How to explore your sexuality

It’s totally normal to have questions about your sexuality when you’re growing up. Am I gay? Bi? A lesbian? What does it mean if I fancy my friend? Confused? Don’t worry, so is everyone else. Questioning who you're attracted to is part of growing up. The Mix is here to help you explore your sexuality.

A young girl is staring at a laptop. She is thinking about her sexuality. This is a wide-angle image.

What is your sexuality?

There’s no straight answer to ‘What is your sexuality?’ (pun intended). Unfortunately, our society is desperate to attach labels to everything and everyone. Gay. Straight. Bi. Lesbian. We like to put people, and their sexualities, into teeny tiny boxes. Truth is, sexuality doesn’t work like that!

It’s much more fluid and complicated, so no wonder you’re confused. We get taught that everything is black and white but it’s actually much closer to being a mixture of all the different colours of the rainbow. Trying to decipher all those different shades is no simple task.

“For some people their sexual orientation is very fixed,” says Carol-Ann Cunningham, an online youth worker for LGBT Youth Scotland. “But for others it’s flexible and changes over time; you can be anywhere on the sexuality spectrum. Whatever you are, you’re normal.”

I’ve been thinking about the same sex, am I gay/bi/a lesbian?

Wondering ‘How do I explore my sexuality?’ Well there really is no one way to do it. But a start might be to think about how you feel around different genders. When you’re growing up, and working out what you do and don’t like, it’s totally normal to find yourself having sexual feelings for, or being sexually attracted to, people of various gender identities.

Does this mean you’re gay/bi/a lesbian? Not necessarily.

Carol-Anne raises an important point when you’re thinking about how to explore your sexuality: “A lot of young people go through these feelings at some point. It definitely doesn’t automatically make you gay. It’s up to you if you choose to label yourself and there shouldn’t be any pressure to define your sexuality. It’s nobody’s business but yours.”

I’ve developed feelings for a friend, what does this mean?

Sexuality is all about emotions, not just the physical attraction. Close same-sex friendships can invoke strong and confusing feelings if you’ve always seen yourself as heterosexual. Maybe try exploring that side of yourself and figuring out what that means for your sexuality. Is it a one-off crush or a genuine attraction to a different gender identity? Getting on a dating app might be able to help clear things up. 

“Somebody may fall in love with a friend of the same sex but have no other attraction to anyone else of the same sex for the rest of their lives,” says Carol-Ann. “Nothing has to be black or white. No one else but you can decide what your feelings mean.”

Am I gay if I watch gay porn?

If The Mix had a quid for every time we were asked this question … well, we’d be so rich we could buy everyone a lifetime supply of gay porn.

The answer? No, watching gay porn does not make you gay. Masturbatory habits are often based around whatever sexual fantasies get you going. But that doesn’t mean you’d want to live out these fantasies. That’s why the answer to ‘How do I explore my sexuality?’ will never solely depend on what gets you off. There’s a whole emotional side to the equation that your body isn’t really in charge of. 

How do I know if these feelings mean more?

When it comes to sexual identity, some gay people say they always knew that they only fancied the same sex. Others spend years wondering ‘What is my sexuality?’ It’s natural to want to explore and also to just be straight up discombobulated (there’s your word of the day for ya).

How far you go to work this all out, and what it ultimately means, is entirely up to you. Personally, we  suggest you take things slow – maybe building up to ‘bigger’ sexual experiences so you’re never  uncomfortable about anything you’ve done afterwards. Safe sex is always important – whether it’s queer sex in a monogamous relationship or at a sex party. For more info,  read our guide for how to talk about condoms here.

“My advice is to take your time,” says Carol-Ann. “A lot of young people panic and want to know what label they are straight away. But try not to rush. Ensure you always feel comfortable and safe in whatever you choose to define yourself as.”

I’ve worked it out. I’m NOT straight, and I’m freaking out

First of all – don’t panic. Just because the heterosexual label was automatically assigned at birth, doesn’t mean it fits everyone and that is a beautiful thing. Would you really want to live in a world where Cam and Mitch aren’t a thing? 

Secondly, we have to give you a light warning. Tragically, we live in a society where people get bullied for being different. Being worried you’ll get a less-than-favourable reaction from friends and family about your sexuality is perfectly valid. If you need some help, you can always read our article on how to come out.

And remember – these are your feelings, your experiences, your label and your decision about what to do with all that. As difficult as it is, you need to put everyone else’s opinions to the side for a minute and focus on what you truly want.

If you find yourself wanting to share any feelings and experiences about this topic with the wonderful Mix community, we’re waiting for you on the discussion boards.

Next Steps

  • The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBT people aged 16-25-years-old who are homeless or living in a hostile environment. AKT has offices in London (call on 020 7831 6562), Manchester (0161 228 3308) and Newcastle (0191 281 0099).
  • Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630
  • Based in Brighton, Allsorts is a youth project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans young people under the age of 26. There are weekly drop-in sessions Tuesday evenings and monthly groups for young men, young women, trans and bisexual youth.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

sexuality

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 13-Nov-2021