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sexuality; ;

Sexuality is a combination of people's sex, their sexual feelings for others, their feelings about themselves as sexual beings, their sexual orientation and their sexual behaviour. Exploring and discovering your sexuality can be confusing, exciting, difficult and wonderful.

As well as the content of this topic there is information on these websites

Reachout (https://au.reachout.com/) has many great topics in the section Sexuality including 

Headspace - the National Youth Mental Health website also has information that you might find helpful 


Contents of this topic 

Discovering your sexuality

  • Are you noticing changes within yourself that are making you feel like a sexual person all of a sudden?
  • Do you feel like the changes in your body have changed the way you are feeling emotionally? (See the topic Puberty – what it feels like.)

Discovering your sexuality means 'getting in touch' with who you are sexually. You may start to want or desire things or people that you didn't before.

  • For example, if you are female, remember when as a young girl you hated all the boys at school, just because they were boys. But now you may be feeling an attraction to boys?
  • For boys, girls may now be much more interesting, and you may find you have strong sexual feelilngs.
  • Some young people find out that they are attracted to people of the same sex, and these feelings might be quite confusing.
  • You may be experiencing different sensations in your body that make you want to experience intimacy with another person.

This is all related to your developing sexuality. These changes happen to everybody. These new feelings and emotions that you have towards yourself and others and sexuality can come as quite a shock and you may not feel like yourself for a while. It may be useful to talk to someone who you trust about what is happening to you and what you are feeling. Friends may be good to share your thoughts with, but also trusted adults.

Because development of sexual feelings and attractions happen at a different rate for each person, it is important to explore your sexuality at a rate that you feel comfortable with. Don't let anyone pressure you into anything that you do not want to do (have a look at the Reachout topic Am I ready for sex?). If you are worried, talk to someone you trust about it.

Heterosexual or homosexual?

Many young people go through a stage of being attracted to someone of the same sex, but then become attracted to people of the other sex. This is a natural part of growing up. Other young people know that their attraction is to the same sex and will not change.

Some of the questions you might be asking yourself about your sexuality could include:

  • What is happening to me?
  • Why is this happening to me?
  • Am I heterosexual/straight/homosexual/lesbian/gay/bisexual?
  • Is there anyone I can talk to about this confidentially?

If somebody identifies that he or she is homosexual (gay or lesbian) or bisexual, then understanding and developing their own sexuality can be especially difficult.

  • Although the challenge of 'coming out' about your sexual identity may be frightening, having to mask your real feelings can also be very difficult.
  • Accepting yourself may take some time. It may take weeks, months or years to move from those initial feelings and thoughts to identifying as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Many people have positive experiences of disclosing to loved ones that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. If you want to openly identify your sexual identity, have a look at the Reachout topic Coming out.

The terms homosexual and heterosexual are clinical terms, and many homosexual young people prefer to use the terms gay, lesbian or bisexual.

  • Some young gay, lesbian and bisexual people have 'reclaimed' or started using slang words to describe their sexuality that could be considered 'put-downs'. Such words include 'queer', 'dyke', and 'poof'.
  • Be careful if you use these words that you are not offending anyone. Not all gay, lesbian and bisexual people are comfortable with using these words. They have been very negative words.
  • Another word for heterosexual is 'straight'.

Myths about sexuality

Like most things, there are many myths surrounding sexuality and sexual orientation. It is always good to take the opportunity to destroy myths and let the truth prevail.

Myth No.1 - Everybody develops their sexuality at the same rate.

Wrong! People go through puberty at different rates to others. Developing your sexuality is much the same; you can only do it at the right time for you, and at the right rate!

Myth No. 2 - Going through puberty and developing your sexuality is easy.

No way! Some adults forget how difficult and confronting this time can be in your life. It means getting used to a whole new set of feelings and learning about who you are and what you like and dislike.

Myth No. 3 - You can tell if someone is gay or lesbian.

