As important as ethnic and racial identifications can be, deeper and more important is our sexual identity , also called sexual orientation . That word “sexual” is misleading. A person’s sexual identity is not just about sex. It is more like a tribal identity than a signifier of sexual preferences.
A sexual identity includes enduring thoughts, feelings, fantasies and emotions that contributes to a person being sexually and romantically attracted to another person of the same gender, the opposite gender or both genders.
Sexual interests, sexual behavior, and sexual identity are different and are not always aligned in an individual.
You will be asked in your first session, “How do you self-identity?” People usually respond with straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual. Others are questioning their sexual orientation and don’t know.
The Coming Out Process
The beginning stages of the coming out process can resemble many other psychological processes. Before coaching clients into the coming out, I assess with them what their sexual behavior means—as it does not necessarily indicate a need for coming out.
Just because you are sexual with the same gender, doesn’t necessarily reflect sexual and romantic orientation. There remains a difference between sexual identity, orientation, fantasies and behavior as discussed in the article “Are You What You Orgasm?”
The possibilities include gay or bisexuality, bi-curiosity, homo-eroticism, sexual abuse and more. You should be informed and understand each of these issues before and during the coming-out process.
Men who were sexually abused as boys or teenagers may re-enact that trauma by engaging in homosexual behaviors—and at first glance, appear to be in early denial about their homosexuality. By contrast, some women, gay or straight, who have been sexually abused will repress their sexuality, while others re-enact their early abuse by being sexually promiscuous with men when, in fact, they are lesbians.
As a result, many therapists reassure clients that once their abuse issues are resolved, their same-sex behaviors will evaporate. But this doesn’t always happen, particularly if the client is innately gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Also, bisexuals may be able to repress their same-sex feelings—simply because they were not that strong to begin with.