What is Sexual Orientation?
The word sexual orientation describes a person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted. Therefore the fact of being heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc. is your sexual orientation. Below you'll find the definitions of these words.
Heterosexual (Straight): Being heterosexual means that you are sexually attracted to members of genders other than your own, but not for those of the same gender as you.
Bisexual (Bi): Being bisexual means you are romantically and/or sexually attracted to two or more genders. Bisexuals can have a preference. Some argue that bisexual means attraction to exactly two genders, such as men and women (but not nonbinary people), but this is not a common definition.
Polysexual: Similar to bisexual and pansexual, however, poly-sexuals like two or more genders, but not all genders. For example, noma-sexuality, which is attraction to all people but men, is under the polysexual umbrella.
Bi-curious: Being curious about both genders and/or not having enough experience to determine what sexuality you are.
Homosexual (Gay): Being homosexual means that you are sexually attracted to members of the same sex and you don’t have sexual or romantic feelings for the opposite sex.
Pansexual: Being pansexual means you are attracted to all genders. Pansexuals are attracted to men, women, and those outside of the gender binary. A common part of pansexuality is being “gender blind”; attracted to people regardless of what their gender is. For example, a bisexual person might be more sexually attracted to men than nonbinary people, and not attracted to women, but a pansexual person would not consider gender relevant to their sexual attraction at all.
Asexual (Ace): Being asexual means you have no sexual attraction for any genders. Asexual people may still want a romantic or sexual relationship, and may even still enjoy sex, but do not experience sexual attraction.
Aromantic: Aromantics experience no romantic attraction. They may still experience sexual attraction.
Also we would like to explain the abbreviation LGBT+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. The plus + stands for the inclusion of other sexual minorities into the community, for example pansexuals.
To find out your sexual orientation, that means to determine whether or not you're heterosexual, homosexual, etc., please refer to the questions: Am I gay, straight, in between? and What does transgender mean?
How many people are LGBT+?
There are many different studies and guesses regarding this question. Most suggest a number between 3% and 10% of the overall population. We've taken a look at various source and have created good estimates of the LGBT+ population in example areas.
Worldwide: As multiple studies confirm, the best estimates for the global LGBT+ population lay at about a quarter billion people. According to our calculation, the number is about 266 million.
Per country: As can be found in our informational paper There's a cure, we currently only have trustworthy estimates for the US and the European Union. In the US, experts estimate 9 million LGBT+ people (that equals 3.5%). In Germany for example, the estimated number is more than double at 7.4%.
Per city: We have taken a look at several big cities in the US and have found out that San Francisco has the biggest percentage of LGBT+ people with 15.4% (which equals 94,234 people). San Francisco is followed by these cities: Seattle (12.9% or 57,993 people), Atlanta (12.8% or 39,805 people), Minneapolis (12.5% or 34,295 people) and Boston (12.3% or 50,450 people).
Am I gay, straight, in between?
Figuring out your sexuality can be very difficult. But please remember, under all circumstances, you are not alone. There are about 120 million teens worldwide struggling with their sexual orientation and identity. To make things a little bit easier for you, we've collected some useful tips.
- Fantasizing about members of the same gender does not necessarily mean you are gay
- Having a homosexual encounter does not necessarily mean you are gay either
- Not liking people of genders other than your own doesn't mean you're sexually attracted to the those of the same gender
- Keep in mind that your sexual orientation isn't a choice: you are that way
- Be clear with definitions (See What is Sexual Orientation?) and understand there isn't necessarily a label matching how you feel
Now you've read several thing that don't always make you gay, but what does and how do I find out then? Well, there's only one thing that makes you gay: being attracted solely to your own gender.
There's no one except for yourself who answer that question, but we can provide you with a few questions you can ask yourself to make it easier to find out.
- Who do you think is more attractive, guys or girls - who do you rather gaze after?
- Do you rather catch yourself crushing on guys or girls?
- When masturbating, who do you think of? Guys or girls?
We would like to stress that if you identify as LGBT+, that's who you are and there's no reason for anyone to put you down. Still, if you feel like wanting to talk to someone, please reach out to us. We're always happy to help.
What is a coming out?
