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What is sexuality?

a group of young people

Sexuality is the word we use to describe our sexual interests and preferences. For some people these will stay the same throughout their lives, but for others they may change as they get older.

It does not matter if you know what you like and stick with it or if you like to experiment. What is important is that you feel comfortable with the sex you are having and the person or people you are sharing your sex life with.


Same-sex attraction

It is not at all unusual to feel attracted to someone of the same sex and 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 a gay guy or a lesbian, 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, or even both sexes.


Sexual orientation and labels

Different words are used to describe sexual preferences (also known as 'sexual orientation'), and you may have heard people described as straight, gay or bi.

Some people like using these labels because it can be a way of connecting with other people who feel like them, but some people do not like to define themselves in this way.

You may not know which of these you are, or may not feel that you fit neatly under one label.

How you describe your sexuality is up to you and you don’t need to decide what your preferences are straight away, or ever.


Sexuality is a spectrum

An important thing to remember is that sexuality can change and that you do not have to decide who you are going to be attracted to and stick to it.

Sexuality is not fixed and who you are attracted to can change over time, or even week to week! In fact, who you find yourself attracted to is not really something you can choose or control, which is part of the reason that sex and relationships can be so confusing.


We're not all the same

One really important thing to remember is that sexual feelings, sex and relationships can be confusing, exciting, scary and wonderful whoever you are attracted to, and the way you feel when you fancy someone is the same whether you like boys, girls or both.

People often think that being gay means you can’t have a family or get married. In fact, this is not true and plenty of gay men and women have children naturally, foster or adopt. Gay couples can also legally marry in many countries, including the UK.

When it comes to safer sex and avoiding sexually transmitted infections it also does not matter who you are having sex with, so it is important that you know how to protect yourself whether you are gay, straight or bi.


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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 29/12/2015 by T. Kelaart

Date due for the next review: 29/12/2018

Content Author: Allison Macbeth

Current Owner: Health Promotion

More information:

Convert a civil partnership into a marriage, gov.uk, 8/12/15

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act: A Factsheet, gov.uk, April 2014

Adoption and fostering, Stonewall

Civil Partnerships. Citizens Advice Bureau

Civil Partnerships Act 2004. UK Government. 2004

Sex and young people. NHS.

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