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Changing your mind: Should we define ourselves?

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Compared to school, family life and work, life at university is a fairly sexualized place. For most people it is the time after moving out of your parents’ house, and before getting married, where you can be free to explore without prying eyes.

If you are not heterosexual this means there is a lot of pressure to come out, and then choose a letter of the acronym (LGBT+) and stick to it. Changing your gender or orientation identity as can often cause problems, and people often judge you or question the validity of your identity.

If for example you change from identifying as gay to bi(+), or the other way around, eyebrows may be raised. This however is problematic behaviour, and can lead to people feeling they are in the closet for a second time.

If you are not heterosexual this means there is a lot of pressure to come out

These pressures to stick to one identity are partly internal, for example believing that people will view you as attention seeking if you have same sex relationships, if before you identified as heterosexual.

There is also a sense that people will view you as having lied about your orientation before or even tricked them. Changing sexual identity is often seen as a “phase” or that people are “confused”. This is language acts as a form of micro aggression and implies that their identity is not valid.

Believing that people will view you as attention seeking if you have same sex relationships

However there are plenty legitimate reasons why people change their orientation or gender. One reason is that people may have assumed you were of a particular orientation, and you never had the confidence or could be bothered to correct them.

If you have been in a same sex relationship, people often assume you are exclusively gay, and question your validity if you later have a relationship with a person of a different gender.

There are plenty legitimate reasons why people change their orientation or gender

For me, having a girlfriend in high school, meant people assumed I was heterosexual, something that didn’t bother me too much, even though at the time I knew I was pretty firmly bisexual.

When I had a relationship with a man and came out as bisexual, one of my friends from home (actually bisexual himself) told me to keep quiet about it and not draw attention to myself, because it might just be a phase.

For me, having a girlfriend in high school, meant people assumed I was heterosexual

Beyond this, people can change their sexual attraction, because sexuality is genuinely fluid. Who you are attracted to is based on our experiences, and is not something we can necessarily control. I know that my preferences have changed over time.

For some people you actually have to have homosexual experiences, to know for sure that you are homosexual.

People can change their sexual attraction, because sexuality is genuinely fluid

There is perhaps even greater pressure for people to stick to one gender identity, even though plenty gender fluid and non-binary people use different pronouns from xe, they, he and she – either day to day or in different stages of their life.

There is perhaps a perception that gender fluid and trans* people get to live a glamorous life like Caitlyn Jenner or Ruby Rose, and therefore they are just attention seeking. However the glamorous lives of trans* celebrities portrayed in magazines is just one layer.

There is perhaps even greater pressure for people to stick to one gender identity

Chances are that if someone is gender fluid, then they have been through a lot, from gender dysphoria and the depression associated with it, to violence directed against you, and your family potentially not accepting you.

So don’t make them have to deal with the flawed idea that they are only doing it for attention. All of us at university are young and it is okay to be questioning your gender or sexual identity. More than most places, people at university are also quite accepting.

Chances are that if someone is gender fluid, then they have been through a lot

For a lot of people it is hard to decide their gender identity and we should be accepting of this. If you yourself are questioning, I would advise you explore your identity so long as you feel safe, and don’t listen to anyone who questions your identity.

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