How to get support if you're feeling anxious about your sexuality
If you’re feeling confused about your sexuality and questioning your sexual identity, it can be tough to figure out what to do next. But there is plenty of support available out there – promise.
These feelings are significant and important, and simply being aware of this and thinking about your next steps is really great! It might all feel a bit daunting right now, but know that you will get to a place where you feel happy and comfortable in yourself and your sexual identity, and that’s really exciting.
A good first step in getting to this place is to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. But if you’re not quite ready for that, there’s other things you can do in the meantime to give your mental health a boost while you’re figuring things out.
Prefer text or using a screen reader? You can find a transcript of the decision tree here.
Tips for when you’re still figuring things out
Take your time
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to rush the process of ‘coming out’ or defining your sexuality. You can take as much time as you need – this decision is yours, and yours alone.
Lots of people feel confused and unsure during this process, so remember to practise proper self-care to make sure you’re supporting yourself in positive ways. This can look different for everyone, so check out our tips on self-care to find approaches that might work for you.
Do some research
It can all feel pretty overwhelming when you’re questioning your sexuality, but arming yourself with information can be a helpful way to begin your journey to finding a label that you feel comfortable with.
There are all sorts of groups and organisations that provide resources about sexuality and sexual identity, as well as LGBTQIA+ history and terminology.
You can check out ReachOut’s sexuality resources, and there’s lots of helpful info in the Twenty10 Resource Library and The Bisexual Resource Centre.
It might also be helpful to watch a movie or read a book that explores the lives and experiences of LGBTQIA+ young people discovering their sexuality. QLives has a great series of videos, and there’s lots of personal stories about sexuality on ReachOut.
Remember, labels aren’t everything
While ‘finding a comfortable label’ and ‘coming out’ are often spoken about as rites of passage in the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s important to know that this isn’t the case for everyone.
Not everyone feels the need to come out, or not everyone’s sexuality fits within the more well-known labels such as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or asexual. These are the most common labels of sexuality, but there are plenty of others, too. You might find that these labels don’t feel quite right for you, or that you simply prefer not to label yourself at all.
It can take time to work all of this out, though, so don’t feel you need to find answers straight away.
Labels can change
Another hot tip about labels: they aren’t set in stone. If you do decide to come out as a particular sexual identity, you might figure out later down the track that it isn’t quite the right label or that how you feel has changed. And that’s okay!
The way we identify ourselves is completely our choice. It’s absolutely okay to change how we feel and the way we identify as we get older and have more life experiences.
When we’re figuring these things out, sometimes asking ‘What do I want?’ and ‘What would make me happy?’ can be more helpful than definitively trying to find a label for ourselves by asking, ‘What AM I?’
Write it all down
When you’re questioning your sexuality and sexual identity, and trying to understand how you’re feeling, it can help to write things down.
Journalling can be beneficial because it helps to put our thoughts in order and prevent them from swirling around in our heads.
Try writing down answers to some of these questions:
- Who am I attracted to? (This can be people you know, celebrities, or a particular gender – whatever you feel most comfortable writing down.)
- How do I feel when I use the word [sexual identity] to identify myself?
- How would it feel to say, ‘I am [sexual identity]’ out loud?
- What do I picture when I think about being truly happy with my sexuality?
- Who do I picture when I think about who I’d like to be in a relationship with?
- What are some of the thoughts I’ve had about identifying myself as a certain sexuality? Are these thoughts helpful or unhelpful?
- Do I feel accepting of this sexuality? Why, or why not?
- What do I picture when I think about coming out?
Don’t worry if you can’t answer all these questions straight away! Just try to describe exactly how you’re feeling – even if it’s ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m confused about this’ – and then come back to it later. Over time, you might find you’re starting to piece things together and are feeling more comfortable with answering the questions.
There’s a variety of different ways you can find support when questioning your sexuality or struggling with your mental health as you learn more about your sexual identity.
Trusted loved ones
If you have someone in your life that you trust to talk to about this, that’s fantastic! Be sure to choose a quiet time to have the conversation, in a place where you feel at ease and safe. Twenty10 has a guide to how to have this conversation – thinking of it as ‘inviting in’, rather than ‘coming out’, can be helpful in making you feel comfortable.
For some more suggestions on how to make this conversation as simple as possible, take a look at the ‘I’m ready to talk’ section of our guide to understanding your sexuality.
There’s a range of different support services available if you’d like to speak to someone anonymously about how you’re feeling.
QLife is Australia’s national LGBTQIA+ support service. They have a helpline and an online chat function (both available from 3 pm to midnight every day) with LGBTQIA+ peer workers who have similar experiences to you and can offer comfort and guidance.
But there’s plenty of other places to contact, too. Check out our list of all the LGBTQIA+ support services around Australia.
Forums can be a really excellent place to learn, and talk about how you’re feeling while remaining anonymous. Reading about other young people’s experiences can be a valuable reminder that you aren’t alone in feeling the way you do. There are others out there who understand, and you can connect with them to talk through what you’re feeling and how to manage it all.
The ReachOut Online Community is a safe and moderated space to connect with other people going through similar issues to yourself, and there’s dedicated spaces to discuss sexuality and gender.
If you need help now
If you need to speak to someone urgently, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 to speak to a trained counsellor or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or QLife on 1800 184 527 to talk to an LGBTQIA+ peer worker.
What can I do now?
- Read our article on understanding sexuality a bit better – and find some tips you can use for talking about it.
- Check out the ReachOut Online Community ‘Sexuality’ space to chat with other young people exploring their sexual identity, or read about the experiences of others.
- If you feel you need more support, check out our guide to LGBTQIA+ support services.