Figuring out that you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual or otherwise not straight can be a really important part of growing up and working out who you are. For some people it can be exciting and freeing, but it might also make you feel scared or alone. The good news is you aren’t.
Every day around the world, wherever you live, other people are realising things about their sexuality too, by watching a movie and crushing on the lead, looking at their best friend in a new way, reading a celebrity coming out story, or in a million other ways. There’s no right or wrong way to realise something about your sexuality, or to feel about that realisation. If you are feeling scared, anxious or even guilty about experiencing same sex attraction (or no attraction at all) and you need someone to reassure you: it’s okay. Your sexuality doesn’t make you bad, or dirty, or unlovable. It is not a part of you that you need to feel ashamed about, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. You’re wonderful just the way you are.
When I came out as bisexual at 16, it felt like the biggest, most dramatic thing to happen in my life ever- because at the time it was! I was excited but scared, and it took a while to feel like this new piece of information I’d learned about myself was real. I was anxious and felt alone, and it definitely had an impact on my mental health for a while. Luckily, the people in my life who I started coming out to were calm and supportive, and today at 20 my sexuality is a vibrant and important part of my identity.
There’s also no time limit on learning about yourself. A lot of people explore their sexuality in their teenage years or early 20s, but some will have known from a much younger age, and for others that realisation might not come until later in life. All journeys are different and valid! Whether you find a label that feels right straight away, or try out a few before something clicks, it’s all okay. There will always be people out there to talk to if you’re struggling with working this stuff out; friends, school counsellors, maybe a school or uni LGBT society, even internet resources to help you feel less alone. Talking to someone who’s already gone through a similar process of discovery can be enormously valuable for your mental health, and sense of community.
The most important piece of advice I can share is to go with the flow. If you can roll with what you’re feeling and accept it, maybe gently try on some labels (if you want) or talk to people, it’s easier than trying to force something to feel perfect right now. It can be reassuring to find a label that can exactly describe your experience with sexuality, but it’s okay to feel unsure or not want to label yourself at all. If someone tries to tell you that fluidity or changing labels is “just a phase”, I like to bring up the moon. The moon has phases; it waxes and wanes, but a full moon is as much a part of what the moon is as a new moon. Just because you used to identify one way (a full moon) doesn’t mean how you feel now (a new moon) is any less valid or real.
However you experience your sexuality, whether you’ve known for years or are just now starting to explore it, your feelings are valid, a beautiful part of you, and it’s going to be okay.