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Lesbian, gay, and bisexual

Everyone has a sexual orientation. Who do you feel sexually, romantically and emotionally attracted to?

If you’re attracted to people of the opposite sex, it’s called being straight (heterosexual). If you’re attracted to people of the same sex, it’s called being gay (homosexual).

Gay is a general term for men and women who are attracted to their own sex, but often used to describe men who like other men. A lesbian is a gay woman. If you’re attracted to both women and men, you’re probably bisexual. If you feel little or no sexual attraction to anyone, you could be asexual.

For many people, sexuality is more of a sliding scale than simply ‘straight or gay’. You can be attracted to someone of the same sex even though you don’t identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Perhaps you’re a woman who usually likes men, but you find yourself feeling attracted to another woman. That doesn’t mean you’re a lesbian. Your sexual orientation is the overall pattern of sexual and romantic attraction that you experience throughout your life.

Sexuality is complicated. You can’t choose your sexual orientation, but you can learn to understand it.

Am I gay?

Understanding your thoughts, feelings and desires can be difficult. You don’t just wake up one day with all the answers about your sexuality, whether you’re gay or not. Some people know that they’re gay, straight or bisexual from a very young age, but for others it’s more complicated.

If you dream or fantasize about someone of the same sex, does that mean you’re gay?
If you’re a girl who kissed another girl, are you a lesbian?

There are no clear answers. One daydream or experience doesn’t mean you’re gay, but if your fantasies are mainly about people of the same sex then you could be. Only you know how you feel, and only you can figure out your sexuality.

Generally speaking, your sexual orientation is based on your feelings, and who you fall in love with. Of course sexual attraction plays an important part in this, but it’s not everything. Who makes your heart beat faster? Who do you want to spend all your time with?

If you usually imagine falling in love and having sex with someone of the same sex, then you’re probably lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Remember, there’s no rush! It can take a lot of time to figure out your own emotions and desires. There is no need to label yourself right away, and sometimes people’s feelings change over time.
Sexuality is based on what you feel, not what you do. No one can tell you what your sexual orientation is.

Accepting your sexuality

You may struggle with questions about your sexual orientation, particularly if you live in a society where same-sex relationships are not widely accepted.

Many people want to be straight because they think that their life would be easier that way, or because they’re afraid people won’t like them. If you’ve been brought up to believe that there’s something wrong with being gay, it can be very hard to accept your own feelings.

This is perfectly normal. You may feel scared, angry, or confused. But there’s nothing wrong with being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Everyone deserves a loving and happy relationship.

Being honest with yourself can make life easier.

Myths about homosexuality

There are hundreds of myths about homosexuality. Here are very common myths from around the world.

‘You need to have sex before you know if you are gay.’
Most straight people know they’re straight before they have sex. It’s no different if you’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Your orientation is about who you are attracted to emotionally and physically.

‘Being gay is a choice.’
When did you decide to be heterosexual? Of course you didn’t ‘decide’ to be straight, because it isn’t a choice. Neither is being gay. It’s just the way you were born, and the way you feel inside.

‘Homosexuality is a mental illness or a disease.’
Homosexuality is a natural part of human sexuality. The idea that being gay is wrong is based on culture, traditions, or religious beliefs. But from a medical or psychiatric point of view, being homosexual is perfectly normal.

Being gay is natural. Humans are not the only ones to have homosexual relationships: researchers have found examples among many animal species, from elephants to dolphins, and from bears to buffalo.

‘There is a cure for being gay.’
Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual isn’t a disease, so you can’t be ‘cured’. There’s no scientific evidence that anything can change you from being homosexual to being heterosexual. It’s just the way you’re made. People who are unhappy about their homosexuality, perhaps for religious reasons or because of social and cultural pressure, sometimes learn to suppress their sexual feelings.

Some people try to change their sexuality through therapy, exorcism, or religious rituals. These can have very damaging effects, and none of them provide a ‘cure’. Many doctors and psychologists have spoken out against this ‘conversion’ or ‘ex-gay’ therapy. These programs hurt the person who goes through them, and they can’t do anything to change a person’s sexual orientation.

If you have been or are thinking of going to ex-gay therapy, check out: http://www.beyondexgay.com/

‘Gays and lesbians can turn other people into homosexuals.’
You can’t be ‘converted’ to homosexuality any more than you can be ‘cured’ of homosexuality. It’s just the way you’re made. And gays and lesbians aren’t out to ‘recruit’ people to homosexuality, even if it were possible!

Some people say they became properly aware of their sexuality through a particular person or experience – but that didn’t ‘make’ them homosexual. Most gays and lesbians say they’ve always known about their sexual orientation.

‘You’ll be cured of your homosexuality if you get married, or make love to someone of the opposite sex.’
No experience will make you straight if you’re homosexual. If you’re straight, sleeping with someone of the same sex can’t make you gay, and it’s the same the other way around. Again, it’s just the way you’re made.

So-called ‘corrective rape’ can never change a person’s sexuality. In any circumstances, rape is a serious crime.

‘You can tell homosexuals by the way they look and act.’
Just like heterosexuals, gay men and lesbian women don’t all look or behave in the same way. There are some gay and lesbian people who might fit a stereotyped image, and plenty more who don’t. And there are homosexual people in all walks of life.

‘All homosexuals are paedophiles.’
A paedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children. They may be straight or gay. There’s absolutely no relationship between being homosexual and being a paedophile.

‘Homosexuals are likely to have AIDS – it’s a gay disease.’
Around the world, HIV/AIDS is more common among heterosexuals than homosexuals. Anyone who engages in unprotected sex is at risk, whether they’re straight or gay.

‘The way homosexuals have sex is disgusting.’
Some straight people are horrified at the idea of homosexual sex. This is because they wouldn’t like to do it themselves, not because there’s anything ‘disgusting’ about gay sex.

People tend to associate sex between gay men with anal sex. But many gay men don’t have anal sex – they prefer to make love in other ways. And many heterosexuals do like anal sex. Whether you’re into it or not is a matter of personal preference, not whether you’re gay or straight.

Gay women can have sex in all sorts of ways too – just like straight couples.

If you think homosexual sex disgusting, it’s just because you’re judging from your own point of view. After all, your favourite food might be delicious to you, but revolting to someone else!

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