Sexual orientation

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Am I normal? Am I alone?

If you have questions and concerns about sexuality, you're not alone. Everybody has questions, and nobody has all the answers.

Do you ever wonder

  • Am I normal?
  • Does any one else have sexual feelings like I do?
  • How can I deal with the feelings I have?
  • Are people going to judge me if I am different?

What is sexual orientation?

Different people are attracted to different types of people and have a variety of relationships. You may have feelings for:

  • people of the same sex
  • people of the opposite sex
  • people of both sexes

Sexual orientation has 3 parts: sexual orientation identity, attraction, and behavior.

Sexual orientation identity is how you think of yourself. You could identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or another identity.

Attraction has to do with who you’re sexually or romantically attracted to (no matter who you’re sexually active with). You could be drawn to women, men, both women and men, or people of other genders. You could also be attracted to people of 2 or more genders, but have a strong preference for just 1 of them.

Sexual behavior deals with who you’re sexually active with. For example, you can identify as gay while still having sexual experiences with other genders.

Having some words to talk about sexual orientation can be a way to start understanding sexuality.

  • People who are mostly attracted to or have sex with the opposite sex may call themselves straight.
  • People who are attracted to or have sex with both sexes may call themselves bisexual.
  • Women who are mostly attracted to or who have sex with other women may call themselves lesbian.
  • Men who are mostly attracted to or have sex with other men may call themselves gay.

Whether or not you're having sex:

  • You may not know your sexual orientation.
  • You may already be sure about your sexual orientation.
  • Your sexual orientation may change once or many times in your life.
  • Your sexual orientation may never change.
  • You may have questions about your gender identity

Gender identity

Gender identity is your sense of whether you are a man or a woman, both, neither, or somewhere in between. For some people, their internal sense of gender is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. People who feel this way often refer to themselves as transgender, gender nonconforming, or any number of other terms.

Keep an open mind

Sexual orientation is only a part of someone's identity. Keeping an open mind about others can help you work out some of your own questions and concerns. Remember, prejudice against people because of their sexual orientation is no different than racism, sexism, or other types of discrimination.

Who can I trust?

All people need to be safe and feel accepted for who they are, whether they are transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, parasexual, intersexual, asexual, straight, or unsure. You need to be comfortable with yourself and with the people you care about.

Sometimes people feel bad about themselves, get depressed, or try to hurt themselves because they feel no one will accept them as they are. Don't hurt yourself because you feel lonely or different. There are people out there who won't judge you and who can appreciate you the way you are.

Anyone who wants to change you isn't the best person to turn to with your questions or concerns. Look for people who respect others. Listen to what they say about sexuality and sexual orientation. Pay attention to how they treat people who are different from them.

Who can I talk to?

If you don't feel comfortable talking to your friends and family about your questions and concerns, you're not alone.

Teen telephone hotlines and youth groups can help you find people to talk to who understand what you're thinking and feeling. You can also get information about special programs and other resources (books and videos) to find out more about sexuality issues that are important to you.

Support hotlines

The Gay and Lesbian National Hotline
(888) 843-4564

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) National Youth Talkline (youth serving youth through age 25)
(800) 246-7743

Getting help from Kaiser Permanente

You can make your own appointment and see a doctor, nurse, or counselor at Kaiser Permanente clinics. Learn more about our services for teen members.

To make an appointment or to talk with an advice nurse, use our doctor and location search to find a facility near you.

Reviewed by: Robert Riewerts, MD, 2018

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