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Adolescence is the dawn of sexual attraction.
It happens due to the hormonal changes of puberty. These changes involve both the body and the mind — so just thinking about someone attractive can cause physical arousal. These new feelings can be intense, confusing, sometimes even overwhelming. Teens are beginning to discover what it means to be attracted romantically and physically to others. And recognizing one’s sexual orientation is part of that process.
What Is Sexual Orientation?
The term sexual orientation refers to the gender (that is, male or female) to which a person is attracted. There are several types of sexual orientation that are commonly described:
- Heterosexual (straight). People who are heterosexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex: males are attracted to females, and females are attracted to males. Heterosexuals are often called “straight.”
- Homosexual (gay or lesbian). People who are homosexual are romantically and physically attracted to people of the same sex: females are attracted to other females; males are attracted to other males. Homosexuals (whether male or female) are often called “gay.” Gay females are also called “lesbian“.
- Bisexual. People who are bisexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of both sexes.
Do We Choose Our Orientation?
Being straight, gay, or bisexual is not something that a person can choose or choose to change. In fact, people don’t choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their height or eye color. It is estimated that about 10% of people are gay. Gay people are represented in all walks of life, across all nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, and in all social and economic groups.
No one fully understands exactly what determines a person’s sexual orientation, but it is likely explained by a variety of biological and genetic factors. Medical experts and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA) view sexual orientation as part of someone’s nature. Being gay is also not considered a mental disorder or abnormality.
Despite myths and misconceptions, there is no evidence that being gay is caused by early childhood experiences, parenting styles, or the way someone is raised.
Efforts to change gay people to straight (sometimes called “conversion therapy”) have been proven to be ineffective and can be harmful. Health and mental health professionals caution against any efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.
At What Age Do Kids “Know”?
Knowing one’s sexual orientation — whether straight or gay — is often something that kids or teens recognize with little doubt from a very young age. Some gay teens say they had same-sex crushes in childhood, just as their heterosexual peers had opposite-sex crushes.
By middle school, as they enter adolescence, many gay teens already recognize their sexual orientation, whether or not they have revealed it to anyone else. Those who didn’t realize they were gay at first often say that they always felt different from their peers, but didn’t exactly know why.
Becoming aware of — and coming to terms with — one’s sexual orientation can take some time. Thinking sexually about both the same sex and the opposite sex is quite common as teens sort through their emerging sexual feelings.
Some teens may experiment with sexual experiences, including those with members of the same sex, as they explore their own sexuality. But these experiences, by themselves, do not necessarily mean that a teen is gay or straight. For many teens, these experiences are simply part of the process of sorting through their emerging sexuality. And despite gender stereotypes, masculine and feminine traits do not necessarily predict whether someone is straight or gay.
Once aware, some gay teens may be quite comfortable and accept their sexuality, while others might find it confusing or difficult to accept.
As a member of the society it’s our job to make sure to not scrutinize anyone and help each and every individual find who they are most comfortable with even if their orientation might not align with our view(s). Please remember: The have as much right to their own personal choices just as much as anyone does.
It is not sexuality which haunts society but society which haunts the body’s sexuality ~ Maurice Codelier