Our sexual orientation will determine who we are attracted to, sexually and romantically. When guys like girls and vice versa, this is called heterosexual orientation. But there are lots of different sexual orientations: some of these are lesbian, gay and bisexual. All of these sexual orientations are perfectly normal and part of the broad spectrum of human relationships and experiences.
It's good to mention homophobia here. Homophobia is a person's or society's misunderstanding, fear or ignorance of people with different sexual orientations described in the next section. Verbal abuse, such as calling someone a 'poofter' or a 'faggot' is an expression of homophobia. You might also experience the expression of homophobia in non-verbal ways too. Many people are afraid of homosexuality because they don't know much about it. If you are experiencing homophobia, it's important to talk to a parent/guardian or trusted friend about it. You can also contact the Freedom Centre (08) 9228 0354, email@example.com or go to www.freedom.org.au. For advice and support, you can also contact Gay and Lesbian Community Services on (08) 9420 7201 or 1800 184 527 or go to www.glcs.org.au.
Here are some useful definitions:
Bisexual or bi
Refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are for both men and women and who identify with these feelings. Many people may engage in bisexual behaviours but don't describe or identify themselves as bisexual.
Gay or homosexual
People whose sexual and romantic feelings are primarily for people of the same sex as themselves and who identify primarily with those feelings. In Australia, both men and women identify as gay, however it often refers mainly to homosexual men.
Heterosexual or straight
People whose sexual and romantic feelings are primarily for the opposite sex and who identify primarily with these feelings.
Women whose sexual and romantic feelings are primarily for other women and who identify with these feelings.
Coming to know your sexual identity
Everybody has a sense of their sexuality: this is called your sexual identity. Your sexual identity is about how you see this part of yourself and how you express it to others. Sexual identity is different from sexual orientation, where sexual orientation is about your sexual preferences and who you are attracted to. Your sexual identity may not match your sexual orientation, for example, you may be a guy who is attracted to other guys but still describe yourself as 'straight'.
Many people's sexual identity may be different from their sexual feelings and attractions. This is ok and may stay that way for their whole lives, or may change. Some people 'come out' to themselves and others about their sexual attractions and feelings and may start to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Someone who 'comes out' to others is disclosing their sexual identity to family, friends, classmates, workmates' etc. Working out sexual orientation may be an ongoing process throughout a persons' life. For instance a young person might identify one way at one time then differently in a few years' time.
If you are feeling confused about your sexual identity or orientation, it's important to talk to someone you trust about it. You can also contact the Freedom Centre or Gay and Lesbian Community Services for advice and support. If you live outside the metropolitan area, contact True Colours.
Not so straight
What if my heart gets broken?
Will someone ever love me?
Going out with someone older or younger
One night stands and friends with benefits
Etiquette in the new millennium
Sex and the law
The art of the flirt
My parents don’t understand