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How do you know if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual? Can you tell what someone’s sexual orientation is just by looking at them?

People determine their sexual orientation through their feelings of attraction and emotional closeness to others. At one point or another, almost everyone questions their orientation, even people who ultimately identify as heterosexual. For many people, this happens during the teen years since this is when people are defining themselves in a variety of areas of life.

Many people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual report that they knew from a young age. Other people report a strong sense of being heterosexual, only to discover later in life that they identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Still others feel confused or don’t choose to define themselves with one of these labels.

Your orientation is yours to define and no one else’s. Take your time. Don’t push yourself to commit to an identity or label. Feel what you feel. You’ll know when it’s time to attach a name to your feelings.

The only way to know how someone identifies in terms of their orientation is to ask them. Obviously, this wouldn’t be appropriate if you didn’t know the person. Each individual has the right to define their own identity, sexual or otherwise.

Lots of times, we judge people based on stereotypes. So we might assume, for example, that a gay man is going to act feminine and a lesbian is going to act masculine. These are really examples of people not conforming to rigid gender expectations. Because of these stereotypes, teens who don’t conform to their gender’s stereotypes are often perceived to be gay or lesbian and face the same harassment as people who are.

What does LGBTQ mean?

LGBTQ stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.” For some, the Q stands for “queer.” Heterosexual,…

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