What is Sexuality?
Sexuality is the term used to describe how a person expresses their sexual identity. It's about values and emotions and how you feel about yourself as well as about sexual behaviour. It's who you are attracted to and how you choose to express that sexuality.
Sexuality is a complex area of human experience. Sexual identity is not necessarily fixed for life and is dependent on a combination of factors involving our own individual natures. Like many other personality traits it seems to be formed by the time we reach our teenage years, although it may not be until much later that we come to terms with and accept it.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that in the 2009 Integrated Household Survey it found that 480,000 people (1% of the population of the UK) classed themselves as Gay or Lesbian and 245,000 (0.5% of the UK population) described themselves as bisexual. No data was captured on the transgender community.
Coming Out (to yourself)
It can be very scary when you first realise you may be gay. You may be having feelings for members of the same sex but at the same time may not want to be seen as different or may be worried some people might not accept you. Some people are made to feel guilty about their sexuality, as if it is 'wrong' to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender so your emotions can be in turmoil. The important thing to remember is that it is ok.
If you want someone to talk to during this time, the Counselling Service will be happy to help you.
Coming out (to others)
It is important, wherever possible, to choose who to come out to and how to do this and not to feel under pressure to do anything you do not feel comfortable with. One way might be to find sympathetic people to come out to first. There are a number of help lines and agencies as well as the University Counselling Service where you can talk through your thoughts and feelings about this in confidence first.
Some things to consider when you are thinking of coming out:
- Look for sympathetic people to come out to first. Is there someone you know who you would trust to speak to about it first? This can be a big help.
- Do things at your own pace - it's your life and your sexuality. Don't feel you have to tell people until you are ready.
- Everyone doesn't have to know. Your sexuality is your own business. You don't have to share it with people unless you particularly want to.
- Don't be too put off by an initial bad reaction. Many people react badly when they are faced with something that has shocked them.
- Don't assume people are homophobic just because they make anti-gay jokes. Often people haven't really thought it through, and don't do so until someone close to them comes out.
- Sadly the opposite can also be true. Just because people claim to be open minded and accepting of others doesn't mean that they cannot be quite fixed and judgemental in their view of gays and lesbians.
- Choose your medium. If you are worried that someone will be very hostile, writing might give them time to take in the news better.
- Don't feel guilty! Easier said than done - but you don't have to blame yourself if someone reacts badly.
It is common for people at different stages in their lives to be unsure of their sexual identity. Some experiment with different partners in order to come to a decision. Whatever your sexual identity, it is better to wait to have sex until you are sure that you are with the person you really want to have sex with so that you retain respect for both yourself and the other person.
It is important that anyone who is sexually active takes care of their health. The HIV virus now affects all groups of people and not just the gay community as used to be the case; however, gay men must make sure they have a good knowledge of safer sex practices. Gay men should also ensure they are vaccinated against hepatitis B. Remember that you do not need to go to your GP for advice if you are concerned about them knowing about your sexuality. The NHS Choices website and helpline can offer advice and support.
Can I talk to someone at the University?
If you would like to talk through any issues you may have around your sexuality Angela Ramage in Student Services is the person to contact. Angela can offer you advice and support and she can also help you to access other support that may be available.
You can make a confidential appointment with Angela at the information desk on the first floor of the Student Centre, or you can contact her directly on 01642 342266, email email@example.com.
Additional University support
- Health and well-being
information about your health and well-being as a student
the University has a counselling service for any issues you may wish to explore
there may be issues the University Chaplaincy can help you talk through - you can contact Father Andrew Howard, our Chaplain, on 01642 342708, or his mobile 07740 932758
if you need any information and advice specifically around careers you can find out more through our Careers pages.
- Teesside University Students' Union
You can contact the Students’ Union for advice and information on sexuality. A student representative from the Students' Union is part of the University’s sexuality focus group so if you have ideas of what you would like to see the University do then speak to the Students’ Union and let them know your ideas.
- tackling bullying and harassment (word - 32kb)
information and advice if you feel you are being bullied or harassed because of your sexuality or for any other reason.
Networks and Support
- Lesbian and Gay Switchboard
a voluntary organisation which aims to provide a 24 hour information, support and referral service for lesbians and gay men from all backgrounds throughout the UK - 0207 837 7324
the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity
- The Lesbian and Gay Foundation
the LGF is a registered charity fighting for and supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
- BGIOK (Being Gay is Okay)
information and advice for gay, lesbian, bisexual and unsure twenty fives
information for families and friends of lesbians and gays
- Queer Youth Network
the UK's national LGBT youth organisation run by and for all sexualities
- Hate crimes
Middlesbrough's reducing hate crime group aim to provide support to victims of hate incidents and crimes.
Sexual Health and Well-being
- NHS Choices
information from the NHS about sexuality and gay health issues
MESMAC North East works with gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men to increase the range of choices open to them
News and What's On
- Out North East magazine
the north east's premier lgbt news and lifestyle magazine
- North East gay scene
information on the gay scene in the North East
The University and Students’ Union regularly put on LGBT events throughout the year. Recent events include:
- the LGBT history month famous faces campaign
- an evening with Claire Summerskill who came in to talk about her new book 'gateway to heaven'
- the Open Clasp Theatre Company came in to give a production of their play 'Swags and Tails'
- Campus Christmas ball.
If there’s something you would like the University to run then why not talk to either Angela Ramage in Student Services on 01642 342266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively speak to the Students' Union.