Sexuality refers to someone's sexual behaviours, attractions and preferences. Sexual orientation is how a person feels sexually about people of various genders.
For some people, they might be attracted to someone of the same gender, for some it’s the opposite and for others it's all genders. It can take a while for people to realise who they’re attracted to, for some they know straight away and for others it may change all the time – all of these are perfectly normal!
Heterosexual is a term used when you are attracted to an opposite gender. Gay is when you are attracted to the same gender and Bisexual is when you are attracted to two or more genders.
LGBT+ is a term often used to describe anyone who doesn't identify as heterosexual. It means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender - the '+' is used to include other identities such as non-binary, queer, pansexual, genderfluid and others.
What is the difference between sex and gender?
Sex and gender are two different things. Your sex refers to biological traits such as genitals, internal reproductive organs, chromosomes and hormones. Our sex is assigned to us at birth based on these traits. This can be male, female or intersex. Intersex means someone has a variation of sex characteristics (genitals, chromosomes, internal reproductive organs, etc.) that don’t align with traditional ideas of male/female bodies.
Gender identity refers to how you feel, express and define yourself. This can be male, female or in-between too. This may not be the same as the gender you were assigned at birth, based on your sex.
Cisgender is the term used when your gender identity is the same as the gender you were assigned at birth.
Transgender is used when your gender is different from the gender you were assigned at birth. For example, when someone is assigned male at birth but express and defines their gender as female, or vice versa. Some people who are transgender may decide to have gender affirmation surgery, where they change their biological sex to match their gender. Others might be just fine with the way they are. Either is perfectly normal.
Some people don’t identify as having a male or female gender. These people sometimes identity themselves as non-binary. However, there are lots of other terms people who don’t identify as male or female might use to identify themselves, so it’s important to respect and use the words they use. Rather than assuming how people identify (based on stereotypes), it’s better to check with someone which terms/labels/pronouns they like to use, especially if you’re unsure.
Getting information and support around sexuality and gender identity
Off the Record is a Bath and North East Somerset service that provides a weekly youth group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) young people and young people questioning their sexuality aged 13 to 21. The group is called SPACE and meets every Tuesday from 7pm–9pm in Bath and fortnightly Mondays in Somer Valley 6pm–8pm. Please contact off the record for locations and more information. You can email off the record on , phone on 01225 312481 or text: 07872 992879 / 07939 085657.
You can find out more information about SPACE on the Off The Record website.