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Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation can be complex for young people, no matter if they’re straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, takatāpui or otherwise.

Sexual orientation is about who you are romantically, sexually or emotionally attracted to. Some people are into boys, girls, both or neither, people of the same sex as them or the opposite. Sexual orientation is not a choice - it’s a part of who we are and figuring out what it means for us is a normal part of growing up.

For lesbian, gay, bisexual or takatāpui young people, sharing their identity with others can be difficult and scary. There is often an expectation that young people will be straight. It can feel a bit like everyone around them is getting together with someone of the opposite sex and books, movies, music videos, and their conversations with friends and family tell them that they should be too. That’s a lot of pressure and can feel isolating if they’re feeling something different.

If you are supporting a young person, make sure issues around sexuality and orientation are topics that you can talk about openly and without judgement. If young people feel like they have someone to turn to, who they can trust and who won't judge them, they are more likely to ask for help if times get tough.

Keeping an eye out

Some lesbian, gay, bisexual or takatāpui young people may choose not to say anything about their sexual orientation. They might still be figuring things out for themselves, or be feeling worried about being bullied or scared about what their parents or whānau might say. They might know they won’t get a positive reaction at home.

A lack of support or acceptance from whānau and family, feeling afraid or being judged, bullied, or discriminated against can really hurt someone. When young people are excluded or rejected, they can experience much higher rates of depression, anxiety and distress than their peers.

Here are some general signs to look out for that could suggest that a young person is having a hard time dealing with things. They might:

Healthy conversations

It’s really important that young people feel they have at least one person in their lives who they can turn to and talk about anything, who will love and support them no matter who they are into. This person needs to be warm, trustworthy, and non-judgemental.

  • If a young person you care about is having a hard time, make sure they know you are open to anything they want to talk about. They might not be having trouble with their sexuality, but if they know they can talk to you about those things too without being judged, then it’ll be much easier to ask for help
  • Be inclusive in general conversation. Talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual or takatāpui people in a positive light - don’t use words like ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ to describe things that are bad or weird
  • If you’re not sure about someone’s sexuality, don’t make assumptions. Let them tell you when they are ready

If a young person comes out to you as lesbian, gay, bisexual or takatāpui, know that telling you took a lot of courage. Sharing their identity is a sign that they trust you and need your support and understanding.

  • If a young person comes out to you, respond with warmth and acceptance – even if your immediate thoughts and feelings are different
  • They may not have told anyone else yet, and your response can have a big impact on their wellbeing, levels of fear, and how good they feel about themselves. Show your affection and support
  • Tell them you’re glad they told you
  • Let them know you are there to talk if they ever need to
  • Let them decide who they want to tell and when. Don’t tell other people for them unless they want you to
  • If their sexual orientation is difficult for you to understand or come to terms with at first, be polite and respectful no matter what your beliefs. Reacting with anger or disappointment will damage your relationship and hurt them, and it won't change who they are or their sexual orientation

Taking action

  • Show that you still love and care about them. Don’t let things change between you and don’t treat them differently
  • Don’t tell other people about their orientation if they haven’t said it’s okay to do that. If you’re unsure whether you can tell people or not, ask them
  • Get involved in the LGBTI community and do what you can to show your support. If they have friends, or a partner, include them when you spend time together
  • Words hurt. Using words like “gay” to mean the same thing as bad or stupid (such as "that's so gay") can make people feel isolated and excluded. If you hear it being used like this in your family, or community, ask those people to stop
  • Get involved at their school, make sure their policies don’t discriminate against LGBTI students, and see what support is in place for them


Rainbow Youth

RainbowYOUTH is a charitable organisation providing support, information, advocacy, and education for queer and trans* young people (aged between 13 and 28), their friends and whānau, and those who work with queer and trans* youth.

I'm Local

The I'm Local project aims to help queer & gender diverse youth all over Aotearoa to feel valued, recognised and supported in their local communities. It includes a region-by-region map of all the queer and gender diverse support groups for young people across the country. 


Confidential Helpline: 0800 688 5463 

Outline provides confidential and gay-affirming GLBT telephone support and face to face counselling.

Holding Our Own (support group)

Supporting parents and whānau through the difficulties that often arise in the “coming out” process. Navigating these difficulties together by creating awareness, acceptance, validation, support, safe homes, and developing stronger family bonds resulting in better supported and better equipped parents. 

The Village Collective - Rainbow Collective

The Village Collective aims to support Pasefika communities with sexual and reproductive health needs, and supports young Pasefika people to make great decisions for themselves through mentoring and education programmes. 

Takatāpui: Part of the Whānau

A print and video resource for takatāpui (Māori who are whakawāhine, tangata ira tāne, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer), their whānau and communities, sharing stories and information about identity, wellbeing and suicide prevention.

Families like mine

Families like mine is a multimedia guide developed by Australian organisation Beyond Blue that offers practical advice to families of young gender-diverse people, same-sex attracted and bisexual people, and those who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity.

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