The pandemic may have given people time to reflect on questions about sexuality.
Originally published April 15, 2021 on psychologytoday.com
- Sexual fluidity refers to one’s sexual orientation not being permanently fixed, while sexual orientation refers to one’s enduring attractions.
- Sexual fluidity is common, and the enforced break of the pandemic may have given people time to reflect on their authentic selves.
- Exploring one’s sexual fluidity and orientation can be both exciting and scary, and some people identify with a label more quickly than others.
- Some tips for fostering an authentic self include writing “I” statements in a journal and experimenting with settings on dating apps.
One of the authentic paths that I noticed rise to the forefront of mental exploration during the pandemic and this period of quiet is people’s evaluation of their sexual fluidity and sexual orientation. I define sexual fluidity as one’s sexual orientation not being permanently fixed, whereas they define sexual orientation as one’s “enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual).” GLAAD. Without this forced break, its doubtful individuals would have allowed themselves the opportunity to delve into deeper questions they may have had for some time.
The forced time alone has given people more time to pause and think about things they couldn’t fit into the frenzy of their everyday lives prior to the pandemic. One of the silver linings of this has been the opportunity for people to own their authenticity on a deeper level. This can excite, liberate, and frighten—all at the same time.
Questioning Sexuality Can Lead to Mixed Emotions
In an article published in 2014 by Katz-Wise and Hide in Archives of Sexual Behavior, they found sexual fluidity was “reported by 63% of females and 50% of males” in 188 18- to 26-year-old men and women with same-gender orientation. Although sexual awakening is prevalent during this age cohort, samplings from my practice show exploration of sexual fluidity and sexual orientation is universally occurring at all ages.
In fact, more people have questioned the possibility of their sexual fluidity or orientation over the past year than any other time in my 20-plus years as a therapist. This authenticity awakening has previously prevented them from “seeing” themselves fully or allowing themselves to be seen by others.
People exploring their sexuality are finding it liberating and exciting. However, they can also experience moments of confusion and sadness stemming from previously forced societal labeling from culturally expected normative behaviors. Often, they withdraw from their family and friends and feel frustration with themselves for not coming to an answer quickly enough.
Some of my clients have embraced labels such as bisexual or pansexual, among others to describe their sexual orientation. Labeling can comfort and allow them to feel connected to an existing community of individuals with an established history. For some people, identifying with a labeled sexuality can occur quickly and for others, it may take more time.
There is no right or wrong amount of time. It’s more important to find reassurance knowing that a label is not a necessary part of learning and examining their sexuality. They recognize if they’re exploring their sexual fluidity, not labeling themselves doesn’t make them less legitimate.
Tips for Exploring Sexual Orientation and Fluidity
When I have a client in my practice approach me with questions about their sexuality, these are five self-help techniques I recommend they try at home:
- Write “I” statements in a journal. This can be scary at first, but remember that whatever statements you make about yourself are only true at that moment. For example, I have clients who have started with an “I” statement: “I know I’m not 100% straight.” Personal truths change over time, so you’re only committing to any “I” statement at the moment you make it. Don’t force yourself to know your life’s truths quickly. Be patient with yourself.
- If you’re a woman, and are questioning your sexual fluidity, I encourage you to read Dr. Diamond’s book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Woman’s Love and Desire, and read it slowly. It’s important not to rush through self-exploration exercises. Journal as you go so you can reflect on your thoughts.
- Consider experimenting with the settings on dating apps. Be mindful you don’t have to commit to taking action. Start slowly. Try changing your settings and look at who “likes” you or try “liking” someone. Maybe have a “chat” or take a leap and go on a date. If you opt to date, it’s critical to be honest with the person. Explain you’re exploring your sexuality, so they won’t feel used.
- Consider watching television or listening to the radio or other digital platforms that advocate and encourage different relationships in their programs. We still live in a hetero-normative society. Testing out your reactions to media portrayals of LGBTQIA+ interactions and bonds, as well as allowing your brain an opportunity to normalize these queer relationships can be informative and soothing.
- Give yourself the space not to know. Many of my clients do better if they minimize putting pressure on themselves until they’re ready to identify as either fluid, bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, gay, queer, et al.
Regardless of the path you choose to foster your most authentic self, give yourself the time to learn who you are throughout your journey in life.