Coming out is a process of accepting one-self that happens within the lives of many LGBT+ individuals. It is usually broken down into two parts:
- Realizing you're LGBT+ (Am I gay, straight, in between?)
- Coming out
For some, this process takes place at the age of eleven, while others are only clear about their sexual orientation when they are 40 or older.
Most LGBT+ people though have their coming-out at school age, around the time of puberty. At this age, many do not dare to ask for help from others, especially when they realize that their affection isn’t socially accepted. For this reason, the existence of LGBT+ youth groups etc. is of utmost importance.
"Coming out is such a relief and an end to your soul’s self-destruction while being closeted. Coming out isn’t for your friends, nor parents nor anyone - except for yourself."
Some people easily accept LGBT+ life settings. For others, it can be a long and arduous journey. But nobody has to go through this alone. There are more guys and girls on the go, who feel the same way you do, than some people think.
Nevertheless it is important that nobody can be reduced to his sexuality. Being gay, being lesbian, being bisexual is just one of many things that make you a person. One should not forget that!
Much has been accomplished if you can admit to yourself without hesitation, "I’m gay / lesbian / bi /..." Only then comes the clarifying conversation with other people, most likely with the best friends.
- Everybodyis afraid of that, right?
- What will the others say?
- Does this end the friendship and the others withdraw?
In fact, something that bad happens, but very rarely. The person who really is your best friend will remain precisely that even after coming out, since this person will have understood one thing: you stay you - they only know more about you.
It can be more difficult, however, when one is about to approach his parents with the truth. Very few people think about the fact that one’s coming out is a big surprise to his parents - many of them are completely overwhelmed with it. They can then easily be very hostile and hurtful or react with grief and reproach. Often, parents have a very distorted image of gays and lesbians, as well as great fear of "the people's" reactions.
In this case, it is important to give parents time to get used to this unexpected side of their son or their daughter. Unfortunately, there is no standard recipe, but any information helps to correct prejudices and stereotypes.
There are, however, also to be mentioned here, quite a few parents who react with absolute ease, and have no problem with the gay or lesbianism of their own child.
How your parents react - you can assess that best yourself. Sometimes, general responses to the subject of homosexuals ("Again, these gays on TV!") are an indication of how they might respond to your coming out. On the other hand, the reaction can also be quite different (namely, unexpectedly positive) when their own child is suddenly affected and the parents become aware of what they have been saying - sometimes over years - and how their son or daughter must have felt about it.
Can I have a long-lasting relationship?
You can easily overhear that gays and other LGBT+ people have sex with everyone and don't want a permanent relationship. This isn't at all true, since many gays, when asked about dreams for their future, wish to have a long-lasting permanent relationship. Whether you can or cannot maintain a long-lasting relationship solely depends on yourself or your partner, not on your sexual orientation.
How does (safe) sex work?
Since this is a website and paper about LGBT+ individuals and their lives, we have mainly focused on male and female homosexual sex. The people engaging in sexual practices are categorized below under the following abbreviations. We are aware that by using these categories we are not taking into credit the existence of gender queer people.
- MSM, men who have sex with men
Read more on Gay Sex
- MSW, men who have sex with women
Wikipedia on Sexual Intercourse
- WSW, women who have sex with women
Read more on Lesbian Sex
We would like to point out, that in 72 of 193 countries same-sex relationships and sex are illegal. In eight countries, the death penalty is either allowed by law or evidence of its existence occurs.
Also it is important to stress, that meeting people online for sex or dating on apps and websites like Grindr doesn't come without risks. While we don't want to tell you not to use these services, you shouldn't let your guard down when doing so.
1. Gay Sex (Wikipedia)
Historically, people have seen homosexual intercourse as solely anal sex, which is still popularly associated with male homosexuality and MSM. A relevant number of MSM, however, do not engage in anal sex.
We have listed the most common gay sex practices below.
