Sexuality and sexual orientation is about who you are physically and emotionally attracted to. Everyone has a sexual orientation – lesbian, straight, bisexual, gay or q+. Everyone is unique. For lots of people identity is something which changes and evolves through their lives.

Questioning your sexuality?

It’s natural to be confused about your sexuality or to need time to work out who you are. It’s okay not to be sure. Some people know who they’re attracted to from a really young age. For other people it’s not so simple and can take a while to work out.

If you’re not sure about your sexuality, you might:
• not be sure what it means if you ‘like’ someone
• be scared about how other people will react
• worry about what it means for your community or religion
• want to come out and tell people
• try to find a sexuality that ‘fits’ how you feel.

It might take some time to work out what your sexual orientation is. Remember there’s no such thing as normal. And you don’t have to feel pressured or rushed to give yourself a label.

LGBTQ+? What does that mean?

Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically and / or physically attracted to other women.
Gay: A person who is emotionally, romantically, and / or physically attracted to people of the same gender.
Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically and/or physically attracted to people of their own gender and other genders.
Trans: A person whose gender is in some way different to the one they were given when they were born
Questioning: They are not sure and are still exploring
• +: There are lots of other identities (see list.)
• You are who you are – don’t let people tell you anything different

Coming out

Coming out can be a tricky process for people and they may be worried that others will treat them differently once they know. Even though it can be scary, most people feel coming out is very important as it means that they can be honest about how they feel and not keep an important part of their life hidden. If you are not sure what your orientation is (gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans) you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust about your feelings. There is no pressure to tell people so don’t feel forced to “come out.” Some people talk about it in their teens, some in their twenties or even older. Choose the time that feels right for you.

Who to tell

When you are first coming out the most sensible option is to tell someone who you trust and who you think will be supportive and understanding. Choose someone who doesn’t gossip or overshares on social media. This person could be a close friend, family member or a trusted adult, such as a teacher or youth worker. It may take you several go’s to have the conversation. Just remember there’s no rush. Tell them when you feel ready.

Coming Out to Friends

Telling friends can provide extra support and can make relationships feel more honest and real. Some friends may not accept it, but real friends will accept you for who you are.
Before coming out to a friend, have a think about the following:
• Decide who you want to tell.
• Bring it up gradually – it might help to drop in references to famous LGBT people or TV characters. This can give you a good idea of who might be a good person to come out to first
• Decide who you can trust not to tell others, unless you want them to.
• It is important when telling a friend to explain that it is your choice to tell others in your own time.
• Be prepared for questions and to explain your decision.
• Make sure you are in a safe, neutral space.
• Be confident about your decision and don’t let others try and talk you out of it.
• Remind them that your sexual orientation / gender identity is only one part of you and that you are still the same person.
• Explain that your friendship doesn’t necessarily have to change

Coming Out to Family

Telling family members can feel especially daunting. It’s important to help them understand that this is a part of you that no-one can change, and that by changing your sexuality or identity you will become the person you really want to be.
– Remember that this might be the first time they have thought of you this way.
– A lot of parents may think that they have done something wrong and blame themselves.
–– Remember that the first reactions you get from family members may not be a true representation of how they’ll feel in the long term.
– Many parents, with time, can become your biggest advocate.

Supporting a friend

If your friend tells you they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans it might come as a surprise at first.
• Don’t make a big deal out of it
• Thank them for trusting you, let them know you won’t tell anyone without their permission
• If someone comes out to you as trans, ask them if they have changed their name and if they want to be known as she or he
• Don’t ask rude or personal questions
• Remind them that you are there for help and support

Will it change things?

Hopefully coming out will change things for the better, as you will not feel that there is a big part of your life that you have to keep secret. Many people describe feeling relieved that they can be open and honest about who they are. You may be surprised how some people respond as many people are more accepting now.
However, there can be a down side to coming out as you may come across people, including friends and family, who are homophobic (prejudiced against people who are LGBTQ+). This might make you feel angry, upset or scared. You might experience discrimination.

This is why it can be helpful to tell a small group of trusted people first, as that way you will feel supported and have people to talk to about how things are going.

Rainbow Youth

Rainbow Youth offers a place where young people can express themselves in a safe environment.
The group offers;rainbow-youth
• Safe space to be yourself
• Advice
• Fun
• Activities
• Social Events
• One to one support
• Support in coming out to friends, family, work or collegeFor further information email or go to @rainbowyouthnl

Some schools and colleges also run LGBT groups for students. Check what offer your school has with an adult in school that you trust.

Relevant pages

Relevant links

Childline – Use the messageboards or speak to someone

Th1rt3en has further information on coming out, terminology and your rights.

Gendered Intelligence has information for transgender young people


International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation

Stonewall – Coming out LGBT Guide

Young Stonewall

Rainbow Youth Group email

School Nursing Telephone: 0800 0199 951 or email: