Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Counselling and Disability Service

Sexuality

Image of Stones

In its broadest sense sexuality describes the whole way a person goes about expressing themselves as a sexual being. It describes how important sexual expression is in a person's life; how they choose to express that sexuality and any preference they may have towards the type of sexual partner they choose. Every survey of human sexual behaviour reveals that there is a huge variety of sexual expression - the way we choose to behave sexually is usually as individual and as complicated as the ways we choose to dress or to earn a living. Human sexuality rarely falls into neat categories or lends itself to simple labelling. Human sexuality is a rich and complex area of human experience. Authors, artists, poets, philosophers and composers have worked to explore sexuality from earliest times without coming up with any enduring answers.

In recent times however, the word sexuality has come to also have a more limited meaning. Sexuality is now often defined by whether the gender of the sexual partners we choose is the same as our own or different. Some feel this more restrictive definition can create problems since it attempts to fit a complex, subtle experience into simple categories: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, Heterosexual etc. However it also offers solutions since it can give people who do not feel they share the major assumptions of the dominant heterosexual mainstream the voice, pride and sense of validation that comes from discovering an identity and a shared experience with others.

A hot debate has endured over recent years about why people's sexuality differs. Many theories have been put forward - citing genetic predetermination, childhood influences and peer-pressure amongst other reasons. However, attempts to find a single cause for individual's choices of sexual orientation have not been successful. Nor have attempts to influence or change individual's sexuality. Like many of our other characteristics, sexuality seems to be largely a chance product of our individual nature which is then further developed by our early interactions. Like many other personality traits, our sexuality seems to be formed by the time we reach teenage - although it may be many years later before we each understand and accept our sexuality. The University counsellors are happy to help explore any issues you may wish to bring about your gender or identity and to support you in this.

On the rest of this page, we look at sexuality predominantly in terms of the choices which face those who feel convinced they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. However, this is not the only way of viewing your sexuality, so don't feel obliged to categorise yourself this way if it does not feel right to you! Those who are interested in more information about human sexuality and about general books on the subject may find the Sexual problems section of our Relationship Page helpful.

Coming Out to Yourself

Before you can come out to anyone else, you have to come out to yourself. There is no hard and fast rule when this happens. Some people are certain of their sexuality from a very young age; for others it can happen much later in life. Accepting the conclusion that one is gay, lesbian or bisexual hopefully is easier nowadays than it has been in the past. Attitudes are somewhat more accepting and there are now more people living openly gay and lesbian lives than there has been in the recent past. Loughborough University in particular seeks to offer a supportive environment to students of all sexual orientation, and the Student Union is active in offering support to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual students and in challenging homophobic (anti-gay and lesbian) attitudes. However the decision to come out to yourself can still be a very scary one and can be a period of upheaval and uncertainty. If you want someone to talk to during this time, the University Counselling Service will be happy to help you as will LLGBTA - The Loughborough Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Association in the Students Union - llgbta@lboro.ac.uk . There is also the Gay and Lesbian switchboard. Contacts below. 

Coming Out to Others

Families often have detailed plans for their children and can be very upset when it becomes clear that not all their hopes are going to be realised. Similarly friends and other groups may have their own very definite opinions or prejudices. It is important that you come out to people who will validate and celebrate your new found sexuality as well as to people who may question it. You may also want to talk over the situation in detail first.

  • Look for sympathetic people to come out to first.
  • Follow your own timetable - it's your life and your sexuality. Don't feel you have to tell people until you are ready.
  • Don't assume people are homophobic just because they make anti-gay jokes. Often people haven't really thought the thing 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 politically correct - or Christian - doesn't mean that they cannot be quite fixed and judgmental in their view of gays and lesbians.
  • Everyone doesn't have to know. Many people - such as Department Staff - will consider your sexuality is your own business. You don't have to share it with them 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. However, what is said can always be unsaid - even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
  • Choose your medium. If you are worried that someone will be very hostile, writing might give them time to assimilate the news better.
  • Never feel guilty! Easier said than done, but once we start blaming ourselves for other's bad reactions to us we are on the road to depression. None of us has control over who we are so we don't need to apologise for it. We need to celebrate who we are. 

