Common questions about sexuality
How can SHine SA help me?
SHine SA advocates on many different levels for equal rights and opportunities for the GLBTIQ communities. We work in partnership with many community groups and agencies so we have good contacts to refer to if we are unable to help you, we also welcome new partnerships so if you'd like to know more about how we can work together please contact your nearest SHine SA Team.
SHine SA also offers a range of services that try to meet the needs of people of diverse sexualities and gender (clinics, counselling, community education, professional education, books, videos, health promotion and the Sexual Healthline, training of professionals on homophobia).
How do you know if you're gay, lesbian or bisexual?
You don't have to be sexually active with someone of the same sex to identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Having dreams or fantasies of same-sex sex doesn't necessarily mean that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual.So how do you know? People have different experiences of coming out to themselves,some talk about knowing all along, some identified much later in life. It can be important to take your time - who are you attracted to? Who do you love? Who could you love? You don't have to label yourself today or ever.
I am not sure about my sexuality.
I have felt attracted to a girl but I do not think I am a lesbian or even bisexual - that is just not what I want to call myself. I am quite confused about why I feel the way I do / not sure how to think about it. I have kissed a girlfriend of mine once but surely that does not make me a lesbian?
Many people experience same-sex-attraction at some time in their life or experiment with/try out new sexual experiences with people of the same sex. In some ways this is considered quite a common or 'natural' life experience. While some people work out that their sexual preference is not for people of the same sex, others may move in and out of times in their life where that really suits them. Yet again, some people can be very clear that they are just same sex attracted, even identifying with certain sexuality or identity categories like 'lesbian' or 'bisexual' (i.e. attracted to both sexes, male and female). Basically, it can mean different things for different people.
These days, there are increasing numbers of people who wish to keep 'free' of fixed labels or categories, not being tied down to 'hetero, homo, or bi-sexual' identities but instead choosing something else, 'whatever', 'queer', 'non-heterosexual, or same-sex attracted'. It is up to you!
What can get in the way of choosing a way to describe your sexual preferences or identity can often be things like: peer pressure, harassment or exclusion/ bullying or fear of being seen as 'different', due to homophobia and the dominance of heterosexual ways of being. It is important to find safe ways to talk about your experiences or explore what you like, and don't like, to find out what suits you best.
Workers at different agencies can help by supporting and listening, or can point you in the right direction for resources (e.g. books, groups) and other services (e.g. phone line or groups and networks). These supports can help reduce confusion or isolation and provide a positive alternative to the message out there that says 'what you are doing is wrong'!
Sexuality can be seen as fluid or changing, from day to day, year to year, even moment to moment. It can be influenced by so many things. It is not just about who we kiss or have sex with but also how we see ourselves and how we feel and more! This means it is a resource for living and there to be celebrated and enjoyed. SHine SA can help keep a focus on these things rather than just being drawn to see your sexuality as a big problem in its own right.
What makes people gay?
At SHine SA we believe that while there are many factors that can affect our sexuality, same-sex attraction is a natural expression of human diversity. It's interesting that you rarely hear people looking for a cause for heterosexuality.
When should I 'come out'?
Coming out refers to telling others about your sexuality. It is not something that just happens once as at different stages in your life there may be different people to 'come out' to and some will be easier than others. There is no easy answer to this question. Safety should always be at the top of your mind. If you choose to come out, think about how it will happen.Who will you come out to? Where will you do it? Will you be safe after you've come out? Having a coping strategy and a support network can provide a safety net if the person you come out to doesn't respond positively.
Some people come out to a practice audience using a trusted friend or family member or SHine SA worker. There is no set timeline or method to come out. The benefits and costs have to be weighed up by the individual before taking any further steps. As with any important decision, it pays to get as much info as possible - SHine SA has lots of information and workers that can support you or refer you to groups that may help.
Remember it's your choice and you don't have to come out to anyone.
What does intersex mean?
Intersex is a medical (genetic) condition where an infant is born with reproductive organs and/or sex chromosones that are not exclusively male or female.
What does transgender mean?
A broad term which can be used to describe a wide range of different relationships to gender, including cross-dressing (transvestism) and exploring the boundaries of gender in a variety of ways. Some people who experience transsexualism choose to identify as transgender while others do not.
What does transsexual mean?
A term for a condition where an individual is born with reproductive organs that are incongruent with their sense of gender identity (i.e. born anatomically male but identify as female, or vice versa). They may take steps to transition to their preferred gender identity through surgery or hormones.
Why does SHine SA support these communities?
How you feel about your sexuality affects your self esteem and your sexual health. Its important that people live in safe and supportive environments to be healthy and this is often difficult for people who are not heterosexual.
SHine SA recognises that these communities face unique barriers in accessing support and services from a range of institutions and agencies as well as having to deal with homophobia, harassment and violence.
This is why SHine SA does not just work with GLBTIQ individuals but also with agencies and community groups through offering workshop on ways to challenge homophobia and make health and education settings more welcoming and supportive.