Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality
Sexual orientation means how you are attracted romantically and sexually to other people. There are different kinds of sexual orientation. A person can be:
Scientists can't say yet why a person is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual. Most people feel that their sexual orientation is not a matter of choice: It's just part of who they are.
Many people discover more about this part of themselves over time. For example, some girls and boys date heterosexually in high school, then find later on that they are really more comfortable, romantically and sexually, with members of their own gender.
You may hear many different words and phrases about homosexuality and sexual orientation. Here are some definitions:
For more information, see the topics:
How do people find out their sexual orientation?
Many people first become aware of their orientation during the preteen and teen years. A heterosexual man may have first experienced romantic feelings when he was in early puberty, having a crush on a girl in his class. Many gay and lesbian people also were first attracted to members of their own gender during these early years.
During the teen years, it's common to develop same-sex "crushes." Some teens may experiment sexually with someone of their own sex. But these early experiences don't necessarily mean a teen will be gay as an adult.
For some teens, though, same-sex attractions do not fade but only grow stronger.
Remember: You're not alone
The pressure and stress caused by feeling alone and sad can lead to depression, a very serious problem. Depression can lead to suicide. Teens with depression are at particularly high risk for suicide and suicide attempts.
If you are gay, it's important to realize that there are lots of people just like you. They have the same problems, emotions, and questions that you have, whether you have made your homosexuality known, are still hiding the fact that you are gay, or have a loved one who is gay.
It can be very comforting and helpful to talk to people who know what you're going through. You can find such people through local or online groups. If you don't know where to find support, ask:
Why is it important to understand stress and know how to cope with it?
Stress is a fact of life. Most of us have periods of stress at various times in our lives. But extra stress can have a serious effect on your health, especially if it lasts for a long time.
People who are still keeping their sexual orientation a secret may be worried about being found out and about what might happen if others knew. It can be very stressful to have to hide a big secret, especially one about who you really are. Rejection, discrimination, fear, and confusion cause long-term stress in many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Constant stress can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, so that you have a harder time fighting off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.
People who are under long-term stress are also more likely to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol heavily, and use other drugs. These habits can lead to serious health problems.
It's important to recognize the effects that stress can have on your life and to learn how to cope with stress to stay healthy. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
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