Realising you’re gay or lesbian is an experience that’s different for everyone. Some people say they’ve always known they were homosexual, and some only realised when they fell in love with someone of the same sex. Others end up being utterly confused about their sexuality.
Once you’ve realised that you’re homosexual, you could be happy about it, or it could upset you – usually depending on your upbringing, surroundings and circumstances. If you feel unhappy and confused, you’re certainly not the only one! But there’s nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian. And there’s nothing wrong with you and how you feel.
If you live in a country where homosexuality is legal and accepted in society, you may want to 'come out'. You let the people around you know you’re gay or lesbian and then you don’t have to pretend to the world that you’re different from the way you really are.
But in some parts of the world, gays and lesbians have to keep their sexual orientation secret. However, everywhere in the world there are gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and they have contact with each other, or are part of a homosexual community, even though it may be very secretive.
Homosexuality and bisexuality are surrounded by myths and clichés. Among the myths is the idea that being gay is an illness or contagious and that it can be ‘cured’. There’s simply no evidence to show this is true.
Just as untrue are the clichés that all gay men are effeminate (or all effeminate men are gay), that all lesbian women are tomboys, and that bisexual people are just sex-crazed.
To say that homosexuality is seen differently in different parts of the world is putting it mildly. Cultural and personal attitudes to homosexuality vary widely. Some people, usually for religious or traditional reasons, see same-sex relationships as shameful or sinful. But others say that being religious and gay is not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, gay and lesbian people can face prejudice and discrimination, hatred and violence. In many countries, being gay is even illegal.
On the other hand, many people all over the world see homosexuality as just a normal part of life. In many places, homosexuality is no longer illegal – although you might still need to be rather thick-skinned to openly live together as a gay couple – and finally, gay marriage is becoming legalised in an increasing number of countries.
So, what remains? Be proud of yourself and your sexuality! For a start, ‘coming in’ – that’s the time when you first make contact with other gays and lesbians – can be a really important moment. It can be a great experience to see you’re not the only one!
And then there are the pride parades happening each year in different cities all over the world. The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community gets together to march for gay rights, make their voices heard and – just as important – throw a huge, colourful party.