Growing up means experiencing a lot of new things and learning more about yourself, which often entails discovering your sexual orientation. Sometimes that can be confusing to figure out, but with all the resources we can access (thank you, Internet and technology) it should be an exciting time, not one to stress about. You’re already a badass college student taking on the world, so discovering your sexual orientation should be more fun than worrisome. Here are a few ways and resources to help guide the process.
1. Understand the different sexual orientations
There are many kinds of sexual orientations. The most commonly known ones are heterosexual (people who are attracted to the opposite sex), homosexual (people who are attracted to the same sex) and bisexual (people who are attracted to both men and women). Although these are all typically the most known on a widespread level, there are actually many different sexual orientations. Don’t let that overwhelm you, though. Sex therapist and counselor Christina Spaccavento says, “We’re all unique individuals and no one person is the same, so I recommend that each person be free to define them self in a way that fits with them and their unique set of personal experiences and emotions.”
When it comes to sexual orientation expressions, she explains, “There are various terms for people’s sexual orientation such as straight, gay, lesbian, bi, queer or asexual, and any of these terms may fit well for some people. But for others, these terms can be limiting. If this is the case, it can be helpful to use terminology that allows more space for exploration such ‘open’ or ‘fluid.’”
2. Take your time
This discovery process is personal to you and can take as long — or as short — as you feel comfortable with. Spaccavento encourages, “Firstly, it’s important to know that it is normal to have feelings of attraction to the same gender or sex. Doing some reading and research about alternative sexual orientations can be really helpful (only use trusted and reputable sources such as local community group and government sources).” This is extremely important when discovering sexual orientation because the more time and research put into the discovery, the less confusing and more confidence-boosting it will be!
Another way to make this process easier is to acknowledge your feelings and accept the way you’re feeling. Autumn Dube, a recent graduate of Emmanuel College, says, “It can be both scary and frustrating when you start to question your sexuality. One of the best things you can do is to not fight what you’re feeling. It may seem easier to try to deny your emotions or tell yourself it’s just a phase, but in the long run this denial does more damage than good.”
She adds, “It’s natural to question what you’re feeling, but it’s not healthy to stuff down your emotions. You’ll learn to accept yourself as time passes, and you will find incredible support along your journey, but just remember it’s okay to be confused from time to time. Your feelings and sexuality are valid, whatever they may be.”
3. Talk to someone
One of the best things to do when you’re confused is talk to someone! Spaccavento recommends, “Making contact with local community groups that offer support and discussion groups and events can be a great way to start to meet like-minded people as well as explore any feelings of confusion that may arise. And of course, if you become distressed or confused, reaching out to an experienced and trained therapist can be a safe way to begin to explore your feelings. …Talking to trusted and safe friends that have alternative sexual orientations can also be really helpful and of course, getting out there either in-person or online to meet others can also be a great way to explore.” Getting to know other people in the LGBTQ+ community can be so beneficial. Some might be going through the same thing as you while some might be past that point and could pass along advice or stories of their own experiences.
Throughout this time, the most important thing to remember is that this is completely normal. Almost everybody questions their sexuality at some point in their life and understanding those feelings is only going to make you feel even better about yourself. Self-acceptance and having patience with yourself is going to be a key part in your journey. Go forward with pride!