- Oral Sex (O) is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a person by another person using the mouth (including the lips, tongue or teeth) or throat. Wikipedia
- Mutual masturbation (N), also called manual intercourse, usually involves the manual stimulation of genitals by two or more people who stimulate themselves or one another. Wikipedia
- Anal Sex (P) is generally the insertion and thrusting of the erect penis into a person's anus and rectum. Wikipedia
- Frottage (N), translated "to rub" is a non-penetrative form of male to male sexual activity that usually involves direct penis-to-penis contact. Wikipedia
- Intercrural sex (N) is a type of non-penetrative sex, in which a male places the penis between the receiving partner's thighs and thrusts to create friction. Wikipedia
As you can see, the different sexual practices each have an uppercase letter in brackets. This letter shows you the risk (STD infection) of engaging in the respective act in an unprotected manner.
- N (very low risk): These practices are non-penetrative forms of sex, which come with a very low risk of STD infection, if there aren't any visible symptoms.
- O (low risk): Oral Sex is generally safe. Any STD that could be transmitted through oral sex produces visible lesions.
- P (high risk): Any wound in the area surrounding the anus can act as doors, allowing easy access to pathogens that could infect the damaged area, or to viruses and bacteria responsible for STDs.
So, now the we know the dangers, how do we stay safe:
- Watch out for visible symptoms
- Use condoms
2. Lesbian Sex (Wikipedia)
Popular lesbian sexual practices include the following:
- Oral Sex is sexual activity involving the stimulation of the genitalia of a person by another person using the mouth (including the lips, tongue or teeth) or throat. Wikipedia
- Nipple stimulation or breast stimulation is a common human sexual practice, either by oneself or as part of other sexual activities. The practice may be performed upon, or by, people of any gender or sexual orientation. It often initiates and enhances sexual arousal. Wikipedia
- Mutual masturbation, also called manual intercourse, usually involves the manual stimulation of genitals by two or more people who stimulate themselves or one another. Wikipedia
Like most sexual activity, lesbian sexual activities carry risks of STDs, such as genital herpes or other pathogenic infections. When lesbian sexual activity is of a non-penetrative nature, the risk of exchange of bodily fluids is generally lower and therefore the incidence of transmission of sexually transmitted infections is also relatively low.
How can I meet other LGBT+ people?
It is incredibly important to meet other people facing similar challenges. For this reason, we've collected several options for you to meet other LGBT+ individuals.
The most straightforward one is, of course, visiting an LGBT+ youth group or something similar. Other methods involve meeting people online, where we feel we should stress, one, the dangers to your privacy and second, the physical dangers when meeting people you got to know online in real life. So please watch out for risks and quit any situation you feel uncomfortable in.
Hence, our best recommendation is for you to Google something like "gay youth group [nearest city]".
What is LGBT+ pride?
Gay pride is a worldwide movement and philosophy that wants lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) individuals to be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT+ pride advocates work for equal rights and benefits for LGBT+ people. The movement has three main premises:
- that people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity
- that sexual diversity is a gift
- and that sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered
Pride parades, also known as pride marches, pride events, and pride festivals, are events celebrating LGBT+ culture and pride. The events also at times serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage. Most pride events occur annually, and many take place around June, which is also called Pride month, to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, a pivotal moment in modern LGBT+ social movements.
Are there only two genders?
Traditionally, gender has meant either male or female. Today the so-called gender spectrum allows for more genders outside the binary of male and female. Gender is the collection of behaviors, dress, attitudes, etc., culturally assigned to people according to their biological sex. However, there is really a range of genders, including male and female, but also including genderqueer or gender ambiguous, butch (man or woman), femme (man or woman), transgender (sometimes considered a gender), and many others.
What does transgender mean?
You've probably heard of the words transgender, transsexual, and transvestite. But what do they mean or are they all the same? First of all, they don't mean the same. Before we begin explaining what each word means, we must show the difference between biological sex and gender identity.
- Biological sex is a physical condition, identified at birth by one's primary sex characteristics.
- Gender identity is a combination of one's personal internal recognition of the gender that is one's own, the degree to which that internal recognition conforms or fails to conform to one's biological sex, and how one desires to be recognized by others: as male, female, or genderqueer.
Also it is important to clarify that transgender, transsexual, and transvestite people may have any sexual orientation.
