This article was written for Relationships Australia, and was originally published here.
While questioning your sexuality can be stressful, it can also be affirming and fun. Here’s how to make the process a little easier, and how to get support if you need it.
If you’re questioning your sexuality right now, know that this is a very common experience. Unfortunately, our society can make it feel like this is a problem, and put expectations on us to be a certain way. But there’s no right or wrong way to feel while going through this process. You may feel frightened about what your sexual identity means for your future, or you might feel excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. There’s a good chance you’re experiencing a combination of these emotions.
Sexuality is about understanding the sexual feelings and attractions we have toward others. It’s not always as straightforward as being ‘gay’ or ‘straight’. Everyone’s sexuality is different and that’s the beautiful thing about it.
You also don’t have to go through this process on your own — there is support available. Here are our top tips for navigating what can be a challenging, but ultimately empowering, time.
Take your time
There’s no need to rush while questioning or exploring your sexuality. While you might feel pressure to put a ‘label’ on it, wait until you’re ready — or don’t at all.
Remember that this is about you, and you have every right to take your time to explore it. Sometimes just telling ourselves ‘I’m not sure right now’ or ‘I don’t have the answer to that yet’ can take the pressure off, and allow us to just be.
If you speak to other people and they happen to ask you how you identify, feel free to say you’re not sure right now. You don’t need to make yourself fit any definitions to satisfy someone else.
You also don’t need to ‘come out’ until you’re ready. It might be better to think about who you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with, rather than needing to announce it to the world.
Do some research
As we mentioned, labels aren’t everything. But educating yourself about different sexualities can still help you in several ways. Firstly, it can help you better understand yourself and your experiences. Secondly, it will show you that you’re not alone in how you’ve been feeling. It’s very common to question your sexuality, and many people around the world have been where you are and come out the other side.
Websites such as ReachOut, ACON or Twenty10 can be great resources for more information. QLives by QLife features many wonderful real stories of people from the LGBTIQ+ community.
Make space for reflection
It can be overwhelming when you have questions about your sexuality whirring through your head. Often, this pressure comes from societal pressures for us all to be a certain way. You might be asking yourself questions such as, ‘Is this real or am I imagining it?’, ‘What will people think?’ or ‘What do I do now?’
They are all valid questions, but you don’t have to have all the answers right now. One great way to practise self-reflection is to journal. Sit in a quiet spot and write down your feelings, unfiltered. You could write about:
- How questioning your sexuality makes you feel
- What you are worried about
- What you are excited about
- Any experiences you’ve had that have made you question your sexuality
Be kind to yourself during this process. At the end of the journalling session, write down all the things you like about yourself. Maybe you’re a great friend, or a creative person. Remember that you are a whole person, and your sexuality is just one part of your identity.
Know that your sexuality can change
It’s OK for your sexuality to change over time. You don’t need to ‘decide’ on a sexuality and then ‘stick to it’. How you’re feeling now may change in the future, and that’s totally fine.
Sexuality is a spectrum, and you don’t need to land on a particular identity to be valid. Give yourself space to keep reflecting and exploring.
Reach out for support
If you are feeling anxious, or just want a safe space to explore what it means for you, there is support available. LGBTIQ+ inclusive counselling services at Relationships Australia NSW or elsewhere can help. Services such as QLife can also connect you with relevant support services. Talking through what’s on your mind can be very powerful and help you through this process.
By taking your time to explore your sexuality, doing some research, making time for personal reflection and reaching out for support, you can start to reach a place of more acceptance and understanding.
Relationship Australia NSW offers individual counselling for a range of issues, and we welcome people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.