It is commonly established that many factors contribute to sexual orientation - There are both biological factors, and also social and environmental factors.
In your tween years as you approach puberty, the limbic system (the hormone and emotion-fueled part of your brain) goes through a rapid and huge growth spurt.
However, the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for logical and rational processes like decision-making, planning and self-control) is working hard to catch up. It’s estimated that this part of the brain is fully developed only in our mid-twenties.
What does this mis-match in growth mean? Well, as our brains mature, we may find it hard to regulate our emotions and we may be prone to making decisions based solely on emotions.
Understanding this is important as we grow in our self-awareness. When tackling such a complex question like sexual orientation, we wouldn’t want to make any hasty judgements.
These questions may help you process things:
What are the reasons you feel this way?
Are they reasons or thoughts people without same-sex attraction have too?
Our thoughts also have the power to grow into convictions when we dwell on them. Overthinking - or obsessive thinking - can cause anxiety too. You can avoid this by making a conscious choice to do something different when you start to overthink. This could be as simple as getting up from whatever you are doing and putting on your favourite playlist, doing a chore or engaging in a hobby instead.
You don’t need to figure this out alone — It is good to talk to a safe adult whom you know genuinely cares about you.
Going back to the common factors that influence sexual orientation, ask yourself what are the social and emotional influences that could have contributed to how you feel.
To really understand ourselves, we may need to explore some tough questions. Could family dynamics or role models and popular culture have affected your inclination? Are the opinions of close friends swaying your own? These are not always easy to answer so it may help to share your thoughts with someone you trust and who knows you well, or to seek help from a counsellor.
It’s helpful to be aware of external social and environmental factors so you can discern your own feelings and your personal stand.
It is also helpful to know that having a same-sex attraction is different from wanting to be like someone of a different sex or wanting someone of the same sex to like you. We can be emotionally drawn to someone of the same sex because of who they are or what they represent. But admiration of a person of the same sex does not mean you have same-sex attraction.
As you grow as a teen, a big question you are figuring out is “Who am I?” Or in other words, your identity.
Besides your sexual orientation, many other things go into your budding identity as an individual. These include family relations, talents and gifts, values and conviction and how you express all of that.
This is the time when your family-taught values can be tested and you may have to learn how to express these values as personal convictions.
Don’t let your questions on sexual orientation overwhelm your entire identity. You are much more than that. Grow in your emotional well-being, your values system, your own development and how you can contribute to society as an individual.
Talk to your parents about relationships, dating and sex. Hear their thoughts on when you can have a boyfriend or girlfriend.
When you look back at your teenage-hood so far, you may realise that your likes and dislikes and even perhaps convictions have shifted and changed. This trend may continue even into adulthood. Part of growing up – as we learn through new experiences – is this constant change.
If you have experienced same-sex attraction over a long period but have not talked to a trusted adult about it, it may be good to do so. Though you may not be comfortable doing so, talking with a parent or mentor figure means that you don’t go through this journey alone, and you know for sure that you are sharing these private thoughts with someone who loves you and wants the very best for you.
Research shows a high number of sexual abuse cases involve people we know so please choose your "safe person" wisely.
You can prepare for a good conversation by being honest that these are what you feel but you are not sure what it means and involving them by asking for their help. You can also make it clear that it’s hard to talk about it and you are doing so because you trust them.
Setting up conversations this way makes for a better two-way conversation, especially if you are unsure about how they may react.
In our digitally-wired world, you will find opinions and even avenues that invite you to experiment with sexuality. Remember that at the end of the day, you are the first one (besides your present and future family) who will bear the consequences of your choices. So do consult that wiser and more rational pre-frontal cortex before making any leaps.
Continue to make choices that help you grow as a person and set you up for your future too. Ask yourself what you want in a spouse, and what you want your future family to be like. You have your whole life ahead of you.
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