The way we choose to behave sexually is as individual and as diverse as we are. Sexuality, taken in its broadest definition, is a term used to communicate the way we go about defining and expressing ourselves as sexual beings. Included within this definition is how we choose to express that sexuality and the choice(s) of sexual partner we may have made.
Fortunately or unfortunately, our sexuality doesn’t fall into neat categories and is not understood by straightforward labels – for instance LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). Instead, it is a rich and complex area of our experience as human beings.
Discussions around sexuality have come to have a more limited meaning than that described above: in that sexuality is often defined by whether our sexual partners are of the same or the opposite gender to us. Attempting to fit such diverse experiences into three or four simple labels can be problematic for some, whilst also offering others a sense of identity and shared experience.
For many individuals who are questioning their sexuality or considering coming out, the landscape in the UK can appear easier than it has done in the past. There are increasngly diverse sexualities within popular culture, many employers embrace equal opportunities policies and Pride festivals across the country are embraced by individuals across the sexual spectrum.
Embracing our sexuality
Despite all of this, undersatanding, accepting and embracing your sexuality can involve a period of uncertainty and change. Whilst our sexuality is often formed in our younger years, it can take many of us until later life to truly embrace who we are.
In addition to self-acceptance, there is still a widespread ignorance that might impact your life in other harmful ways. Issues such as homophobia and transphobia are still forms of discrimination that we might experience today. Some experience physical abuse or emotional abuse when they come out - from strangers or loved ones - and feel like they don't have anyone to turn to.
This kind of isolation might make you feel like you can't be yourself, conflicted with your own identity, lonely and in fear. Without the ability to confide in others, it can feel like you're trapped in a cage and unable to break free. This mental prison can be as dehabilitating as any other. This is why it's important to get help in other ways if you can - through counselling for example. Whether you are struggling to cope with discrimation after coming out, or are struggling with self-acceptance, talking to someone can help.
Counselling for issues surrounding sexuality
Counsellors at The Hope Street Centre have witnessed the liberation that can come from individuals recognising and accepting their sexuality. If you are currently in the process of questioning your sexuality, you might find that counselling gives you the opportunity to explore your feelings in a safe, non judgemental environment. In the meatime, if you are considering beginning the process of coming out, you might wish to consider the following:
• Choose people to come out to first who you know will be understanding
• Only tell people when you are ready, and remember that not everyone has to know!
• Pick a time when you know you won’t be rushed, and be prepared to answer some questions
• If you are concerned about the reaction of certain people, consider writing to them.
• Don’t apologise. Should you experience a bad reaction, remember that you aren’t responsible for it. The way an individual reacts is their responsibility.