False. The vast majority of same sex attracted people cannot be identified by looks or effeminate/masculine characteristics. The small number of same sex attracted people who behave like this do so because they want to be known as same sex attracted or in rebellion of traditional sex roles. Many straight people appear to be same sex attracted for this last reason. Stereotypes persist due to the way same sex attracted people are portrayed in the media.

Myth No. 4 - Gay and lesbian people always 'carry on' sexually in public. Their relationships are just about sex.

Take a look at straight relationships before you criticise gay relationships - how often do you see heterosexual people 'carry on' sexually in public? Gay relationships are also not just about sex. They are as much about sex as a heterosexual relationship.It is about your comfort levels, not how sexual gay and lesbians are. Often people in homosexual relationships feel a strong need to hide how they feel.

Myth No. 5 - Same sex relationships don't last.

Many people believe that same sex relationships are just short flings and never long lasting relationships. This is not true. They are relationships just like any other, and like any other relationships, some last and some do not. It is not to do with sexual orientation.

Myth No. 6 - People chose to be GLBTIQ.

There are many theories about how people 'become' GLBTIQ. Some suggest there is a genetic reason, that is people are born with a tendency towards a certain sexuality. But sexuality is just one aspect of person, and the different ways of being reflect the diversity in humans in general. It is interesting that people don’t often look for a 'cause' of heterosexuality.

Your sexuality and your family and friends

Your family will probably notice changes that you go through relating to your sexuality - they will see changes in your behaviour, lifestyle, personality, values and so on. If this time in your life is difficult, try to let them know that you are going through a difficult time and that you don't want to be teased, but respected. You could even give them a copy of this article.

If you want to 'help' your family accept how you feel if you are gay, lesbian or bisexual this article (Young people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual) has been written by Parenting SA  


Heterosexism is the belief that people who aren't heterosexual are not 'normal' and are therefore excluded, joked about, hated and so on.

Many societies support heterosexism by not portraying lesbians, gays and bisexuals as 'normal', happy or healthy.

  • Try and think of a movie you have seen lately that showed either a gay, lesbian or bisexual person to be happy and healthy, which did not have a special 'theme' about gay life.
  • In many cases, if a gay, lesbian or bisexual person is in a movie, then the movie is about their sexual identity, and not about anything else.

Heterosexism will be reduced when the focus is on who someone is and not what his or her sexual choices are.


Many people who are open with their homosexual orientation encounter discrimination, prejudice, put-downs and disappointment from people they don't know, and from people they love because of homophobia, a fear of homosexuality.

If you or someone close to you, are experiencing homophobia or questioning of your sexual identity or orientation, and you don't feel supported, try linking into a support group or talk to a counsellor who can help you with your situation. Homophobia is discrimination.

Understanding and supporting sexuality

You may or may not know anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual (or other), but you can still contribute to an equal, supportive and non-discriminatory society. Here are some tips to accepting any identity.

  • Be open in conversations about your acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual people. Make sure your friends know that you are accepting of people's choice.
  • Assume that about 10% of people you go to school with, play sport with, work with and socialise with will be gay, lesbian or bisexual, and many others will have gay, lesbian or bisexual family members and friends.
  • Respond to anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bisexual comments just as you would to any other injustice.
  • Try to educate people about the issues surrounding sexual identity.

Pressure to have sex

Young same-sex-attracted people can feel a lot of pressure to have sex. Friends may tell you they're all doing it (sometimes even if they're not), and you see it on the TV and in the movies. You might also feel pressured by a particular person, perhaps a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Or you might feel that it's expected of you by your girlfriend or boyfriend.

Have a look at the topic Pressure to have sex.


In South Australia

  • SHine SA - Sexual Health information, networking and education (South Australia)
    Sexual Healthline: Tel: 1300 883 793 - Country callers 1800 188 171  
  • Bfriend - Men’s worker 8202 5192 - Women’s worker 8202 5805
    A support service for people who are coming out or who are exploring their sexual identity 

In Australia

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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