Sexual Health

It is important that anyone who is sexually active takes care of their health. Even though sex education is taught in schools, it is hetero-, not homo-sex. Of course, for men, using a condom is still sensible, but in gay sex, many condoms, like ultra thin, ribbed & novelty ones are useless - they break with the extra friction involved in gay sex. Most gay venues will have good, free condoms at the bar though, which is handy. Don't forget to use only water-based lubricant as well, as oils dissolve the rubber. You might choose to have bareback sex (without condoms), but make sure you are aware of the risk. It can take 12 weeks for HIV to show on a blood test, and you don't want to be ignorantly infecting yourself or other people. If unprotected sex happens unintentionally, do seek help. In particular remember that you do not need to go to your GP for advice if you are concerned about them knowing about your sexuality. There is a sexual health clinic at Pinfold Gate, Loughborough, Tel: 0300 124 0102. It is completely confidential and you are known by a number not a name. They can give help and advice on all infections including HIV.

Transgender

Transgender people feel that the gender they were born, or assigned at birth, does not fit them. Transgender people include people born female who identify as male (female-to-male) and people born male who identify as female (male-to-female). Transgender people also include people who identify as "genderqueer", gender neutral, and/or gender-free—people who may not identify as either male or female. Transsexual people are those who choose to medically transition to the gender that is right for them.

You may feel that you are more comfortable expressing yourself as a gender other than the gender you were born or assigned at birth or as no gender at all. You may feel extremely uncomfortable with the gender-specific parts of your body. For example, you may have breasts and prefer not to have them or feel a deep need to have other body parts. You may feel more comfortable relating to people who perceive you as the gender you see yourself. You may simply feel you would be more truly yourself in another gender.

Being transgender is as normal as being alive. Throughout history, many people have felt they were transgender. You may interact with other transgender people every day and not know it! Certainly, being transgender is not "typical," and you may encounter many people who do not understand or who feel uncomfortable or even discriminatory. However, you are certainly normal.

Useful Contacts

Loughborough LGBT society

Gires - Website to improve the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people.

Beaumont Society - Help and support for the trans community

NHS Transgender information 

Homophobia and Harassment

The University adheres strictly to Equal Opportunities and Anti-bullying and Harassment Policies. The Students Union is the same. Thus homophobic bullying or discrimination is not permissible and both the University and the Students Union will support you.

If it happens in the University contact Confide.  

If it happens in the Union, contact a member of security for immediate help and Student Advice for further support.

If you receive offensive emails, IT Services can remove computer privileges from the offending person. (They have ways of tracing anonymous messages.)

You can also ask for support from Hall Wardens and your Head of Department/ School. If it happens in town you can report it to the police. Incidents of homophobic bullying can be very distressing and the University Counsellors are here to support you too.

Further Resources

Useful books & websites

  • 'How to be a Happy Homosexual' Terry Sanderson, 1995
  • 'Making Gay Relationships Work' Terry Sanderson
  • 'Assertively Gay' Terry Sanderson
  • 'The Gay and Lesbian Self Esteem Book' Kimeron Hardin, 1999
  • 'Virtually Normal' Andrew Sullivan
  • 'Loving Someone Gay' Don Clark, 1997, (updated from 1977 original)
  • 'How to Cope with Doubts about your Sexual Identity', MIND booklet available from www.mind.org.uk or tel: 0845 7660163
  • Website: www.thesite.org

Other sources of help

  • The University Counselling Service is glad to offer support and counselling on any of the matters discussed.
  • Loughborough Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Association in the Students Union is a student run association offering support and social contact. Visit them at www.lufbra.net/associations/llgbta or email llgbta@lufbra.net, llgbta@googlemail.com, tel: 01509 635138. They have an office where people can 'drop in' without an appointment from 1-2pm Monday to Friday, Upstairs in the Union building.
  • London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard - 0207 837 7324
  • The Beaumont Trust - www.beaumontsociety.org.uk, educational resource for medical, voluntary and lay people on transexualism and transvestism, 24 hr info line: 01582 412220
  • LASS Leicester AIDS Support Services. Tel: 0116 255 9995 - For help on HIV/AIDS, HIV testing or safer sex. This is confidential. www.lass.org.uk
  • Confide - Campus harrassment support & advice network panel - See website for contact info. for panel members.
  • Loughborough Sexual Health Clinic, Pinfold Gate, Tel: 0300 124 0102 

 

Search CDS

Contact Us

Counselling Service

01509 222148

Application Form

Need help now?

Contact when the Counselling Service is closed:

Loughborough Nightline

01509 227650

EVERY Monday, Wednesday & Friday during University Term Time - 20.00hrs - 08.00hrs

NHS Direct

111

Samaritans

Confidential support, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

116 123

Leicestershire Focusline

24 hour support service for people & carers experiencing mental distress

0800 027 2127

Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI)

Nearest A&E for urgent medical and psychiatric help

Call 999 if you have a genuine emergency