During puberty, you have lots of emotions and sexual feelings. It’s normal for girls to think about girls in a sexual way, and for boys to think about boys in a sexual way.
Some people realise that they prefer people of the opposite sex, while others feel that they prefer people of the same sex. Some people realise that they're gay later in life, and some know it from an early age.
You don’t choose your sexuality, it chooses you. No one knows what makes people gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. If you’re attracted to people of the same sex, this is normal and you deserve to be with someone you love.
What if I'm gay, lesbian or bisexual?
It can help to talk to other people who are going through the same thing. Find out if there's a young men’s or women’s group in your area for lesbian, gay or bisexual people. These groups might be advertised in the phone book, at GP surgeries, sexual health or contraceptive clinics, pharmacies, youth groups, local papers or on the internet.
Find sexual health services, including contraceptive clinics, near you.
Should I tell anyone I think I'm gay?
This is up to you. Being gay, lesbian or bisexual is normal, but some people don’t understand this. Telling people that you're gay, lesbian or bisexual is known as 'coming out'. You can read about coming out, and find out about the things to consider before you decide whether to tell people.
What about sex if I'm gay?
We all have the same feelings and anxieties about sex, whether we’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. Deciding when you’re ready to have sex is a big step, whoever your potential partner might be.
It’s a huge decision, but only you can make it. Although there's a legal age of consent, that’s not necessarily the right age for you to start having sex. There are no rules about how long you have to be going out with someone before you do it.
Everyone is ready at different times, but don't have sex just because your mates or your boyfriend or girlfriend are pressuring you. Find out about dealing with peer pressure and why it's OK to say no.
You can also read 'Are you ready for sex?' to find out 10 things to ask yourself if you're thinking about having sex.
If you think the time is right, talk to your partner about needing to use contraception, having safer sex, picking the right time, and how you would both like the experience to be.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can pass from girls to girls and boys to boys, as well as between girls and boys.
Pregnancy and STIs with someone of the same sex
If you’re having sex with someone of the same sex, there's no risk of pregnancy, but you can still get or pass on STIs. Boys should always wear a condom if they have oral or anal sex. Girls should use a dam (a square of very thin, soft plastic) over their genitals during oral sex. If you're using sex toys, cover them with a condom and use a new condom for each partner.
Make sure that you know about all the methods of contraception, whether you have sex with males or females, in case you also have straight sex. It’s better to be prepared with contraception than to put yourself at risk. Always use condoms to prevent STIs.
How to get free condoms
You can get free condoms from a sexual health, community contraceptive or young persons clinic and some GPs, even if you're under 16. Find your nearest clinic.
You can also buy condoms from pharmacies and supermarkets. Remember, only use condoms with the CE mark. This means that they've been tested to high European safety standards. Condoms without the CE mark aren't safe, so don’t use them.
How to cope if you're bullied for being gay
Some people don’t understand that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is normal. Nobody has the right to tell someone else how to live their life, or to pick on them because of who they’re attracted to. If someone bullies you because you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, it’s their problem, not yours, and they shouldn’t get away with it. This is called homophobic bullying.
Bullying can take many forms, including stares, looks, whispers, threats and violence. If you’re being bullied because you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, tell someone you trust. This could be a teacher, friend, your parents or a helpline.
Schools have a legal duty to ensure that homophobic bullying is dealt with. For advice, read Where to find help if you’ve been bullied. You’ll find information about talking to teachers and parents, and the contact details of anti-bullying organisations and helplines.
You can find out more about dealing with homophobic bullying on these websites:
EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia)
This is a charity for young people and adults affected by homophobia. It has a helpline for young people, and for parents or teachers who want to report homophobic bullying. Call Actionline for free on 0808 1000 143 on weekdays, 10am-4pm.
Stonewall: Education for All
Stonewall is a charity that campaigns for equal rights for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Its Education for All campaign tackles homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools across the UK. On the website, you can find case studies, facts and figures about homophobic bullying in schools, and advice for young people and teachers.
Talking to someone who is understanding will always help if you have worries or questions because you'll feel supported and more confident.