Determining Sexual Orientation

Determining Sexual Orientation

Young people are learning much more terminology than I learned growing up. They get information from sex education in school, social media, parents, friends, books and the internet.

My articles in the Sun are around 500 words. I would like to begin by listing 47 terms to describe sexual attraction, behavior, and orientation. Yes, they are alphabetical. Allosexual, allosexism, androsexual, asexual, aromatic, autosexual, autoromantic, bicurious, biromantic, closeted, coming out, cupiosexual, demisexual, demiromantic, fluid, gay, graysexual, grayromantic, gynesexual, heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, LGBTQIA+, libidoist asexual, monosexual, non-libidoist asexual, omnisexual, pansexual, panromantic, polysexual, pomosexual, passing, queer, questioning, romantic attraction, romantic orientation, sapiosexual, sexual attraction, sex-averse, sex-favorable, sex-indifferent, sexual orientation or sexuality, sex-repulsed, skoliosexual, spectrasexual, straight, transgender.

Most people go through times where they question their sexuality. Often it is when we are in adolescence. We may have a moment’s pause. We may deliberate for a few weeks. We may go back and forth. We may be comfortable with our thoughts and feelings. We may not be. We may share them with someone. We may ruminate alone. We may write about it. We may express it in other creative formats. We may look at people differently. We may feel we are being looked at differently. We may alter clothing, hair, make-up. We may alter our name.

For some, the stage of growing up with our sexual orientation is easy. For others it is painful. For many, it is in-between.

There is an advantage to learning the language. It is like learning the language of feelings, which I have written about before. Language gives us a way of identifying ourselves. It helps with clarity. It helps us communicate who we are to ourselves and others.

The increase of information about sexuality has helped people identify their own confusion and clarity. It has also educated us about options. Younger people are aware of more ways of being sexual. For some, there can be an increase in anxiety or stress. One may question one’s orientation as the language is learned. That can be confusing. However, it can also provide clarity about how one is and how people one knows are.

The youth I have worked with who have self-identified as gay or transgender are saying they are rarely judged by their peers. That is different than what occurred in the past. Knowledge does tend to counter prejudice and judgement.

Change can be difficult for many. Parents and adults often have a harder time with the information children are receiving. I encourage them to have discussions with their children and find out how the information is affecting them, rather than form assumptions.

It is not unusual for our sexual orientation to be fluid. We may alter our sense of ourselves. I hope people will let their children know that without trying to communicate that they hope it will change if it is something the adult is uncomfortable with.

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to or through her website,