It’s normal to have sexual feelings. As people pass from childhood to adulthood, their sexual feelings develop and change.
During the teen years, sexual feelings are awakened in new ways because of the hormonal and physical changes of puberty. These changes involve both the body and the mind, and teens tend to wonder about new — and often intense — sexual feelings.
It takes time for many people to understand who they are and who they’re becoming. Part of that understanding includes a person’s sexual feelings and attractions.
The term sexual orientation refers to the gender (that is, male or female) to which a person is attracted. There are several types of sexual orientation that are commonly described:
•Heterosexual. People who are heterosexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex: Heterosexual males are attracted to females, and heterosexual females are attracted to males. Heterosexuals are sometimes called “straight.”
•Homosexual. People who are homosexual are romantically and physically attracted to people of the same sex: Females who are attracted to other females are “lesbian;” males who are attracted to other males are often known as “gay.” The term gay is sometimes also used to describe homosexuals of either gender.
•Bisexual. People who are “bisexual” are romantically and physically attracted to members of both sexes.
Teens — both boys and girls — often find themselves having sexual thoughts and attractions. For some, these feelings and thoughts can be intense — and even confusing or disturbing. That may be especially true for people who are having romantic or sexual thoughts about someone of the same gender. “What does that mean,” they might think. “Am I gay?”
Thinking sexually about both the same sex and the opposite sex is quite common as teens sort through their emerging sexual feelings. This type of imagining about people of the same or opposite sex doesn’t necessarily mean that a person fits into a particular type of sexual orientation.
Some teens may also experiment with sexual experiences, including those with members of the same sex, during the years they are exploring their own sexuality. These experiences, by themselves, do not necessarily mean that a teen is gay or straight.
Do People Choose Their Sexual Orientation?
Most medical professionals believe that sexual orientation involves a complex mixture of biology, psychology, and environmental factors. In most cases — sexual orientation — especially in the adolescent years is fluid and changeable.1
There are lots of opinions and stereotypes about sexual orientation. For example, having a more “feminine” appearance or interest does not mean that a teen boy is gay. And having a more “masculine” appearance doesn’t mean a girl is lesbian. As with most things, making assumptions just based on looks can lead to the wrong conclusion.
It’s likely that all the factors that result in someone’s sexual orientation are not yet completely understood. What is certain is that people, no matter their sexual orientation, want to feel understood, respected, and accepted.
Voices of Change – a website resource for those experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction
References Langstrom N, Rahman Q, Carlstrom E, & Lichtenstein P (2008). Genetic and environmental effects on same-sex sexual behavior: A population study of twins in Sweden. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-008-9386-