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How does your sexuality and gender define you as a teen?

Adolescence is known as the time of high spirits and raging hormones, during which your body will probably feel awkward, you will probably feel out of sorts. It is even common for different body parts to grow at different paces resulting in a teen out of proportion. But you’ll grow into your body within some time. So you will experience major growth and bodily changes and said changes are also part of your sexuality at this stage. Sexuality for a teenager involves how you feel about your body and it’s growth, the sexual maturation that takes place during this period, understanding intimacy,attraction (physical, emotional, sexual) along with related feelings & behaviours,plus developing healthy relationships. 

The hormones are what causes the physical growth and sexual development that supports your transition to adulthood. So what is going on in your body/ your teen’s body? Well, as puberty hits sex hormones in the body are secreted. The average age of puberty for males is 12-16 and 10-12 for females, but it’s normal for it’s start to range between 8-13 for girls and 9-14 for boys. These hormones work by producing estrogen & eggs in females and testosterone & sperm in males. This results in major changes throughout your teen years and the range may differ which is normal, the growth usually stops around 16-17 for girls & 18-20 for boys; involving:

  • Breasts’ development and widening of hips in girls; growth of vulva and growth spurts in heights and body parts. 
  • Growth spurts in boys in height, chest, shoulders and other body parts. Growth of penis, testes & scrotum. 
  • Pubic hair growth in both boys & girls along with hair under arms; hair on the face all over the body for males.
  • Girls will start to get their periods. This is when the lining of the uterus and blood is shed every month. The periods may be irregular initially and girls may experience pain before & during the time. 
  • Boys will start to produce more sperm, and will start getting erections & ejaculating (release of sperm) 
  • In boys, Adam’s apple or larynx will become larger & more evident, resulting in a deeper voice. 

An important note is that if girls have started to get their periods, and if they engage in sexual activities, they can get pregnant. According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16, 7.9% (or 121,552 number of women) of 15-19 year old girls have begun child bearing (this involves active pregnancies & live births) in India.  A lot of times parents feel awkward about talking about sex & sexuality due to reasons surrounding culture, personal beliefs, or even that talking about it will encourage sexual activity. Most schools do not address it in their curriculum either. This usually leads teenagers to understand this aspect of life through the internet, friends or word of mouth.  Regardless of whether you/your teen is sexually active, this is a good time to understand safe-sex practices and respectful relationships. 

There is an increase in interest towards people you’re attracted to, more energy and spirit, an interest in sexual exploration and dating. Learning about these things is a crucial part of growing up! Talk to an adult you feel comfortable around and understand how to go about it. 

Understanding these changes that occur at a rapid pace during this time is a crucial step in feeling comfortable with these changes & your body over time. The more openly these things are discussed with a teenager, the less likely they’ll impulsively rush into things.

Due to these changes and hormones, there are changes in moods, feelings and impulses too. These changes are normal but the reactions to these changes aren’t always healthy. Peer pressure, the raging hormones, alcohol etc., can easily lead to risky behaviors and impulsive decisions that can negatively affect your/your teen’s mental health and future. It’s so important to have someone you can rely on, a support system during this time period. Your parents/guardians, elder siblings, counsellors, teachers, trusted friends all make this list. Feel free to talk to a mental health professional at My Talk World to help you understand and deal with any uncertainty or confusion that you feel about your body, your feelings about your body, who you’re attracted to, about sexual activities or how you feel about them. 

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