Sexuality isn’t just about the act of having sex with someone; it’s also about your identity and to whom you’re attracted.
Sometimes these things can be complicated to figure out. It is easy to get a little confused about the meanings of sexuality, gender identity, sex assigned and attraction. Our Gender Identity page has some information that defines these elements very clearly and can help you speak knowledgeably and confidently about these important elements.
Your sexuality affects the way you feel about yourself, your body and other people. It's a fundamental part of your personality. Many people find it easy to identify their sexuality and feel comfortable with it, but that's not the case for everyone. If you're uncertain or unhappy about your sexuality, it's important to remember that you're not alone. If you can't talk to your family or friends about your sexuality, there are plenty of services and helpful websites you can visit to get more information, or contact someone to talk to - you'll find some helpful links on this page.
This page is primarily about our sexual orientation which is part of our sexuality.
- Use inclusive pronouns - they, them, theirs. Refer to 'partners' rather than boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands. Listen out for the pronoun that someone uses to describe their relationship/identity and use that.
- Keep information confidential. It is up to the individual to decide to whom their personal information is divulged.
- Show respect and acceptance.
- Advocate for equality and stand up against oppression in its many, and sometimes subtle, disguises. Prosocial bystander behaviour can be used to help a person who is being victimised (or is at risk of this), or even to disrupt sexist and homophobic jokes or comments.
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us from feeling comfortable about our sexuality.
I'm confused about what I feel
Even if you're aware of and comfortable with your own sexuality, it can be helpful to understand some of the terminology around sexuality. There are more types of sexuality in the world than one webpage can cover. If you are distressed by not being able to define your sexuality it might help to talk to a counsellor or support service (see the links in the 'need more info' section below).
I've been told that if I try it I may not like it
To whom we are attracted to sexually is not necessarily related to whether we have enjoyable sex or not! Sometimes we have a good sexual experience and other times not, but most of the time we went into the sex act because we were attracted sexually to that person. Whilst these things aren't always clear cut - they actually don't have to be.
So, if you are attracted sexually to someone, but the sex turns out not to be that great, that doesn't mean you have to re-label your sexuality.
For some of us labels are helpful and give a sense of relief that we know how to describe how we feel. However for others, labels can feel restrictive. Choose what feels right for you.
Family/friends treat me differently
Sometimes it can take a bit of time for family and friends to adjust to the idea of our expressed sexuality. This is usually because their assumptions about your sexuality have probably been held for a long time. Demonstrating your happiness and comfort with your sexuality may help them to adjust. Ultimately though, it is not your responsibility to help them to adjust, it is theirs.
Often our friends are a bit better at making the adjustments, although occasionally they might be worried that they have suddenly become an object of sexual interest! Well lucky them, it is always nice to think someone desires you, but you can throw in a casual "don't worry, you're not my type" phrase if needed.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Find your crowd
It can be useful to find avenues to connect with like minded people of similar sexual orientation or those who are sexually diverse so that you feel accepted. Consider the AUU Pride club. Web searches can help to find out what is happening in your location, using terms like 'rainbow', 'LGBT' and 'pride'.
Discovering our sexuality, particularly if it has been denied in our past, can be an exciting thing. Whilst this can be really enjoyable, you don't want to be putting yourself in highly risky situations, so play safe so you can play for longer! For more information view our sex, sex and more sex page.
Work on the relationship too
The sex might be great, but a relationship can also open up whole new avenues in exploring your sexuality. Relationships can provide a real sense of connection and acceptance. The same rules apply for fostering good relationships for all of us, no matter what our sexual orientation may be. However, sometimes some additional considerations can be worth giving some thought to if you are in a lesbian, bisexual, gay or asexual relationship.
Need more info?
- For concerns about your sexual organ health, see our sexual health page.
- Sex and more sex page - for info about problems, concerns, improvements, safety.
- Understand gender variance on our gender identity page.
- To learn more about pornography and pornography addiction, see our digital addiction page.
- Good therapy - sexuality
- Reachout - sexuality
- Understanding bisexuality - minus18
- Sexuality - Head to health
- Sexuality explained - Vic Health
- Overview of sexual orientation - Headspace
Services dealing with sex, sexuality and gender identity
Issues with sexuality
Embracing your sexuality