming out can feel like a daunting task. It is true what people say: coming out is not a one-time task, and you are likely to find yourself coming out many times throughout your life.
Here are some top tips to help you out:
- Take your time – Do not rush to come out. Wait until you feel comfortable and able to do it. It is a good idea to wait and come out when you really want to.
- Confide in someone you trust first – Coming out does not mean that you have to tell everybody straight away. Find somebody you trust – whether it is a family member or a friend – and tell them how you are feeling.
- Be prepared – Some people might not like the news or might need some time to come to terms with it. Don’t worry about this. Some people may need a little time, and you may need to prepare yourself for this.
I think I might need some help... what do I do?
If you need help with any aspect of your sexuality, from trying to understand your sexuality, to coming out and beyond, you may want to talk to someone to get some extra support.
Speak to us
You don’t need to suffer in silence. If you are struggling with understanding your sexuality and just want somebody to talk to, reach out to our friendly mentors who can help you out. We can also help if you are struggling with coming out, or experiencing bullying.
Speak to somebody you trust
Depending on how you are feeling, it is really important that you talk to somebody you can trust. This can be hard if you haven’t come out yet, but really important to find someone you can trust if you need it.
Use online forums
As long as you are being safe online, there are plenty of communities online with other LGBTQ+ people who are trying to understand their sexuality and support each other. If you are really struggling, read or reach out to these forums to find out about the experiences of others in similar situations.
What if I get bullied?
The world has become much more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, but there is still quite a way to go before all the negative thoughts completely go away. The fear of being bullied should not stop you coming out – you should always feel like you can be yourself and not have to hide a whole part of who you are.
It can be hard to come out when you are scared, so it’s important to know what to do. If you are being bullied because of your sexuality:
- Make sure you talk to somebody you trust, like a school teacher, your parents or a friend, to let them know what is going on.
- Join a community of other individuals who might be being bullied because of their sexuality so that you can support each other.
- Avoid any people who are bullying you as best as you can.
- Always be yourself, regardless of any bullies and how hard it may seem.
Make sure you are there for them
Don't make too much of a fuss about it
Now your friend has come out, they are probably feeling a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders. It’s great to acknowledge that they have told you but try not to make too much of a fuss.
Always respect their privacy when they come out
If your friend has come out to you, you should assume that they have only come out to you. Respect their privacy and don’t share this with anyone else. Sharing this could knock your friend’s confidence in coming out further.
Help build their confidence if they need it
It takes a lot of confidence to come out to one person and it takes a lot more to come out to everyone else. If you are the first person that your friend has told, help boost their confidence to help them come out to others.
My friend just told me that they are gay or a lesbian
If your friend has just come out to you, it is really important that you carry on being there for them. Here are some things to consider.