Sexuality

Understanding sexuality

Everything you need to know about sexuality

Human sexuality is the term that is used to describe how individuals choose to express themselves sexually. In some cases, people break it down into three categories, straight, gay and bisexual which means heterosexual, homosexual and being attracted to people regardless of their gender. These days, however, most psychologists agree that such a tight definition is not useful since people's sexuality tends to be much more nuanced and personal than these three basic categories can ever describe adequately. Sexuality, it should be noted, is distinct from so-called sexual orientation, too. It can include certain things that might turn on one person that does nothing for someone else. Attitudes to it are often shaped by personal experience, religious instruction and social norms as well as innate sexual desire.

 Can sexuality change in our lives?

Many people agree that sexuality is a fluid thing that develops and changes throughout their lives. Even if their preferred sexual orientation does not alter, people can find themselves interested in various forms of sexual behaviour throughout their lives, sometimes trying new things out only to drop them at a later date, for example. There have been some controversial courses in the west that claim to be able to teach people how to alter their sexuality, but these have been largely discredited.

Why is sexuality scary?

Having new sexual feelings and thoughts can come as a surprise, especially if you thought that you knew yourself and such sensations do not comply with your preconceived ideas of yourself. Whenever we are faced with new emotions – whether they are bound up in sex or not – they can cause anxiety. Therefore, being nervous about your developing sexuality is nothing exceptional. Whether you choose to act on your sexual thoughts and desires is another matter but simply feeling that you are a sexual being with a unique palette of tastes should not be viewed as anything other than perfectly normal.

Why is sexuality an important component of your personality?

There are many aspects of our personality that have nothing to do with sexuality, such as how talkative or not we might be. That said, sexuality comes through in many aspects of an individual's personality. For example, people who are outgoing may find that they are more at home expressing their sexual side with others. Shy people may need a greater level of trust before they can be so open. Given that sexuality is a deep part of many animals' make-up – especially among mammals – it is hardly surprising that it impinges on our wider personalities so much.

When is sexuality determined?

There is much debate about when it might be determined because some people think that certain aspects of it are set in childhood. That said, the prevailing view is that people's sense of their own sexuality only comes about at puberty when they start to enter adulthood and begin to turn into sexually reproductive individuals.

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In short, LGBTQ is an umbrella term for various groups of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identities – among other things. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. The term LGBT has been widely used since the 1980s. However, the Q was added from the late 1990s to include people that were questioning their sexual or gender identity in some way. When gay rights activists began their activities in the 1970s and 80s, the 'gay movement' was the most common term. However, as other groups began to get involved with it, this term seemed out-of-date and not inclusive enough, hence the adoption of LGBT and later LGBTQ. The movement celebrates diversity in gender and sexuality, often organising so-called pride events in major cities around the globe.
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