What is sexuality?
Your sexuality influences who you’re attracted to (sexual preference) and your thoughts and feelings about sex. It develops from birth but most of us become aware of our sexuality when we become a teenager. Broadly speaking, there are three types of sexual preference, gay (men and women), bisexual and heterosexual.
- Gay men and women (also called lesbians) are sexually attracted to people of the same gender
- Bisexual men and women are attracted to either gender
- Heterosexual people are attracted to people of the opposite gender
These three ‘boxes’ are by no means the only types of sexual preference! People can freely identify themselves in a number of different ways including queer, pansexual, asexual, gender-queer and more.
What is “Coming out”?
Telling people about your sexuality is called coming out. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans if you don’t want to. It’s up to you who you tell, but you might feel happier if you can be honest about who you really are.
Lots of people that you tell will be really positive and will be proud of you for telling them, they might even be flattered that you trust them enough to tell them. Sadly, not everyone will be so positive and supportive. You should be prepared for some negative reactions and understand that this may be a difficult thing for some people to understand or come to terms with.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone, there are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans support organisations across the world who are there to offer a helping hand, a friendly ear, and who have vast experience of helping people just like you.
Dos of coming out
All situations there will be positive and negative effects of coming out, and when looking at the best way to do it, it’s almost impossible for anyone to give a perfect guide to the event.
- Contact a support organisation like The LGBT Foundation Helpline if you would like support and guidance. Their helpline is open from 10am-10pm every day on 0345 3303030. One in four of their calls are about issues related to coming out
- Ask a trusted friend, teacher or LGBT worker for support. You might want to test the water with trusted friends by talking about subjects relating to sexuality before you’re ready to pour your heart out. People don’t always react the way you think they will
- Be honest and respectful to your own feelings as well as those of your family and friends. When you’re finding out about fabulous new friends and surrounding yourself with all kinds of gay influences to make up for lost time – don’t forget about those who have always been there for you
- Ask yourself why is now the best time to come out? If you’ve got other stresses going on in your life; exams, flatmates, work, school, friends, family etc, now may not be the best time
Don’ts of coming out
- Don’t let the reactions and feelings of others influence you. It’s easy to be influenced if you’re feeling unsure or insecure about something, but you know deep down what’s right for you, regardless of what someone else says
- Don’t stand in the closet until someone opens the door. There’s always an opportunity where someone will lead the way into a conversation. It’s up to you if you want to jump in or out
- Don’t be frightened about coming out. There’s lots of support available. If you can’t find any support near you, ring the LGBT Foundation’s helpline on 0345 3 30 30 30
Content reproduced with kind permission from the LGBT Foundation’s website – a charity delivering a wide range of services to lesbian, gay and bisexual and trans (LGBT) communities.
- LGBT Foundation’s Helpline on 0345 3303030 is open from 10am to 10pm every day. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Read about other people’s stories of coming out including Celeb stories of coming out and coming out support
- Register for LGBT Foundation’s weekly eBulletin, which is packed with the latest news and events
- Stonewall have a great “Coming out guide” to answer some of the questions you might have as well as lots of information about coming out as a young person
- The Samaritans have a helpline open 24/7 which you can call free anytime from any phone on 116123. Whatever you’re worried about, you can speak to them. This includes suicidal thoughts or being worried that you may harm yourself. If you feel you are at risk of taking your own life, or seriously harming yourself, attend your local A&E immediately or call 999