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Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality

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How do people find out their sexual orientation?

Many people first become aware of their orientation during the preteen and teen years. For example, a heterosexual man may have first experienced romantic feelings when he was in early puberty, having a crush on a girl in his class. And many gay and lesbian people were first attracted to members of their own gender during these early years.

During the teen years, same-sex "crushes" are common. Some teens may experiment sexually with someone of their own sex. But these early experiences don't necessarily mean a teen will be gay as an adult.

For some teens, though, same-sex attractions do not fade. They grow stronger.

Remember: You're not alone

The pressure and stress caused by feeling alone and sad can lead to depression, a very serious problem. Depression can lead to suicide. Teens with depression are at particularly high risk for suicide and suicide attempts.

If you are gay, it's important to realize that there are lots of people just like you. They have the same problems, emotions, and questions that you have, whether you have made your homosexuality known or are still hiding the fact that you are gay.

It can be very comforting and helpful to talk to people who know what you're going through. You can find such people through local or online groups. If you don't know where to find support, ask:

  • Your doctor.
  • Your school counselor or trusted teacher.
  • A therapist or other counselor.
  • LGBT friends or relatives.
  • LGBT clubs and organizations in your community.
  • Churches that welcome LGBT members.
  • Websites and online organizations. You can find a list of such organizations on the website for PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at www.pflag.org.

Why is it important to understand stress and know how to cope with it?

Stress is a fact of life. Most of us have periods of stress at various times in our lives. But extra stress can have a serious effect on your health, especially if it lasts for a long time.

People who are still keeping their sexual orientation a secret may be worried about being found out and about what might happen if others knew. It can be very stressful to have to hide a big secret, especially one about who you really are. Rejection, discrimination, fear, and confusion cause long-term stress in many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Constant stress can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, so that you have a harder time fighting off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer. And you may not do well at work or school.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 25, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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