Sexuality is sometimes a difficult term to define as it can mean different things to different people.
Generally, it is used to describe how people express themselves in a sexual way.
Often, this includes the type of person or people you find attractive and how you might describe your own sexual orientation. It can also be related to how you see your gender.
A holistic term
At its centre, sexuality is really about your sexual behaviours, attractions, likes, dislikes and preferences.
Sexuality is sometime used interchangeably with the term sexual orientation. However, it covers more than just who a person is attracted to.
Sexuality includes what you enjoy, how you enjoy it, how you see yourself and how you would like to be defined by others – or not defined at all!
Straight. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Queer. Questioning. Asexual. Just me!
There are many words which people use to describe their sexual orientation, and some would rather not be defined at all.
Sexual orientation is most frequently understood to describe how a person feels sexually about people of various genders.
Because physical and emotional attraction are themselves very subtle and individual, sexual orientation is a very personal thing. Some people are happy to be defined by a particular label. Others are not.
Some people are attracted to people who are the same gender as them and might identify as being gay, lesbian or queer.
Some people are only attracted to people of the opposite gender and might refer to themselves as being straight or heterosexual.
Some people fancy people of more than one gender and thus might consider themselves bisexual or bicurious.
Some people aren’t sexually attracted to anyone, which is often referred to as being asexual.
Sexual orientation is influenced by many factors. Some people feel they are born a particular way, whilst others believe their sexuality has been shaped by their experiences. It is most likely that both are true.
Regardless, who we are attracted to is not something we can choose or control and there are no right or wrong answers.
Sexual activity alone is not necessarily representative of sexual orientation. For example, some people may be in a different sex relationship but feel an attraction to the someone of same sex. People on all sides of the equation can have feelings for a particular gender which may never result in physical sexual activity.
Sexual orientation is also something which can change and evolve. As people go through life and meet differing people, their own sexual preferences may change or they may choose to change the way they define themselves.
Figuring out your sexual orientation can seem hard.
The majority of the world identified as straight (heterosexual) but society is thankfully becoming ever more accepting of the sheer breadth of sexuality and individual feelings.
No one should ever feel belittled or ashamed of their sexual orientation. It is natural to explore your feelings and seek to understand or define who you find attractive.
Another element of sexuality is gender.
How you define your gender may affect how you see your sexual orientation.
Broadly, gender is how we identify ourselves as being male, female, transgender or another more or less specific term.
Again, it is partly related to our biological gender (the physical characteristics we have at birth) and how we subsequently perceive ourselves.
Some people can feel happier defining themselves or taking on some of the typical qualities (such a male name or female clothing) of a different sex to that they were born with.
Some people feel they are born with a biologically gender which is not right for how they feel and can undergo treatment to physically transition to the opposite gender.
Some people feel they do not confirm to either gender and would prefer not to be defined at all!
Again, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to gender and it is natural to consider your gender and its role in your sexuality.
Telling others about your sexuality
Sexuality and sexual orientation are very personal.
Some people feel it is important to define themselves. Others would rather keep such things to themselves or avoid a specific label.
Telling other people about your sexual orientation – sometimes known as ‘coming out’ – is entirely your choice.
For some people, telling others you are something other than straight or heterosexual is a difficult process. For others, it isn’t an issue at all. Much can depend on the views or reaction of their family and friends.
Increasingly, people are much more understanding and accepting, even if it still takes some people time to adapt.
You should never feel any pressure to come out or justify your sexuality.