- Transgender is an umbrella term referring to people whose gender identity differs from the social expectations for the biological sex identified as theirs at birth (using primary sex characteristics). Since these social expectations include gender roles (feminine women and masculine men), people who do not conform to prescribed gender roles may be considered part of the transgender community. A transgender person may or may not ever choose to become transsexual.
- Transsexual refers to a person who experiences a mismatch of the body and the brain and sometimes undergoes medical treatment, including hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery, to change physical sex to match gender identity.
- Crossdressers also known as transvestites are people who like to dress in the clothing of the gender identity opposite to that considered socially appropriate to their biological sex. Most crossdressers are content with their own biological sex and gender identity. Therefore they do not want to be the other biological sex or to be another gender.
What causes being LGBT+?
The causes of being LGBT+ haven't been totally uncovered up to this point in time, but most studies suggest a biological component. We can also be quite sure that your orientation is established early in the life cycle and can only be discovered rather than chosen.
Studies suggest that sexual orientation has a biological and genetic component, and may also be influenced by prenatal factors, such as endocrinological levels in the womb. Some advanced research on the roots of sexual orientation includes studies of brain anatomy, animal studies, finger print studies, hormonal (androgen) studies, cochlea studies, DNA studies, and studies of twins, siblings, and extended family.
Like heterosexuals, people of other sexual orientation do not choose, but rather discover it in the process of maturing. Acceptance of LGBT+ people and information about homosexuality does not cause any heterosexual to become gay, just as oppression of and discrimination against gay people does not cause them to become any more heterosexual.
A famous theory was the belief that homosexuality was caused by a dominant mother and a weak or absent father. But research has found this to not be anything more than a theory. While a deeper understanding of the biological reasons for being LGBT+ could help acceptance, it shouldn't be necessary for inclusion and respect towards people feeling different regardless of why they are the respective way.
Can being LGBT+ be cured?
Since homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. is not a disease or disorder, it cannot be cured.
Therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation is referred to as reparative, conversion or aversion therapy. The American Psychiatric Association states that there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy to change sexual orientation, and that there is no evidence that any treatment can change a homosexual person's deep seated feelings for others of the same sex. Their publication continues by saying that groups who try to change the orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help. They ensure readers that homosexuality does not require treatment and is not changeable.
What is Homophobia?
Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT+). It has been defined as contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred, or antipathy, may be based on irrational fear, and is often related to religious beliefs.
Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientations that are non-heterosexual. Recognized types of homophobia include institutionalized homophobia, e.g. religious homophobia and state-sponsored homophobia, and internalized homophobia, experienced by people who have same-sex attractions, regardless of how they identify.
- Between 2008 and 2014, 1,612 trans people were murdered across 62 countries - equivalent to a killing every two days.
- A quarter of the world’s population believes that being LGBT+ should be a crime, that equals about 1.9 billion people.
- 37% of all countries (72 of 193) criminalize same-sex relationships. In eight of 193 countries people are being murdered for their sexual orientation.
- All over the world, even for example in the US or Germany, so-called youth protection laws which violate human dignity by arbitrarily generalizing maturity and mental state by age, are in place and endanger the confidential and secure access to information for LGBT+ youth. Also they for example try to prevent youth from online meeting and dating which is of big importance, especially for young LGBT+ people.
- 24% of patient-facing staff have heard colleagues make negative remarks about lesbian, gay or bi people.
- 20% have heard similar disparaging remarks about trans people.
- 9% health and social care staff are aware of colleagues experiencing discrimination or poor treatment because they are trans.
- 26% of lesbian, gay and bi staff say they have personally experienced bullying or poor treatment from colleagues in the last five years as a result of their sexual orientation.
- 20% of LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months.
- 40% of trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.
- The number of lesbian, gay or bisexual people who have experienced a hate crime or incident in the last year because of their sexual orientation has risen by 78% since 2013.
- 80% of LGBT+ people who have experienced a hate crime or incident didn’t report it to the police.
- 10% of LGBT+ people have experienced anti-LGBT abuse online directed towards them personally in the last month. This increases to 25% for trans people directly experiencing transphobic abuse online in the last month.
- 19% of lesbian, gay and bi employees have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years.
- 13% of lesbian, gay and bi employees would not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace.
