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Information for Young People


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Advice for Young People

Sexuality

Am I gay? Am I bisexual? Am I a lesbian?

If you are feeling attracted to people the same sex as you, then you may be lesbian, gay or bisexual. You may not be sure whether what you’re feeling is attraction, or not. You may feel attracted to only girls, or only boys, or to both. Maybe it all feels confusing, or maybe it’s absolutely clear to you. Whatever – you were probably brought up expecting to be straight, so it might take you a while to figure out what feels right to you. That’s okay. Take your time.

Am I the only one?

No. There are loads of LGBT people all over the world, in every culture, country and continent. LGBT people have existed throughout history. There will be other LGBT people in your school, college and place of work even if you don’t know it. Many people have feelings towards people of the same sex at some point in their lives. Some people choose to act on it – others don’t. But it’s very common, so don’t worry – you are definitely not the only one.

Is it wrong to be LGBT?

No. Your feelings are natural and part of who you are. Some people believe it is wrong to be attracted to people of the same sex. Some people might tell you it’s not normal or it’s not natural, but this is simply not true. You have the same rights as everyone else to a life that is happy, healthy and safe – a life where you are free to be yourself.

But I’m not like him/her off the telly and he’s gay/she’s a lesbian. Does that mean I’m not?

No. Just as all heterosexual (straight) people are different, so are all LGBT people.
There is no one way to be LGBT, to look LGBT or to act LGBT. There are sadly still lots of stereotypes about LGBT people – but these are simply not true, and are often based on fear and prejudice.

Gender Identity

A person’s gender identity is how a person expresses their gender – male, female or somewhere between or outside of that. Quite often society decides that certain activities indicate a particular gender. For example – ‘women like shopping, men like football’, ‘women cook, and men do the DIY.’ Anyone can do any of these things regardless of their gender and being interested in certain things does not necessarily mean that you should be or are a particular gender.

Gender Identity is different from sexual orientation as it about who you are and not about others – sexual orientation describes who you find attractive and has nothing to do with your own feelings about being male or female etc.

Coming Out

Coming out is what it’s called when you tell somebody that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans. There are a few really important things to remember about coming out:

  • It is totally up to you when you come out and who to. If you don’t feel comfortable telling somebody, for whatever reason, then you don’t have to – it’s your business.
  • If you come out to somebody and you don’t want them to tell anybody else then it’s a good idea to tell them that too, so that it doesn’t end up half way round the school before you know it! If you don’t want the information going any further than the person you are telling then it’s a good idea to think carefully about who you tell in the first place and whether you can trust them to keep it to themselves.
  • Coming out is something that most people have to do more than once. Often, telling the people closest to you (family and friends) feels like the most important times, but there will be times throughout your life when  you might come out – at the doctor’s, booking holiday accommodation or starting a new job – the same applies to all these times too – it’s your choice if you want to tell people or not.

Sex

Getting information and making decisions about sex can sometimes be a bit difficult when you are a young person and this is often made even more tricky when you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. You might have had great sex education at school that is relevant to you but lots of people don’t receive that. If you want to get more information a great place to start is this website which is quite inclusive of LGBT young people

To be honest though, a lot of the same information and decision making applies to LGBT young people as it does to straight young people. Deciding whether or not you want to have a sexual relationship with somebody (and what kind of sex you have) is totally up to you. There is no right or wrong time to start doing something, so if you are feeling under pressure, just take your time.

In terms of safe sex, again a lot of the same rules apply. If you are a guy having sex with a guy, always use a condom and that applies to oral sex as well as anal sex. There is a stereotype that all gay men have anal sex but some guys aren’t into that. There are lots of other ways that gay men have sex – oral sex or mutual masturbation. As long as you and your partner are both comfortable with whatever kind of sex you are having then it is okay! If you are a woman, the same thing applies, there is no one right way of having sex with another woman – as long as both you and your partner are happy with what you are doing then it is okay. Women can catch sexually transmitted infections from one another so it is important to have safe sex as well. Use a dental dam (a square of latex that is placed over the genitals) if you are having oral sex and if you are sharing sex toys then put a condom over the sex toy and change it if you then use it for your partner.

If you are trans then all the same stuff applies – what kind of sex you have is totally up to you, there is no right or wrong way. Safe sex applies to everyone and you need to think about which body parts you have rather than your gender identity. So if you have female body parts but identify as a guy and are having sex with somebody with male body parts then they need to use a condom, and if you are having sex with somebody with female body parts then you both need to use dental dams as appropriate or condoms on sex toys if you are using them. If you have male body parts then you need to use a condom whoever you are having sex with and if you are having sex with somebody else with male body parts they need to use a condom too.

If you want to get condoms or dental dams you can get them for free from the Youth Clinic, on Mulberry Street in town, or you can get them from Fruitbowl.

