Coming to terms with your own sexual orientation can often be a challenging and stressful experience, especially if you feel as though you don’t have anyone to talk to about your worries. There are, however, a few steps you can take to help yourself feel a little less anxious.
How do I know what my sexual orientation is?
There are many different labels used by members of the LGBT community to describe their sexuality and these are often quite confusing. Here are some basic definitions:
· Homosexual: someone who likes people of the same gender.
· Gay: the same as homosexual. Often used by men who like other men, but some women use this too.
· Lesbian: women who like other women. Not all women use this label.
· Bisexual: people who are attracted to two or more genders.
· Pansexual: similar to bisexual. Some pansexual people distinguish this label from bisexual by stating that gender does not play a role in who they like. Gender doesn’t impact their attraction.
· Asexual: people who don’t experience sexual attraction. These people often still want to be in relationships and may even engage in sexual activity.
· Queer: some members of the LGBT community opt to use this label when they don’t want to confine themselves to one of the above labels. This is sometimes used as an umbrella term for all people in the community but some individuals do not like to use this label due to historical implications.
What do I do if I don’t know my sexual orientation?
Don’t worry. Even though you may hear some people say that they have always known that they were gay or that their sexuality was always obvious to them, this is not a universal experience. Especially during puberty, hormones can impact the feelings that we have and can make working out what our sexuality is quite the challenge. If you are patient, your feelings should become clearer over time and you can choose a label later on if you wish. Some people never settle on one label and instead change their identity over time or use umbrella terms such as ‘queer’ for ease. Sexuality is not set in stone and can change over time. The most important thing is accepting that, whatever you are and however you feel, that’s okay. Everyone’s experience is entirely unique.
I’m definitely LGBT. Now what?
The automatic instinct when realising you are LGBT is to come out to everyone you know straight away. This can often lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. How will people react? Will I be safe? Will people see me differently? However, coming out is not an absolute necessity and, unfortunately, in some circumstances it isn’t a good idea. You should only come out when it feels right for you. You can come out to some people and not others. If you feel like you want to tell someone but aren’t sure where to start, perhaps choose a close friend or relative to talk to. Coming out is a process. It isn’t something you do just once which can seem like a scary prospect but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
If you don’t feel safe or comfortable coming out, there are resources available for you to access support linked below. If you experience any form of homophobia or treatment from others that makes you feel uncomfortable, make sure to tell someone you can trust as soon as you are able.
I think I’m LGBT but I am not happy about it.
Sadly, this is a very common experience. Growing up, we often hear people around us saying homophobic things that we internalise. Can gay people have happy lives? Can LGBT people do the things that everyone else can? This makes it difficult to accept that being gay is okay. Even people who are gay experience this internalised homophobia. The first step in overcoming this is seeking out the experiences of other LGBT people to find that, actually, there is nothing wrong with being gay. Look into some of the resources below to find examples of LGBT people living happy lives. There is no reason why this can’t be you, also. Acceptance is a process that sometimes take time; it is hard to forget things you grow up believing as facts but by hearing the stories of other LGBT people can help to resolve this.
Most importantly, however you choose to identify, your sexual orientation is an important part of you, but it isn’t the only part of you that matters. It can be nerve wracking, but you don’t have to feel anxious forever. It will get easier with time.
Young Stonewall: https://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/
The Proud Trust Guide to Coming Out: https://www.theproudtrust.org/for-young-people/advice-and-support/coming-out/
Albert Kennedy Trust (For those aged 16-25 who feel unsafe/ are in a dangerous situation and can’t stay in their household) : https://www.akt.org.uk/get-help
Switchboard (Helpline): https://switchboard.lgbt/ OR 0300 330 0630