Sexuality and Labeling

Sexual behaviour does not necessarily equate to sexual orientation. Many adolescents as well as adults may identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience. Other young people may have had sexual experiences with a person of the same gender, but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This is particularly relevant during adolescence because it is a time for experimentation – a hallmark of this developmental period.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adolescents follow a developmental path that is both similar to and quite different from that followed by heterosexual adolescents. All teenagers face certain developmental challenges, such as developing social skills, thinking about career choices, and fitting into a peer group. LGBT youth must also cope with prejudiced, discriminatory, and violent behavior and messages in their families, schools, and communities. Such behavior and messages negatively affect the physical and mental health and education of these young people. LGBT youth have few opportunities for observing positive modelling by adults due to the general cultural bias that makes them largely invisible. Because of their legitimate fear of being harassed or hurt, these young people are less likely to ask for help. Thus, it is important that their environments are as open and accepting as possible, so these young people will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.

A person's sexual behaviour does not always represent his or her sexual orientation. Often people jump to conclusions and try and 'box' people into certain categories because of their behaviour, appearance, beliefs and so on. People may choose to be sexually active with a person from the opposite sex but actually wish they were with the same sex. Other people can behave in ways that are more or less traditionally 'masculine' or 'feminine'; for example – women may play football or men enjoy cooking. This does not mean that they identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

It is very difficult to imagine how sexual orientation or other human behaviour or emotions can always be expected to be permanent. It is much more realistic to have an open mind and accept that each individual will have his or her own lifestyle and it cannot be 'boxed' into a category. For some people, sexual orientation does not stay the same. Instead they fluctuate during their life, depending on circumstances, other people in their life and their environment.

Homosexuality and bisexuality are not mental illness. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the official listing of psychiatric disorders. In 1975, the American Psychological Association adopted a similar resolution. Studies show that people’s sexual orientation has no bearing on their mental health and emotional stability.

However, there is a lot of discrimination against LGBT. To learn more about it read more.

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Heterosexism and Homophobia
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