Healthy Relationships

Relationships are things that we have with lots of different people, like our family and friends, so you probably already know what makes a healthy relationship. For instance if you feel happy when you are around somebody then it probably means the relationship is healthy, but if you find your self feeling sad or angry then it probably means that there is something happening between you that could be changed for the better.

What makes a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend healthy is really just the same as with your friends and family and it doesn’t change just because you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. Everybody has a different type of relationship, based on what kind of people you both are, but some things should really stay the same. Things like, feeling safe, never feeling like you have to do something because your partner has told you to, being happy and being able to say how you feel. Of course lots of people have arguments or disagreements, but if you are worried about how many arguments you are having or how your partner is making you feel then it might be worth thinking about how you could make some changes to your situation.

One of the issues of being young and LGBT is that you might have a boyfriend or girlfriend but haven’t told anybody about them, so you don’t have anybody to talk to about the relationship. Fruitbowl staff are more than happy to sit and listen if you want to chat something through if you need to talk to somebody. Other Fruitbowl members usually have a good natter about their relationships too, so coming to group is a good way of meeting other people who might be having similar experiences to you.

LGBT Rights

As an LGBT person you have a lot of rights living in the UK today. Below is a summary of some of them:

  • Right not to put up with homophobic abuse, at school, at home and in the streets. If you are experiencing homophobic abuse you can report it at your school if that is where it is happening, or you can report it to the Police – homophobic abuse is a hate crime and is taken very seriously
  • Right to not be bullied or be made to feel uncomfortable at school because of your sexuality or gender identity. Schools have a duty to deal with homophobic bullying, like any form of bullying, so you should expect them to take you seriously and deal with it if you report it. If you feel you aren’t getting enough support at school, Fruitbowl staff can help you get your voice heard – just get in touch with us
  • Right to decent healthcare – a doctor or nurse can’t refuse you treatment because you are LGBT
  • Right to safe housing – you have as much right to live somewhere as anyone else and you can’t be refused housing because you are LGBT.
  • Right to go on holiday wherever you want – it used to be that hotels could refuse to give gay couples a double room but they aren’t allowed to do that now

Drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol are something that a lot of people start experimenting with when they are a teenager – that may or may not be you.

‘The scene’ is what people call all the places where LGBT meet and a lot of these places are in pubs and clubs, where there might be a lot of drink and drugs around. You might be of an age where you are starting to go out on the scene, but being LGBT doesn’t mean having to drink a lot or take drugs. It’s really important to remember that you can enjoy going to bars and clubs without drinking a lot, or taking drugs. There are also lots of places where you can meet other LGBT people that aren’t based in pubs and clubs – have a look at the links section to find out about other ways of finding out what’s happening out there for LGBT people in Sheffield.

If you are starting to go out to these places and feel concerned about any of your experiences of drinking or taking drugs, get in touch with The Corner. They are a specialist service in Sheffield that support young people to learn about keeping safe around a drink and drugs culture.

Practical stuff  – housing, education, money

You might have some practical issues that are weighing on your mind, like a problem with where you are living or problems at school. If you need any help with these issues then we have a Connexions worker who might be able to help you. Sarah comes along to most of the Fruitbowl sessions and you can chat to her there or make an appointment to speak to her at another time. All Connexions workers are able to help you with stuff like education and housing but you might have a problem that’s linked to your sexuality and not everybody wants to come out to the Connexions worker in their school.

Bullying

Homophobia and transphobia are any kind of negative attitude or behavior that is directed towards somebody because they are, or people think they are lesbian, gay or bisexual, or trans. Homophobic bullying is any kind of abuse (physical, emotional, verbal) that is directed towards somebody because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual (or people think they are). Transphobic bullying is any kind of abuse directed towards somebody because they are trans (or people think they are).

If you are experiencing homophobic or transphobic bullying then there are lots of ways of dealing with it. If you feel comfortable telling somebody then a teacher should be able to help you. Schools often have a policy saying that homophobic bullying is not allowed, so most schools should take you seriously. Transphobic bullying may not be mentioned in your school policies, but schools have a duty to take all forms of bullying seriously.

Other Services in Sheffield

Side by Side is another of our projects which was set up by old Fruitbowl members and deals with homophobic bullying. Side by Side is a peer education project, where 16-19 year olds perform a play about homophobic bullying and then carry out workshops in PSHE lessons with Year 9 pupils. The project grew out of a really successful play that Fruitbowl developed in 2009. The project is open to any young person whether you are straight or LGBT.

GLOBAL stands for Gay, Lesbian and Others Becoming Active Leaders and is a group that takes action on issues that affect LGBT young people in Sheffield. It is open to all young people, straight or LGBT.


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