Questioning is probably the first step in the LGBT+ community. But it doesn’t have to be the first step, and for most, it’s the first, the third, the fifth... Because you never truly have to stop questioning, and most people don’t.
There are many different labels in the LGBT+ community- gay, bisexual, pansexual, genderfluid, non-binary... questioning is the process in which you decide which label fits you, how to describe your own identity. It’s a slow process that requires a lot of intense introspection, and just like you will change as life goes on, so will your labels. Questioning is very difficult, and it isn’t necessary to land on a label at all, or to be done questioning when you come out. Questioning is also a very personal process: No one except yourself can decide on your own identity.
In fact, I myself am still questioning. When I was five, before I even knew what being trans was, I told my sister I was a boy. Now, 13 years later, I am not quite as sure. I’ve spent years and years questioning both my sexuality and my gender, and once I accepted the fact that I’m queer at all I felt the desire to find a label that fits. I still haven’t found one, but I have found a lot more people who are questioning, some in their 30s. Questioning doesn’t ever have to stop. Sexuality and gender are fluid, and labels change just like you do. Still, in my journey, I have found a few buzzfeed-list type questioning folks.
People question differently. Some never stop. Some immediately find their label with amazing confidence and self-knowledge. Some question for a while and turn around to head straight back to the hetero corner (get it?). Some don’t even bother with labels.
What do these types have in common? They’re all real, valid and beautiful. They all have the same end results: Making you more comfortable in your own skin, your own identity. And they all deserve the same respect. No matter how long you take to question, or where you end up- straight, gay, bi, still questioning- as long as you’re happy, you’ve done it right. However, for many people, having a concrete label is what makes them happy, or at least makes life easier.
So if you’re still questioning and really just want to settle on a label, here’s some advice:
-Talk to people
Talk it out. Talk to your friends or your parents about how you’re feeling, who you feel attracted to, what your body feels like. Nowadays it is more and more common for people to question so you will probably find some friends who are questioning as well.
-Take it to a therapist
If you can’t find anyone you’re comfortable talking to, take it to a therapist. There are therapists specifically trained to help LGBT+ teens, but pretty much any therapist will be able to help you, and everything you say in a session is strictly confidential.
-Find a queer community and/or peer
If you want someone who really knows what you’re going through, try to find a local queer community or group, join some events, make some friends and talk to your out and proud peers about their own identity and labels.
-Realize you don’t have to stress
It’s alright not to find a label at all, or to change labels, or to question and then realize you’re straight after all. There’s nothing to stress about. If someone pressures you to label yourself, they’re the ones in the wrong.
-Don’t set yourself a time limit
One of my favourite daydreams is that one day, aged 90, I’ll sit up and say “I got it! I’m bisexual!” Don’t worry if it takes time. You’re never too late to start questioning, and never too late to finish.
-Let yourself question again. And again. And again.
Labels change. You change. If you feel like the label you chose two days ago or two decades ago doesn’t fit, go back to the start and just question again. Figure it out. Take time to think about and for yourself.
-Identify and inform people of your needs
Identify how you want to be treated. Do you want specific pronouns? Do you want people to stop asking you which ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ you like? Do you want to change your name? Tell the people around you, and keep reminding them if they mess up.
-Write it all down
Write what you think. Don’t stop to correct your spelling or your grammar, or check what you’ve written. Don’t bother making it comfortable for others to read. It doesn’t have to be something you share. Just write down everything that comes across your mind, even things that are seemingly unrelated.
Finally, and most importantly:
-Don’t let others label you
A label has only one purpose: Making you more comfortable. Not to make someone else happy, someone’s life easier, or make someone else feel less alone. A label is for you only. Take your time, reflect upon yourself, and you’ll find what you want in no time.
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