Words like gay and straight are black and white terms, which exclude alternative sexual identities, orientations and preferences. Making a definitive statement regarding one’s sexual orientation can feel scary and it is natural to feel cautious. In our society there is an expectation that if we say something about who or what we are, that should never change. Feeling tentative about publically stating whether you prefer to have sex with men or women is normal, especially considering that sex is mostly a private act. If you happen to be someone who enjoys having sexual experiences with both people of the same gender and opposite gender, it might feel an uncomfortable pressure to have to “pick a side”.

With such a focus on sexuality and sexual orientation in society today, people can become worried if they don’t feel as though they want to choose a particular label. As homosexuality has become more widely accepted, the concept of “coming out” is inextricably linked to our notions of people who have sex with those of the same sex. Young people need to experience the vital developmental task of identity formation, and part of this includes sexual identity. Don’t allow the pressure to conform force you to choose a label with which you don’t feel entirely conformable. Humans have a natural tendency to belong in society, and choosing a particular label for sexuality is part of that identity.

Identity formation continues well into our 20s, 30s and 40s these days as more and more options become available. Feeling pressure to label your sexual experiences can thwart this important process, as once you have publicly defined yourself it is very difficult to change your mind. This is especially pertinent when we realise that our society is so focused on guarantees. If you feel that you simply cannot conform to a particular label, forcing the issue can be stressful, harmful and unhealthy. Making a conclusive decision about where your sexual orientation lies to please others and ease their discomfort with uncertainty only damages you in the long run. Ensuring that you feel comfortable is paramount when dealing with your sexuality and overriding your own feelings is not healthy.

When we don’t have a word or label to describe something, it can make us feel very uncomfortable, as the mind needs to categorise everything in order to feel safe. Due to this alone, experimenting with alternative sexual behaviours can already feel slightly uncomfortable as we will have doubts and uncertainty around who we are. Adding to this the pressure of choosing a label regarding your sexual identity can feel overwhelming. Sadly, sex is often fraught with feelings of guilt or shame due to many years of society seeing it as sinful in some way, so already this can be a fraught domain.

The desire to explore sexuality and choose to have sex with both men and women can be a difficult decision in itself as although we have become more accepting, many people still see same sex sexual activity as a deviation from the norm. This then tends to create stigmatization, as the behavior is not in line with the majority. When sexual identity is questioned or challenged it only adds to the confusion that may be present. Self-acceptance is an important tool for this, as once we accept who we are, both privately and publically, we can begin to feel more comfortable in our skin.