Around one in ten people are attracted to people of the same sex. Some people may be attracted to both boys and girls. For young people who are discovering these feelings it can be a confusing or lonely time. It can be very hard if they feel that the people around them won't understand or agree with what they're feeling, or if they have been told that it is 'unnatural' or 'wrong.'
If you have been having feelings like this, remember that you are not alone in having them, and these feelings are normal and acceptable.
Some words explained
Gay - men who are attracted to other men
What am I?
Young people attracted to people of the same sex, may think (or be told) that it is just a phase they are going through. Sometimes, this may be true. People of any age can go through a time where they may be attracted to someone of the same sex as them. The feeling might pass.
If the feelings stay with them, or are very strong, then they could be gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. Accepting this can be hard.
There is no 'test' to find out what these feelings are. It may be best to find out more information about other people's experiences, by reading about them or talking to others.
It may be a good idea to speak to a GLBT youth group or a counsellor who understands GLBT issues. See contacts for local organisations that can help or advise you about local counsellors.
'Coming Out' is when someone tells the people around them about their sexuality for the first time. For many, the fear of not knowing how people will react makes it a nerve-wracking and emotional experience.
If you are thinking about coming out, remember that there's no rush - you can choose when to do it. No one should ever push you into it.
Take your time and think about what might be a good time to tell your family and friends. They may need time to understand what you are saying and may ask a lot of questions. Gay Youth UK has good information and tips about coming out.
Some young people may experience 'homophobic' bullying. 'Homophobic' people do not agree with gay and lesbian lifestyles and think they are 'wrong.' This, or any other kind of bullying, is not acceptable.
Get more information about bullying.
Transgender / gender diversity
There are a very few people who feel they were born with the wrong body - men who feel they should have been born women and women who feel they should have been men.
Below are some terms you may have heard:
Transsexual - A person who feels an overwhelming desire to swap genders and live as a member of the opposite sex. Most transsexuals have surgery to make them a member of the opposite sex.
Transvestite - A name for a 'cross dresser', a person who dresses in the clothing of the opposite sex. Most transvestites do not want to alter their body.
Transgender - A term for both transsexuals and transvestites. A transgenderist can also be a person who swaps gender. However, they generally do not 'go the whole way' with surgery but instead live as a member of the opposite sex with the help of hormone therapy or cosmetic surgery.
Intersex - A term covering a wide range of conditions, where it is hard to tell the gender of a child at birth. They may have both male and female genitalia, or genitalia that is not fully formed. Such people are often subject attempts at surgical 'correction' early in life, which may cause major problems later.
The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) has set up a system to enable trans people to report the crimes they experience:
Alongside that, we are working with the national and local trans support organisations to develop a directory of their services: This will enable trans people, especially the victims of crime, to contact those who can help them.
The directory should also be of value to others, both professionals and family members, who are seeking sources of information and help. In addition, the directory includes information about the local police services.