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Maybe you’ve been on a Netflix binge and felt something for an actor. Perhaps you’ve got a crush on one of your friends. Or maybe you suspect that your sexuality isn’t as straightforward as you once thought.

Whatever is going on, questioning and exploring your sexual identity can be confusing and scary. You might be worried about how the people you love will react, or what it means for your future. It’s important to remember that, while it might feel overwhelming, you’re more than capable of getting through this tough period – and it won’t last forever.

We’re here to help guide you through it all and can point you towards other sources of support, too.

How do I work out who I am and what it means?

When you have that first moment of questioning your sexuality, you may wonder what it means and what you should do about it.

First up, you don’t have to do anything straight away. Take whatever time you need to work out what these feelings mean for you, your identity and your future. There’s no time limit, so hit pause and give yourself a break.

You could take some time to look at other people’s experiences of discovering their sexuality. QLives has a great series of videos, and celebs like Troye Sivan have also shared videos on YouTube.

It might help to read up on sexuality – it’s a broad spectrum of feelings and experiences, and is definitely not as black and white as some people might think.

Settle in with a book or a movie that explores the lives of LGBTQIA+ young people.

I’m not ready to talk to anyone in person

Sharing what you’re going through can lighten your load and help you feel less alone.

If you’re not ready to have this conversation with someone you know, there are online forums where you can engage anonymously with people in the same situation. You can hear from, and even chat to, people who’ve been through it and come out the other side. You’ll find a tonne of people who can relate to what you’re going through.

Check out:

  • for anonymous online support from other young people. Available 24/7.
  • QLife Australia on 1800 184 527 or webchat to connect with trained experts and volunteers. Available from 3 pm to midnight every day.

Do I have to ‘come out’?

The phrase ‘coming out’ is often used for the conversations we have about sexuality. Most of the stories we hear about LGBTQIA+ people relate to how and when they ‘came out’ – and it can make it feel like a big event or announcement. While that can feel right for some people, it’s not for everyone.

You are the most important person in this situation, so don’t feel like you need to do or say anything that puts other people’s needs before yours. It’s entirely up to you whether, when and how you share your thoughts on your sexuality.

Twenty10 suggests that, rather than ‘coming out’, ‘inviting in’ can be a good option for some people. This way, you can share your thoughts on sexuality and what it means to you with the people closest to you.

Rather than feeling like you have to announce exactly who and what you identify as, you can just have a conversation about where your head’s at and what you think about sexuality, and take people on a journey with you.

How do I know if I’m ready to talk?

If you’re thinking about sharing your sexual identity, there are a couple of important questions you should ask yourself first:

  • Am I ready? Do you really feel like the time is right for you to do this, or are you reacting to pressure from the outside?
  • Will I be safe? If you’re worried that your personal safety will be at risk if you open up about your sexuality, consider starting with an anonymous online forum or an LGBTQIA+ support service.
  • Do I have someone I trust enough to tell? The first time you have this conversation with someone could be hard. It should be with someone you trust completely. Settle on who this person will be before you decide whether to come out.
  • Do I feel good about the decision? While you’ll probably still feel anxious about the chat, it’s vital that you feel positive about your decision to share your sexuality. If you don’t feel good about it, don’t do it.

I’m ready to talk – but how do I actually have the conversation?

If you’re ready to come out or invite in, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Think about how you will look after yourself after the conversation. You might want to put your feet up and indulge in a show that celebrates the queer community, or perhaps you’ll debrief with a support service.
  • Be clear with yourself about who you’re ready to share with.
  • Let those people know what you need from them. Do you want them simply to listen, or to share their experiences, or offer advice or support, or even help you talk to others?
  • Give yourself the time you need to have this chat – you don’t want to feel hurried or rushed.
  • Prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time so you feel as confident as possible.
  • Allow people to be surprised. Give them time to process the information, and remember that it may take more than one conversation.
  • Be aware that first reactions won’t always last. You may not get the reaction you want, but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

If someone reacts negatively, be patient but remember that you can walk away. You don’t have to cop poor treatment, so get yourself out of the situation if you need to.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to these things, so what has worked for other people may not work for you. It’s up to you to find your own way of handling it – to decide what it means for your life and how you eventually choose to identify. There’s no right or wrong way to be you, and you’re now well on your way to celebrating what makes you unique.

One of the hardest parts is deciding to get some support – and you’ve done that. We’re so proud of you! You’ve been courageous and strong just opening this webpage, so we know you’ve got what it takes to handle whatever comes next.

This article was produced thanks to support from Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN.

What can I do now?