Your identity is a complicated and multilayered thing. Some people place importance on things like nationality, while for others their identity might be wrapped up in a sport they play, or a genre of music that means the world to them. And for many of us, sexuality is a really important aspect of what makes us feel most comfortably ourselves – but the way we’re talking about it is changing in an amazing way.

For lots of young people, the rigid and restrictive conditions around sexuality are looking more and more old-fashioned. You might be a cisgender girl who’s always dated boys but suddenly you catch yourself with feelings for another girl at school. In previous generations this would have caused far much more anxiety and confusion, whereas now it’s something most young people have no real qualms about. With a wealth of knowledge and thousands of different perspectives to absorb online, we’re less likely to define ourselves in such strict terms – officially.

A recent study of over 1000 people aged 13-26 from the UK and US found that a massive 57% of participants don’t identify as strictly heterosexual. As a society, we’re going beyond those black and white binary definitions.

Representation is a really important factor here. It’s so important to see people who reflect who you are in the media, because seeing people like you makes you feel less alone. As a young teen struggling with my own sexuality, to have had something like the San Junipero episode of Black Mirror, or the wonderfully queer Steven Universe, would have meant the world to me (it still does tbh).

Online communities are another way this generation is dismantling sex and gender stereotypes. Back 20 years ago, someone grappling with new and confusing feelings might not have had someone to confide in – but these days, tight-knit groups of online friends and kindred spirits from every corner of the globe can be a total lifeline. The value and legitimacy of online relationships was emphasised by the study results, with 55% of respondents having been in a virtual relationship with someone they had never met before, particularly trans or nonbinary people and those with disabilities.

The study, which was commissioned by anti-bullying organisation Ditch The Label, showed that 34% of people feel as though the label-based definition of sexuality is obsolete. Now more than ever, young people feel like they can be themselves and navigate their sexuality at their own pace, without fear of negative repercussions. A whopping 93% of participants said they saw nothing wrong with exploring your sexuality, and I think they’re totally right. As long as you’re not hurting others and taking care of yourself, just… live your life.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that if you do end up identifying exclusively under a certain label, that’s totally ok too. So many people find community and kinship in embracing a label, and it helps them make sense of their place in the world. On the other hand, it’s not cool to be disparaging of someone if they don’t fit in one category or another. The beauty of us lies in our difference and diversity, and that kind of attitude can leave someone feeling ostracised and inauthentic (speaking from personal experience on this one).

As young people create a more accepting and open-minded view of human sexuality and gender, here’s hoping the progress continues. And if you’re struggling with your sexuality, that there are so many supports out there for you to help navigate through what can be an intense time.

If you remember one thing, it’s that your feelings are always valid regardless of whether you fit into any box or stereotype. You’re never on your own.

@incogellen

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

 

Not being taken seriously is awful. It’s the most frustrating feeling, whether it’s your project group in school not listening to your ideas, or a boy asking you to name 50 of a band’s songs when you wear their t-shirt to prove you’re a real fan. THE WORST.

But often other people not taking you seriously can have more damaging repercussions than being bored out of your tree for 30 minutes at a party as a boy asks you to recite Radiohead lyrics. It can really knock your self-esteem, particularly if it’s a dig at a part of your identity you hold dear – or might still struggle with.

For a lot of people, our sexuality is a massive element of what makes us well, ‘us’. But all too frequently other people (friends, parents, the media) can make you feel invalidated and inauthentic when it comes to who you fancy. This is particularly the case when it comes to those of us who might not identify along the traditional binary of attraction. If you’re not straight, it’s ‘just a phase’, and if you are attracted to more than one gender, you’re obviously hopping aboard the ‘Queerness As A Trend’ bandwagon that we’ve all heard about.

How to deal

First off, if it’s just a phase – who cares? Exploring your sexuality is normal and healthy, and it’s never your fault that someone has stereotypical preconceived notions about who you are.

‘You’re just confused.’ Er, being a person alive in the WORLD is confusing. Confusion is an aspect of being human we all have to deal with, but having your feelings invalidated by an ignorant remark can leave you feeling embarrassed and like a fake. If you feel like you can engage with this person and tell them your feelings were hurt, by all means give it a shot, but it’s also not your duty to convince someone that your identity is worthwhile. A lot of people would class their sexuality as fluid and changeable, while other people feel very comfortable categorising themselves as one thing or another. Guess what? Everyone’s feelings are valid! I know, crazy right?

Secondly, people dismissing others identifying under the LGBTQI umbrella as a ‘trend’ is nasty and short-sighted.

LGBTQI individuals have a much higher risk of suffering from mental health issues, or being victims of prejudiced abuse because of how they identify. The American Department of Health and Human Services found that there are higher rates of depression and anxiety among lesbians and bisexual women, with bisexuals even more likely to experience mental health issues. A lot of the time ‘bi-erasure’ (ignoring, dismissing or pretending bisexuality doesn’t exist) can contribute to the anxiety for bisexual people, who feel like they have twice the amount to prove. So if someone ever implies you’re just pretending to reach some imaginary level of cool, they’re being ignorant of the fact that LGBTQI people have a harder time in a largely hetero and gender-normative world. Tell them that.

And remember…

That old chestnut, compulsory heterosexuality, is another reason people might brush off your feelings about who you’re attracted to. The world is structured so people are viewed as heterosexual by default, unless they can prove otherwise. This means that if you deviate from the so-called ‘norm’, you’re sometimes viewed with a little bit of suspicion. But thankfully, people seem to be becoming more open-minded and thoughtful in their responses to the multitudes of sexual identities and ways to define yourself (or not).

Ultimately, if you find yourself feeling less comfortable under a label and gravitate towards another one, that’s fine. ‘Finding yourself’ is kind of a myth anyway, as who you are is a continuous process, moulded by what you experience as you grow up. People who have a problem with it most likely have their own issues they’re projecting onto you. Sexuality isn’t as easy to compartmentalise as you might think, and it’s not up to you to constantly prove yourself to other people.

Look after yourself, and treat others with the same respect and kindness you deserve yourself. That’s all any of us really need to do.

@incogellen 

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

It’s cold, wet and oh-so miserable outside today… but if this video doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, we don’t know what will.

Shannon Beveridge, whose Youtube channel ‘nowthisisliving‘ has almost 450,000 subscribers, uploaded this beautiful video to her channel last week about coming to terms with her sexuality.

Sorry, you’re probably crying. But see, aren’t your cockles warm now?

Genre: Fantasy/Romance/LGBT

Absorbency rating: Regular

Quote:

Okay, I’ll say it. The bar is lower for boys. I know for girl-born-girls this isn’t news. But for us newbies, it is a real awakening to have your hand up in pre-algebra waiting so long to get called on that the blood starts to pool in your neck. Mrs Walsh must have asked every single boy in the room for their answers before she even considering calling on me… Let’s see what else? Ah yes. When a guy makes a joke in class, the girls always laugh. It could be the lamest punch line in the universe, and still, here come the ha-has… Also, girls aren’t allowed to eat. Ever.

Like skinny jeans or Beyonce’s dressing room, this book can be a little hard to get into. But the initial premise is super intriguing – a group of people called ‘Changers’ who, for the last four years of high school, spend each year in a different body. This is the first installment of a four part series, telling the story of Ethan, who wakes up one morning as Drew, a pretty blonde girl with wide eyes.

If you can stick with it, the second half of the book explores ideas of gender and sexuality in a brilliant, creative way that we’ve never seen before. Yay for fluidity! Just remember pay attention.

Changers, Book One: Drew, T Cooper & Allison Glock, £6.99

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.