By Tia Wilson
If you’re reading this article, the chances are you might be feeling a little confused. Figuring out your sexuality can be a scary and daunting time, but it’s not all bad and you’re certainly not alone. Studies from both the U.S. and the U.K. have highlighted that more people than ever identify as LGBTQ+.
Whilst it might seem scary – think of it like this: a whole new world of opportunity is opening up. All the people you might meet, the relationships you might have (platonic AND romantic), the world is your oyster! Living life without limitation can be the most exciting and liberating of times, so let’s get down to business.
What is sexuality?
This sounds (and might feel) like a big question, but that’s okay. Sexuality can’t be defined as just one thing because it’s so personal. In simple terms, your sexuality relates to who you fancy, how you might behave towards them, and how you feel about them. It doesn’t matter who you have sex with or how often you have sex, nor is it related to your gender (that’s another kettle of fish) – it’s more about the way you think and feel. For some people this might be very straightforward, but for others who are questioning, it can be a little more confusing to figure out how you’re feeling.
Different types of sexuality
There are many different types of sexualities – lots of people say that it’s a spectrum, and you don’t need to box yourself into rigid categories. Labels aren’t for everyone; some people don’t feel comfortable strictly identifying as just one thing and prefer a more fluid approach to who they date.
For some people, having that label can give a sense of self identification, and helps them solidify their idea of who they are. All of this is absolutely fine. Figuring out your sexuality is personal, so it’s important that you go at your own pace when finding out what feels right for you. Whilst it’s not important for everyone to give themselves a label, here are a few of the most common ones to get the ball rolling:
Heterosexual: This relates to those who are attracted to people of the opposite sex, so a woman being attracted to a man and vice versa.
Homosexual: People who attracted to others of the same sex. Homosexual men are usually referred to as gay, and women are usually referred to as lesbians, although homosexual women might also be referred to as gay.
Bisexual or bi: This relates to people who are attracted to both men and women. For example – a bisexual woman could be in a relationship with a heterosexual man, but still be attracted to women.
Asexual/Ace: Asexual people typically don’t experience sexual attraction or have any sexual desires. However, asexual people may still experience romantic, emotional, aesthetic, physical or platonic attraction.
Pansexual: Pansexual people usually experience sexual attraction to all genders – including cisgender, transgender, agender and nonbinary individuals.
Queer: Once used as a slur, the term ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by the LGBT community. It can be interpreted in different ways, but it’s essentially an umbrella term for ‘not straight’.
Feelings you might experience
When you’re trying to figure out your sexuality, its normal to feel a bit like you’re the only one who feels this way. Unfortunately, feeling like an outsider is pretty common amongst the LGBT community – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a whole community of queer people, establishments and charities that will support and embrace you with open arms.
You might feel like you owe it to people to come out right away, but you don’t. In case it hasn’t been said enough – sexuality is PERSONAL. It’s totally up to you to decide when the time is right for you to tell people how you feel. It’s important that you have the time and space to figure out your sexuality in your own way, and know that there is no rush in trying to understand your feelings.
The bottom line
If you feel like you’re at the start of a long, scary journey of self-discovery – just know that things will get easier. Sexuality is complex, and it can take time and experience to figure out what feels right for you. Remember there is no right and wrong, no rulebook to follow, just go with what feels right and know that there is always a place for you.
As time goes on, your thoughts and feelings may begin to change, and this is okay too. People might not always have the reaction you hope for when you come out; it’s normal for some people to be surprised. It’s important to remember that first reactions don’t last forever, and that often, others need the time to process – in the same way that you might have spent time processing your emotions.
If you or someone you know is struggling – please reach out. There are numerous charities available to help with a range of issues:
https://mindout.org.uk - A mental health service run by and for lesbians, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people with experience of mental health issues.
https://galop.org.uk - Gives advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse.
https://www.akt.org.uk - Supports LGBTQ+ young people aged 16-25 in the UK who are facing or experiencing homelessness, or living in a hostile environment.
https://switchboard.lgbt - Offers confidential support and advice to members of the LGBT+ community.
https://www.themix.org.uk - Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.
https://www.stonewall.org.uk - Provides information and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people
https://mermaidsuk.org.uk - Supports and provides information for transgender and gender-diverse young people (up to and including the age of 19).