'Gay' is the word used to describe a person who is romantically and sexually attracted to people of the same sex. It is most commonly used to describe men and boys who are attracted to other men and boys.
How do you know you're gay?
Some people know from a really young age that they are gay. Others are not sure until they get older and start thinking about relationships.
Some boys also realise that they prefer boys although they have previously had relationships with girls.
Being attracted to someone of the same sex is completely normal and not at all unusual. Many people experience crushes or very close friendships with someone of the same sex as they are growing up.
For lots of people this does mean that they are gay, and they go on to have relationships with people of the same sex.
For others, their feelings may change and they will find that they are more attracted to the opposite sex (being straight, or heterosexual), or even both sexes (being bisexual, or 'bi').
Stereotypes about gay men
There are lots of stereotypes out there about being gay but it is important to realise that you do not have to change at all because of your sexual preference.
You are still you, whoever you are attracted to.
The problem with stereotypes is that they can make you feel that just because you are gay you have to look, dress or act in a certain way because other people expect you to.
Gay men are often stereotyped as being quite feminine (girly) and not like straight men.
Some people think that all gay men have lots of sexual partners and are always interested in having anal sex. This is another stereotype and is not true for everyone - some gay men don’t have anal sex or only have a few partners throughout their lives.
The truth is that all men are different, and no two men are interested in exactly the same things, whether they are bi, gay or straight. There are just as many different types of gay men as there are straight men – from masculine to more feminine and everything in between!
Your sexual identity is only part of your personality and does not have to influence everything that you do.
Prejudice and homophobia
Unfortunately people who are gay do sometimes experience prejudice from others because these people think it is not normal to be gay. This is called homophobia, and it is important to know that people who think this are wrong.
More importantly, our society has systems in place to stop this sort of discrimination.
Being gay is completely normal and you have the right to be who you are and have relationships without feeling that you have to keep it a secret.
Meeting other people
Some people find joining a gay club or society really helpful, especially when they do not know many other gay men, as it can give them the opportunity to meet like-minded people.
Growing up as a gay man is not always easy and it can be very helpful to meet other people who understand any worries or difficulties you may be having.
Of course that does not mean that you can only have gay or bi friends, or that your straight friends won’t understand you.
Groups for young LGBT people are run by qualified youth workers. These workers are happy to talk to parents too.
Help and support
If you want help and support about coming out, being gay, or anything around your sexuality, check out some of these organisations.
If you want to talk to someone, in confidence, about your sexuality, you can call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.
Check out our listings of LGBT youth groups around the country ››
You can also check out those LGBT organisations:
FFLAG – Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
PACE – promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health and wellbeing
The Gay Youth Corner
Gingerbeer – The Lesbian Guide around the UK
The LGBT Foundation
Queer Youth Network
Stonewall – advice and support for LGBT equality