There are many confusing ideas about what sexuality is, but sexuality is not about how many partners you have sex with, or how often you have sex, or necessarily how you perform. Sexuality is more about your sexual feelings, thoughts and your attractions towards other people. Attraction can be physical, sexual or emotional and they all form part of your sexuality.
The important thing to remember is that sexuality is diverse and very personal, and it is an important part of who you are. Although at times it can be confusing, discovering your sexuality can be empowering and liberating.
Due to explicit and implicit norms about what sexuality means, some people can find themselves discriminated against because of their sexual preferences.
Sexuality comes in many forms
Working out your sexuality can at times be confusing as sexuality is not a carved- in- stone part of our DNA and can change over time. Figuring out what works best for you and discovering a sexuality that you can really identify with can take time and even some experimentation.
There is no right or wrong and you may find yourself attracted to men, women, both or neither, this is about what feels right for you. You may feel overwhelmed by the many labels now given to describe the different types of sexuality. Some people find this helpful and can empower them, whereas others do not feel the need to adhere to a specific label.
Heterosexual and homosexual
People who are attracted to the opposite sex are known as heterosexual or “straight”. The majority of people fall into this category.
Some people are attracted to the same sex. These people are homosexual.
‘Lesbian’ is a term used to describe people who identify as women and are attracted to people of the same sex. ‘Gay’ is a generic term for people who are attracted to the same sex.
Sexuality is more complicated than being straight or gay. Often, people are attracted to both men and women, and are known as bisexual.
Bisexual does not necessarily mean that the attraction is evenly weighted – it is possible to have stronger feelings for one gender than another. And this can vary depending on who they meet.
There are different kinds of bisexuality. Some people who are attracted to men and women still consider themselves to be mainly straight or gay. Or they might have sexual feelings towards both genders but only have intercourse with one.
Sexual attraction is subjective and has many grey areas. Even so, many people find the existing labels to restricting. Other labels that people with give themselves include ‘queer’ or ‘pan’, or ‘pansexual’, to show they are attracted to different kinds of people no matter what their gender, identity or expression.
Due to the many differences between individuals, bisexuality is a general term only.
People who identify as asexual (‘ace’ for short) normally experience very little sexual attraction for anyone.
There is a clear distinction between Asexual and abstinence (where someone chooses not to have sex with anyone, whether they are attracted to them or not). Abstinence is a choice, whereas Asexuality is a clear sexual orientation, like homosexuality or heterosexuality.
A variation of Asexual is Demisexuality, where a person only feels sexually attracted to someone after a strong emotional bond has been formed. Asexuality, like other forms of sexuality, is highly personal and comes in many forms.
Discrimination based on sexuality
Around 6% of Europeans claim to identify with the LBGT movement. In Spain the figure is approximately 6.9%. https://www.yorokobu.es/lgtbiq/
Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right that belongs to all people. Like many European countries, Spain is tolerant of alternative sexualities although discrimination does exist. According to a report by COGAM, an LBGT platform, 46% of LBGT have felt discriminated against in Spain, with 332 cases being reported in 2018. Like most European countries, in Spain it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or lawful sexual activity. However, discrimination can still occur.
If you think you have been discriminated or victimised because of your sexuality in Spain contact the Spanish LBGTI observatory here. http://www.stoplgbtfobia.org/
Mental health and sexuality
According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, LGBTI people have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, homelessness, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, compared with the general population. This is particularly true of young LGBTI people who are coming to terms with their sexuality and experience victimisation and bullying at school.
Specific triggers that can spark mental health issues amongst the LBGTI community include.
- feeling different from other people
- being bullied (verbally or physically)
- feeling pressure to deny or change their sexuality
- feeling worried about coming out, and then being rejected or isolated
- feeling unsupported or misunderstood.
These pressures are on top of all the stuff everyone has to deal with in life and can make finding a sense of identity and having a place in the world so much more complicated.
Struggling with sexuality
If you find you are struggling with your own sexuality:
- Get support if you’re finding it hard to cope. Talk to someone you trust – a friend, relative, doctor or counsellor, or use a helpline.
- Remember, there is no rush to figure out your sexuality. Take your time. And don’t feel pressured to put a label on it.
- If you think you’re gay but you don’t want to ‘come out’, it’s okay.
If you would like to speak to a professional you can find a list of English- speaking counsellors and therapists in Spain here.
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