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The Difference Between Sexual Orientation and Sexuality?


It is common for members of today’s society to easily confuse the terms of sexuality and sexual orientation. Nowadays, there are many different terms that fit with these categories and discovering and being able to personally identify your own sexuality can become quite complicated. Therefore, it can be rather helpful to be able to identify the differences between the common terms.


The term ‘sexuality’ , widely explained, describes the way in which a person chooses to express themselves. This includes describing how they choose to express their sexuality, and any preferences they have towards the gender(s) of a sexual partner that they choose.


What is sexual orientation?


Sexual orientation is the term that is used to describe who you are attracted to and who you are drawn to romantically and sexually. There are many terms that can describe someone's sexual orientation for example, some people may be attracted to more than one gender, some are not attracted to anyone at all.


Here is a list of the several types of most commonly used sexual orientations; for example:


Heterosexual/Straight- This term describes people who are both romantically and physically attracted to someone who is of the opposite gender to them, such as a man being attracted to a woman and vice versa.


Homosexual/Gay/Lesbian- To identify as homosexual means that you are romantically and physically attracted to someone who is the same gender as you. Women who identify as homosexual are also referred to as lesbian and homosexual men are also often referred to as gay.


Bisexual- Identifying as bisexual is when someone is romantically and sexually attracted to both females and males. More recently however, many people who identify as bisexual have also defined it to include having romantic or sexual attraction to people regardless of their sex or gender identity.


Pansexual- People who identify as pansexual are attracted to any and all genders. This may appear similar to people who identify as bisexual, but it is rather a personal preference that is used and pan-sexual is now often described as a newer label compared to bisexual.


Asexual- Identifying as asexual is described as when someone has a lack of sexual attraction to others and has either low or no interests of desire for sexual activity with others.


What does it mean if i am unsure of my sexual orientation?


Being unsure of your sexual orientation is actually something that is very common within society and affects a lot of people. For some people, being able to come to terms with and understand their sexual orientation can take a long time. Many people try out the different labels to see if any fits with them and may later change to another one if they feel that it suits them better, this is okay too and you don't have to decide on one label. Sexuality is something that can change over time and therefore, you may feel different in the future to how you do now. Some people struggle when expressing their sexual orientation to others and even themselves because of fears such as homophobia and confusion, if you feel this way it is important to know that you are not alone. However, for some people, discovering your sexual orientation may bring a sense of relief and benefit to your mental health.


What can you do?


It is important to develop and show respect for sexual diversity and make sure that you are not discriminatory towards others. Here are some things that you can do to show your support whether that be towards family, friends or work colleagues or even strangers.

  • Educate yourself as well as others: it is important to educate yourself around sexual diversity.

  • Be aware of others actions: look out for inappropriate behaviour from others such as harassment or bullying over someone's sexual orientation and ways you can prevent this. For example, reporting to your boss in the workplace. Sometimes homophobia may be internalised meaning that may LGBTQ+ people struggle with low self-esteem so it may be a good idea to find ways to show that you care.

  • Be supportive: make sure that you are non-judgemental and respectful and listen to people who may want to confide in you.

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