Sexual Orientation – It’s Complicated

Confused Sexual IdentityHave you ever thought about how complicated sexual orientation is? Sexual orientation usually means romantic or sexual interest toward girls, guys, or both – but it’s much more complex than that! Sexual orientation can include romantic and sexual attraction, what a person calls themselves (for example, straight – interested in people of a different gender; gay or lesbian – interested in people of the same gender; or bisexual – interested in both girls and guys), who a person has sex with or hooks up with, who their romantic relationships are with, and even who they sexually fantasize about.

Sometimes you might feel pressure to identify your sexual orientation a certain way. I could fill pages with all the labels that are out there right now: straight, mostly straight, bisexual, mostly gay, gay, lesbian, queer, unsure, questioning, heteroflexible, unlabeled, pansexual, omnisexual, sexually fluid… the list goes on. However, you don’t have to choose a label that doesn’t feel right. The way you identify is personal, and how you identify is completely up to you. The most important thing is to be true to yourself!

Attraction, sexual identity, and sexual behavior often go together, but not always. Sometimes a person might identify one way, but have attractions or sexual behaviors that don’t match their identity. For example, a girl might identify as straight, but feel attracted to other girls. She may even have kissed another girl once, but still thinks of herself as straight. This may seem strange, but it’s actually pretty common.

It’s also common for people’s attractions and sexual identity to change over time – especially for teens. For example, a guy might only be attracted  to other guys and identify as gay… but then he becomes romantically interested in his best friend, who is a girl. Now he’s attracted to both guys and girls (or at least his best friend). Suddenly it doesn’t make as much sense to identify as gay, so he starts identifying as bisexual. All this to say that sexual orientation is a lot more complicated than you might think!

-Psychologist Sabra