Should I come out while still questioning?

This began life as a reply to someone on /r/questioning, but decided to archive it for myself.


(Paraphrasing to anonymize)

OP (17, she/her) had been questioning her sexuality for a while, and has privately used a few different labels along the way, but still remained kind of confused about her identity. She had planned on coming out to her family once sure of her labels, but she’s slowly coming to the realization that this might take some many years to fully flesh out. She wants to be open about her sexuality to friends and family, but even though they are generally supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, she feels it may still be complicated to explain certain concepts to some individuals.

OP’s main question: “Is it a possibility to come out although I’m not sure of my labels yet? At the moment, I would most likely come out as simply “not heterosexual” and questioning. Also, since I’m fairly nervous about this, would it be ok to do this in writing, or should I only do this face-to-face? Should I wait until I’ve stopped questioning?”


IMO, identifying as questioning is such a power move.

“Good luck trying to shove me in one of your stupid boxes while even I don’t know what the hell is going on in here!”

Labels can be tricky when the landscape seems to keep shifting like this, but I have two main ideas on this front:

1. On Adolescence

Teen years suck in countless ways, but they also come with a neat perk: Nobody expects you to have your shit together yet. Those younger than you will look up to you by default, those older than you have been through it and understand, and your peers are busy dealing with their own shit. You have the benefit of a few years of life with bumpers where you’re allowed expected to figure out who you are, often via trial-and-error.

Salty adults can complain all they want about a teenager going through a “phase,” but we only call it that because when we try to remember our own teenage years, it reminds us of all the ways that our teenage selves needed improvement in order to become who we are today. It’s human nature to change and adapt, and teen/early adult years are often one’s first and most substantial opportunity to make those changes based on internal motivation as opposed to external motivation like a parent, guardian, teacher, etc.

Guess what: When a human with little life experience and a newly-discovered personal agency is given the opportunity to make changes to themselves, they make uninformed decisions. Every single adult on this planet has made a bad decision in their teenage years, and learned from it. C’est la vie. The important part of this process is that when we make a misstep like this, we come out of it with lessons about what not to do next time. This is how adults are forged from the pressure-cooker of puberty, and we all go through it, whether we want to acknowledge that reality or not.

The only reason that adults label this as a “phase” is because when adults cast their mind back to their own lessons, they come to the incorrect conclusion that they shouldn’t have made that decision in the first place. This makes a little sense when considering that this conclusion is the lesson they took from the experience, but how else were they to learn that lesson if not for experience? Life doesn’t come with a manual or textbook to learn from, so how else are teenagers supposed to figure out how they want to dress or who they want to hang out with, or what they want to do with their life??

We all learn via experience during puberty, and your parents are no exception.

2. On Labels and Questioning

A label is not a template for behavior. It’s a tool used to communicate your particular brand of awesome to others. You are you, pick a label that fits. (or don’t, whatever)

This isn’t to say that labels are unimportant, though. At the very least labels provide a useful shorthand for things that are complicated or abstract (see: bisexuality vs pansexuality), so there’s definitely an argument for their practicality. The point is that your you-ness should inform your label choice, and not the other way around.

This is why I think identifying as questioning is so cool. You can’t get any more honest than openly admitting that you don’t know shit and are still figuring it out :D

Alright, out of my soliloquy, and back to your thing :P

Communicating Your Truth

Is it a possibility to come out although I am not sure of my labels yet?

As each person on earth is wholely unique, I would argue that there’s currently around 7 billion different possible sexualities out there. Who you are, who you like, and the reasoning/motivation for any of these things are fully unique to you alone, which means that you happen to be literally the only human on the face of the planet with enough information to determine what label fits you best.

This goes both ways, too. You are the only one who can determine which labels do fit, but the same goes for labels that don’t fit. If heterosexuality no longer fits you, that conclusion is equally entirely valid.

On that same coin, choosing to use no labels is just as valid, and so is picking a label but choosing to keep it private.

should I wait until I stopped questioning?

No. All humans change, and sexuality is not exempt. If you’re feeling strongly about letting people know your labels, then that’s a good enough reason in itself. If your attraction happens to change later on, that change is also valid, as is your choice of new labels

do you think that I should use a letter to come out?

IMO, whether you end up using it or not, write the letter anyways. When I have tangled, shifting, or abstract thoughts that don’t lend themselves to easy explanation, I find that the process of taking hold of them and translating them into words helps my own understanding. Even if nobody reads what I write, I come away with a better idea of what I’m feeling, which parts are the most important to communicate, and how they can be worded.

If you end up with a letter you’re happy with, I think it’s a great way to deal with the nerves involved with face-to-face convos. A letter involves a great deal more time and effort than just words on a page, and I think your parents will definitely understand that :)

Above all else, remember that the way others respond to this information is ultimately filtered through their emotions, and is more of a reflection of their perspective. Whether the result is positive or negative, you are simply putting the information out there (as is your prerogative), and it is their responsibility to deal with it. There can be wider practical concerns (cases where parental withdrawal is likely, for instance), but on the general social front: you are not responsible for how other people handle the information you provide.

However you choose to come out, I wish you all the best :)

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Adolescence, fluidity, and communicating your truth

Last Modified: 2021-12-25