- 26% of lesbian, gay and bi workers are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation.
- 42% of trans people are not living permanently in their preferred gender role stated they are prevented from doing so because they fear it might threaten their employment status.
- 10% of trans people experienced being verbally abused and 6% were physically assaulted at work. As a consequence of harassment and bullying, a quarter of trans people will feel obliged to change their jobs.
In education: (Measured only in the UK)
- 45% of LGBT+ people - including 64% of trans pupils - are bullied for being LGBT+. This is down from 55% of lesbian, gay and bi pupils who experienced bullying because of their sexual orientation in 2012 and 65% in 2007.
- 50% of LGBT+ people hear homophobic slurs ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ at school.
- 70% of LGBT+ pupils report that their school says that homophobic and biphobic bullying is wrong, up from 50% in 2012 and 25% in 2007.
- However, just 40% of LGBT+ students report that their schools say that transphobic bullying is wrong.
- Just 20% of LGBT+ pupils have been taught about safe sex in relation to same-sex relationships.
- More than 80% of trans young people have self-harmed, as 60% of lesbian, gay and bi young people who aren’t trans.
- More than 40% of young trans people have attempted to take their own life, as have 20% of lesbian, gay and bi students who aren’t trans.
- 70% of soccer fans who’ve attended a match have heard or witnessed homophobia on the terraces.
- 10% of LGBT+ people who attended a live sporting event in the last year experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
- 60% of fans believe anti-gay abuse from fans dissuades gay professional players from coming out.
- Over 50% of football fans think the soccer associations are not doing enough to tackle anti-gay abuse.
- 17% of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people have experienced and 49% have witnessed homophobia or transphobia in sports.
- 66% of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people felt that there were problems with homophobia and transphobia in sports and that this acted as a barrier to LGBT+ people taking part.
- 12% of LGBT+ people avoid going to the gym or participating in sports groups because of fear of discrimination and harassment.
- There are many religious people who say that being LGBT+ is a choice (science has proven it’s not) or a sin.
If you have or do experience homophobia or fear you might encounter homophobia in the future, feel free to talk to us.
What is heterosexism?
Heterosexism is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual.
It is a form of oppression that targets gays, lesbians, and bisexual people. Heterosexism confers rights and privileges to heterosexual people that are denied to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. This is revealed through personal behaviors (telling 'faggot' jokes, putting up graffiti, and/or offering verbal and physical harassment), and discriminatory policies, such as denial of health, retirement, and housing benefits. In addition, mainstream media provide few characterizations of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people, and these few are usually stereotypes.
Do parents make their kids LGBT+?
Research has shown that children of lesbian or gay parents are no more likely to become gay or lesbian than children of heterosexual parents. This simply supports the fact that nothing 'makes' a person gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Same-sex couples are just as capable of raising a child as are heterosexual couples.
Who can I ask for help?
It is very important that you seek help if you are facing issues. Form here, there are three possibilities to get help. We've listed them below.
You may also ask further questions in anonymous online forums or something similar.
Where can I learn more?
You may learn more about various topics regarding being LGBT+, culture, rights etc at many different sources. These include:
- Search Google for a Specific Question
- Search Google for General Information
- Read Wikipedia: LGBT portal
- Read There's a cure by FAQ.lgbt
Problems when searching for information:
When using the internet to find further information on LGBT+ topics, please check the internet connection and device you are using, since you want to keep the right of coming out to yourself and do it when you're ready, not have it happen when someone (your teacher, parent, relative, ...) is stalking your search history.
- Check the device for "youth protection" software
If you find some software like this, please either don't use the device or factory-reset it to be sure.
- Check the connection for e.g. Proxy Software
This software monitors all your activity and keeps logs. Don't use this connection. You may use e.g. cellular data instead.
- Check the environment for prying eyes
If you don't want to be outed watch out for people looking over your shoulder, especially in public spaces.
Information collected and organized by FAQ.lgbt:
The informational paper There's a cure: Acceptance was developed by the FAQ.lgbt authors for collecting and organizing important information regarding young LGBT+ individuals.
If you have individual issues or any questions that this paper doesn't cover, feel free to talk to us.