Everybody has a sexuality. It's made up of a few different things, such as your sex, gender identity and roles, sexual orientation, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. People can express their sexuality in their thoughts, desires, attitudes, behaviours, practice, roles and relationships. Sexuality is influenced by different factors, like, biology, psychology, social settings, economic factors like money, culture, history, religion and spirituality or how you see yourself.

Sexual attraction

Most people have sexual desires in some way or another. This means we find other people attractive and think about them in a sexual way. Some people want to have sex with other people, whereas others are happy to just think about it. Sexuality is about how you think and feel about sex.

Healthy sexuality is about having a confident, comfortable and communicative attitude towards yourself and your sexual desires, whether you want to have sex or not.

What does sexual orientation mean?

Sexual orientation is who you're sexually attracted to and is a spectrum. So, you can be sexually attracted to someone of a different gender or someone of the same gender, or maybe no one at all. Some people experience little to no sexual attraction, and these people often consider themselves to be asexual or on the asexual spectrum.

Gender is how you identify yourself. Examples of gender identities are male, female, trans, nonbinary.

During your teenage years, you may start exploring your sexuality and sexual orientation, to find out what you’re into.

You might feel unsure about your sexual orientation, or what gender you find attractive might change during your life. This is totally ok - many people are attracted to different genders or like different things sexually at different stages in their lives.

Being LGBTQ+

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. The plus signifies other identities, such as asexual and intersex, and any other identities that don’t fit under LGBTQ.

  • Lesbian means a woman who is attracted to other women.
  • Gay means a man who is attracted to other men, and is sometimes used to describe women who are attracted to other women too.
  • Bisexual means a person who is attracted to more than one gender.
  • Transgender means someone whose gender is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.
  • Queer is an umbrella term used to describe people who do not fall into a traditional gender role or sexual orientation. Essentially, it can be used to describe anyone who is not heterosexual and/or cisgender. However, it has historically been used as a slur against LGBTQIA+ people, and some will still be offended by it. As such, it’s only ok to use it about another person if that person self-identifies as queer.
  • Nonbinary describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman and can be a specific identity or an umbrella term.
  • Asexual is the term used to describe people who feel little or no sexual attraction to anyone.
  • Pansexual is used to describe someone who is sexually attracted to people regardless of gender.

Some people know from a young age whether they are LGBTQ+, and some people find out at different points in their life, and some people change their mind multiple times during their life. It’s important to remember that not everyone fits neatly into one of these categories, and some people don’t identify as either LGBTQ+, straight or cisgender.

It’s OK to take your time to experiment and think about what you like. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and proud of who you are, no matter what way you identify.


If you are usually emotionally and sexually attracted to the same gender, you may be gay or lesbian. If you feel attracted to more than one gender or have relationships with more than one gender, you may be bisexual. If your gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the gender assigned to you at birth, you may be transgender.

If you are LGBTQ+, it can be difficult to tell someone and working out whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight can be a confusing time. You don’t have to tell your friends anything about your sexual orientation or who you fancy unless you want to, but remember it can help to talk. These things take time and there are trusted professionals who can help you if you want to chat. The people at the LGBT Switchboard are great listeners and are there to help. Call: 0300 330 0630 or visit switchboard.lgbt

If you think you are LGBTQ+, there’s nothing wrong with exploring those feelings and having relationships to help you decide.

Many people will experience crushes on someone of the same sex as they are growing up and this can mean that they are gay or lesbian, but their feelings may also change and they can find that they are more attracted to the opposite gender, multiple, or all genders.

Coming out

Coming out is the process of accepting yourself as LGBT and being open about this with other people. Coming out can be difficult, but it can also be totally worth it. For more information and advice on coming out, check out our article here.