DR MIRIAM: HEALTH FOCUS: SHIFTING SEXUALITY - Could You Be Gay One Day? ARE You Straight, Gay or Somewhere in between? Could You Imagine Being Something Different under Certain Circumstances? Chances Are More of Us Could Slip and Slide Than We Might Imagine. Sexual Preferences May Alter during Your Lifetime, and You Could Eventually Even Decide Sexuality Is No Longer Central to Any of Your Relationships, as Dr Miriam Explains

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WE tend to think of our sexuality as something fixed and unchanging, but there's plenty of evidence to suggest this isn't so.

The popular image is that heterosexuals form the largest group, homosexuals a smaller minority, while a few bisexuals fall between both categories.

Some researchers believe that people don't fall into such rigid groups.

It may be better to think of human sexuality as a linear arrangement.

At one end are a small group who could never be anything other than heterosexual, and at the opposite extreme are another small group who could never be anything but homosexual.

The great majority of us are somewhere in the middle, capable of same-sex relationships - but only in very particular circumstances.

This could explain why homosexual relationships are more common in situations such as the confined environment of a prison - and at certain times in different cultures. I think all this means is we are all much more complicated than some people would have us believe.

It also explains why some people who have suppressed their true sexuality - even to the point of marrying and having children despite the inner conviction they're homosexual - take stock of their sexuality when their children are in their teens - and only then decide to come out.

Lesbians seek a lifestyle

BY and large, men find the transition from a heterosexual lifestyle to a same-sex one easier than women because the gay network is more public and wider for men.

Lesbianism is often the result of a woman's gradual change in attitude towards heterosexual relationships and the standards of a heterosexual society, or a gradual realisation that her relationships with men are unsatisfactory.

For that reason, many women (unlike men who often know they're homosexual from childhood) only come to realise they are truly lesbians part-way through their lives, when they're already married and have children.

It's only with maturity, experience and growing self-confidence that they're capable of revealing their marriage and lifestyle are unsatisfactory, and they're no longer prepared to go on making concessions in such an important area of their lives.

Lesbianism doesn't solely imply a sexual preference for women - it's much more a matter of lifestyle.

The majority of lesbians claim sex occupies an important but small part of their lives. Much more important is contact with women, living with women and planning a lifestyle built around openness and freedom with women.

There is, however, no reason why a woman who realises she's lesbian should give up her children. …