What is sexual identity?
Sexual identity is complex and diverse
It is not necessarily as simple as being ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, but there are some common terms and definitions to help understand some aspects of sexuality.
It is important that people are able to choose which words they feel comfortable with.
They might find that the term they choose changes over time or they might not wish to put a label on their sexuality at all.
There are lots of different ‘normals’. Normal is such a different thing for so many different people. Being gay or homosexual is just another version of love and normality. So we talk about that with our kids.
Parent of boys 17 and 19
Some common terms
Heterosexual Attracted mostly to people of another sex or gender (e.g. women who are attracted to men or men that are attracted to women).
This is sometimes referred to as being ‘straight’.
This is an acronym. L = lesbian. G = gay. B = bisexual. T = transgender. I = intersex.
Sometimes it is written LGBTIQA+. Q = queer or questioning. A = asexual or agender. The + acknowledges the other sexuality identifiers and experiences of those within the community.
HomosexualAttracted mostly to people of the same sex or gender (e.g. men that are attracted to men or women that are attracted to women).
This is sometimes referred to as being ‘gay’ or same-sex attracted.
‘Lesbian’ is a common term for women who are same-sex attracted.
Between 5 and 10% of WA teens identify as gay or lesbian.10
BisexualAttracted to men and women.
This does not mean that the attraction is evenly weighted, a person can have stronger feelings for one sex or gender.
About 15% of WA teens identify as bisexual.10
Attracted to partners of all genders.
Gender is not a factor in attraction to someone.
AsexualNot sexually attracted to anyone (or someone who has very little sexual attraction).
FluidSexual attraction changes in different situations and over time.
QueerSome people refer to themselves as 'queer', which can include a variety of sexual identities (and gender identities).
Some people find this term offensive as it has previously been used to hurt and insult people.
All of these terms can be confusing for some parents, but knowing all the definitions is not what is important.
The most important thing for your child to know is that…
You are not defined by your sexuality or gender. You are you, and we will always be here to love and support you.
Homophobia is the fear, hatred or discomfort with people who are homosexual.
Transphobia is the fear, hatred or discomfort with people who are transgender or gender diverse.
This can take many forms – hurtful ‘jokes’, stereotyping, name-calling, isolating people, bullying, discrimination and abuse.
Young people who experience homophobia or transphobia often feel alone and afraid. They may also feel hurt, embarrassment or shame.
They may not feel able to tell anyone what is happening, so it is important for parents to ask questions and keep the lines of communication open.
If a young person is feeling threatened or harassed in any way it is important that they get help straight away. (see the ‘If you need Support’ section below).
What you can do to help
Make sure your child knows that:
- Understanding yourself can take time and it’s normal to have times where you feel unsure about your sexuality.
- There is no rush to figure out your sexuality – take your time. It’s OK and normal for people to take time figuring out what works for them.
- Having a crush on someone (or sexual thoughts about someone) who is a different gender to who you are usually attracted to, does not mean that you are gay, straight or bisexual.
- You may not have any sexual interest in anyone – and this is normal too!
- You don’t need to have sex to know that you are straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual.
- Everyone has the right to be themselves without having to explain this to anyone.
- Only you can decide what sexual identity best describes you. Many people find the labels don’t fully explain their attractions and that’s OK – you don’t need to have a label at all!
- If you are struggling with your own sexuality there is lots of support available. Qlife.org.au offers phone and webchat support from 3pm until midnight every day and Kids Helpline is always open.
The Pride Parade is on this week.
I am thinking of wandering along to check it out and show support, is that something you and any of your friends might like to come along and show support for as well?