When we talk about romance and attraction, we usually talk about "the opposite sex". But who we like does not always fit into the mould of “boy meets girl”.
Sexual orientation refers to the gender of person you are attracted to in a sexual and romantic way. These are some words that describe some ways you may feel: Heterosexual (attracted to opposite sex); bisexual (attracted to both sexes); homosexual (attracted to same sex), lesbian (a woman who is attracted women), and gay (a man who is attracted to men).
You may not know what to call your sexual feelings. If so, be patient. Your sexual identity will become clear with time. During adolescence, when the body starts changing and hormones are flowing, your sexual feelings may be very strong. As you get older, you will figure out who really attracts you.
People with truly gay feelings, will find that, over time, their attractions to those of the same sex become more and more clearly focused. You may find yourself falling in love with a classmate or developing a crush on a particular adult of the same sex. You may find these experiences pleasurable, troubling, or a mix of the two.
Realising that you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not easy. Many people are uncomfortable being around lesbians and gay men, and some people hate them. So it is not surprising that many gay young people choose to hide their identity from others – this is called being in the closet.
You might feel this way - you may even want to deny your feelings to yourself. You may worry about people finding out about how you feel. Maybe you avoid other youth that may be gay because you worry about what other people will think.
When you hide your real self from others, it is often very lonely and painful. All the more so if you feel like you need to stay hidden to survive. Some young people turn to alcohol or other drugs to numb themselves against their feelings and worries. They may think of killing themselves. If this happens to you, get help by calling a helpline for young people or contact a support group.As you get older, you will become more comfortable with yourself and your sexuality.
A person can’t tell your (or anybody’s) sexual orientation by the way you look or dress. The only way they will know is if you tell them. We don't know for sure what causes a person's sexual orientation, but all around the world there are people of every sexual orientation.
If you feel confused or worried talk to a trustworthy adult or professional about your feelings. Find a local support group either online or in your community for support and advice. If you are feeling like life is not worth living, reach out for help now by calling a suicide, depression or child helpline.
Do you, or a friend, have feelings for the same sex? Find out more on getting support below.