If you are questioning your sexuality, not only is it common for many people to be better able to learn about their identities in adulthood, when they’re no longer heavily impacted by hormone induced mood swings and drama, but sexuality can also change with age.
One study that examined sexual orientations of people from teenage years through early adulthood showed that changes occurred throughout the duration, noting that “Substantial changes were common not only from late adolescence to the early 20s but also from the early 20s to the late 20s, indicating that sexual orientation development continues throughout emerging adulthood.”
Sexual orientation can change at any time of your life. If you’re experiencing a shift in your own attractions, your sexuality may be changing. There’s nothing wrong with that. For one thing, as we age we get to know ourselves better, and we may be able to acknowledge facets of ourselves that we couldn’t before.
Additionally, as we age our priorities change. What you once found attractive in others might now be off-putting. For some people, their sexuality never stops changing. Those people might consider themselves sexually fluid for life.
Gender Identity vs. Sexuality
Gender identity and sexuality are often grouped together, but they are separate topics. Your sexuality is centered around who you are attracted to, whereas your gender is about how you yourself identify, not in relation to anyone else. If you are questioning your gender, some great resources include The Trevor Project, The Gender Unicorn, and the Transgender Law Center.
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Don’t feel obligated to label yourself
People love labels. If you’re questioning your sexuality, don’t be ashamed to say you’re not sure. Don’t feel as if you need to pick a label to satisfy anyone else.
The reason for educating yourself is twofold. One: it’s good to learn more about sexuality and gender in order for you to better understand yourself. Two: you learn you are not alone. No matter how different your sexuality or gender may feel, there are others out there like you. Maybe not at your school, maybe not in your city, but they are out there somewhere.
Explore without judging and over analyzing
Explore. we can’t emphasize this enough. Exploring won’t, however, be beneficial to your self-discovery if you judge yourself for your actions. And, if you analyze everything to death, it can actually be detrimental. Deep breath. Stop thinking. Start doing.
If you have consistent feelings, don’t ignore them
Even if you can’t label it, don’t ignore it. As you start to explore your gender and sexuality, you might find yourself doing new things. As long as you are safe, respectful to yourself and respectful to others, you have nothing to regret.
The Most Well Known Identities: LGBTQIA+
No matter what age you are, or what your relationship and sexual background is, it’s perfectly okay for you to delve further into understanding your own orientation. To help you best understand what you might be experiencing, we’ve broken down the various known sexual identities, along with how to find resources that can best guide you through your self discovery.
There are more options in regards to sexual orientation than those represented in the acronym LGBTQIA, but that term is the most well known. Here is what the words in that acronym stand for.
A lesbian is a woman who is attracted to people of her same gender. Usually, people who identify as lesbians do not partner with people other than women.
A gay person is someone who is attracted to people of their same gender, and the term is often used to describe men who are attracted to other men. However, women can identify as gay instead of or in addition to identifying as lesbian.
Someone who is bisexual is attracted to more than one gender. Before the release of the “Bisexual Manifesto” in 1990, it was often assumed that bisexual people were only attracted to cis men and cis women.
However, since then the term has come to include people who are attracted to more than one gender, period. If someone thinks they may be bisexual but isn’t yet sure, they may identify as bi-curious. The Bisexual Resource Center can help you learn more.
A trans, or transgender, person is someone whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. As mentioned above, gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation.
Because of the overlap of the two topics, though, particularly in regards to the fight for human rights as marginalized people, the transgender label is included in LGBTQIA+. Nonbinary and genderqueer identities also fall under this umbrella.
Queer or Questioning
Queer is an umbrella term for anyone who isn’t heterosexual. Being queer means that a person isn’t straight, but it doesn’t provide any details about who they are or aren’t attracted to. While the word queer was once used as a slur, it has been reclaimed in recent years by many in the LGBTQIA+ community.
People who are intersex were born with bodies that don’t fit completely into the male/female gender binary. Just like the transgender label, intersex is not a sexual identity.
The term gets placed in with sexual orientations for the same reason as transgender does, because advocacy is necessary for this marginalized group. The Intersex Society of North America is a great resource for this subject.
Asexuality is the term for a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction to other people. It’s considered a spectrum, meaning that some people who are asexual will experience more attraction than others, but to be on the asexual spectrum implies that sexual attraction isn’t a typical part of your day to day life. Individuals who are asexual may refer to themselves as “ace.” The Asexual Visibility and Education Network can help you learn more.
Greysexuality, or graysexuality, also falls under the asexual identity. Someone who identifies as grey/graysexual may be rarely attracted to other people, but not so rarely that they fully identify as asexual.
The + symbol at the end of LGBTQIA denotes that there are more identities than just the ones in that acronym. Let’s take a look at what those are.
Someone who is pansexual is attracted to all genders of people. This might sound similar to bisexual, but it’s different. For instance, someone who identifies as bisexual isn’t necessarily attracted to all genders of people (just because they’re attracted to more than one gender). Conversely, a pansexual person could be attracted to anyone regardless of their gender.
A person who only becomes attracted to other people once they have formed an emotional bond can be described as demisexual. Similar to asexual and pansexual people, a demisexual individual could be of any gender, and who they are attracted to once they feel emotionally bonded is not related to the term. The Demisexuality Resource Center has more info about this identity.
Brains matter more than physical beauty for some people when it comes to attraction. For those individuals, intellectual chemistry is paramount, and their attraction to others is more centered around that than it is on physicality. People whose attraction to others is based on intellect identify as sapiosexual.
This newer term refers to those who are usually attracted to people who fall outside the typical gender binary. That means that trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer people may be the ones that a skoliosexual person is generally attracted to.
The confusion doesn’t last forever
Questioning one’s sexuality can happen at any age. There are many different sexual identities, and finding which one fits you best may take some time. Your identity also might change over time throughout your life.
There are many resources to help you understand your orientation, from organizations dedicated to specific identities to broader hotlines that offer help for any questions you might have. There’s no need to feel stressed if you’re questioning your sexuality—you have all the time you need, and plenty of free resources, to figure out what, if any, label fits you best. If speaking with a loved one isn’t enough, consider speaking with a professional.