There is no timeline for coming out. No matter what point in your life you’re in, what relationships you’ve experienced, or what level of physical intimacy you’ve experienced, you may, at some point, find yourself questioning your sexuality. And taking the time to explore your identity will be extremely beneficial to your mental health and relationships, says psychotherapist Tony Karajanis.
“Very few people really fall within the poles of pure homosexuality or pure heterosexuality,” Karajanis says. “What I say to people is that it's okay to question your sexuality, and it's okay to start reframing your thoughts about sexuality as being something rigid.”
What to do when you’re questioning your sexuality
If you’re hesitant to question your sexuality—to come out to yourself, in a sense—Karajanis recommends reframing your mindset and shifting the narratives you may have been served through society. “Society tends to create these unspoken dominant narratives that become expectations as to how we live,” he says. That can result in a sense of obligation to follow heteronormative relationship pathways and gender binaries. “I encourage clients to start recognizing that dominant narrative is not something that can be sustained. They can create their own narrative within our culture as to how they identify and how they feel.”
Karajanis recommends that people who may be questioning their sexuality think about where they feel most comfortable on the spectrums of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Talking to a therapist and journaling can be helpful tools for affirming that identity.
Community support is also extremely important, and when a person’s family is not supportive of their sexuality, a “chosen family” can serve as a crucial community. “You get to choose those people that you want to surround yourself with, that provide you with the love and support that you would normally have gotten from your family,” Karajanis says.
It may also be helpful to learn more about the recent history of the LGBTQIA+ community and find representation in pop culture: “It’s a way to say, ‘Hey, I'm not the first who's thought this. I'm not the last who's going to think this. And it's okay.”
The benefits of embracing your sexuality
“It’s a very freeing process,” Karajanis says when a person feels safe and comfortable living who they truly are. Everyone comes out on their timeline, and to their own extent—and that does not make one person’s identity more valid than another’s. What’s crucial is that a person has some support and affirmation—from friends, a therapist, or chosen family—as they go through the process.
“I think what's important to recognize is that everybody's coming out process is very different, and should not be forced by anyone,” Karajanis says. As you take steps—big or small, slowly or quickly—you may just find that it feels like “a breath of fresh air.”
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