23 March 2023

Was I too late to discover my sexuality in my early 20s?

Today, I’m a 22-year-old bi guy attracted to men, women, and many others. However, I don’t know if I’m too late to come out about myself.

I discovered I was bi when I was 20/21 after realizing my great interest in same-sex romances, watching yaoi, tv dramas, and comics that captured my heart’s interest. I mostly had sexual desires for men and women way back when I was 14, indulging in mostly women and some men privately to “pleasure” myself from fantasies or porn (straight & gay). I didn’t engage in any relationships or sex due to my family’s conservative beliefs and environment, and instead focused on my academics and leadership roles, avoiding or contradicting LGBTQ matters among the majority of my peers. The only safe space I had to enjoy these feelings was at Starbucks or in my bedroom.

I kept this up until junior year in college, retouching my identity during the pandemic (19 years old), where I explore it openly without any restraints or limitations from my family or friends. Over the days and months, I started to discover I wasn’t completely straight, nor completely gay. Instead, I found myself to be bi, that I felt a great sense of relief for my life to live.

I have been in two pride parades, joined the pride alliance, and connected more in the queer community in person and online. I came out to a few friends, and my mother. After college, I dated and made out with a guy that I loved until we split ways, and still seeking a good relationship down the road. But back to my question.

After all these things, I ask myself every single day and night–was I too late to discover my sexuality in my early 20s? If so, why didn’t I open myself to this matter earlier when I was 14 or in high school?

I think about this because I feel like I’m leaving everyone blank about my personal life–from my father to everyone who knows me in their circle. I loved to be with a guy but don’t how to approach this matter when everyone thinks that I’m a straight conservative young black man, which I’m no longer am not.

Sorry if this response is long-winded

Lorena (elle/iel/she/they)
Hi M,
Thank you so much for contacting us with your question! 🙂
From what I understand, you’re feeling like people’s current perceptions of you are different from who you truly are, which makes you wonder why it took you several years of exploring your sexual orientation to discover that you’re bisexual, that way you could have told them earlier, is that correct?
I understand how that can be confusing and frustrating. Right now, you see a lot of signs that you have been interested in both men and women since you were at least 14, right? And it makes you wonder, “how come I didn’t realize sooner if I was doing this or that”, something along those lines? It must also be difficult to know that people currently don’t see you for you. Your feelings are absolutely valid. And you’re very strong for being able to accept who you are and come out to a few people so far about your bisexuality. 
To answer your question, it is never too late to come out to oneself or to others. It is also not uncommon for any person to realize their sexual orientation later in life, some people accepting themselves after they’re 50+ years old! In that sense, coming out in your early 20s happens pretty often as early adulthood is characterized by individual and relational exploration. Based on the information you’ve given, it’s possible that it was difficult for you to realize that you were bisexual and come out before the pandemic because of the conservative environment you were in. Being surrounded by negative messages about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community does not encourage those who are part of the community to acknowledge within themselves and to others that that is who they are. Therefore, it isn’t your fault that you didn’t know earlier because people didn’t validate your feelings and your thoughts until you were able to access groups and communities that understood you and went through similar experiences. In addition, throughout adolescence, there is a very intense pressure to fit in, which gradually disappears once one is out of high school. Because of that, if everyone around expects you to be a certain way, it can be very difficult to challenge these expectations. All in all, I encourage you to show compassion to your younger self as he was probably going through quite a difficult time and wasn’t able to explore and accept himself as freely as you now can. 
Furthermore, sometimes, coming out publicly is not the best idea when others won’t have a good reaction as that can become a threat to your physical and emotional well-being. If you would like a guide on when it is appropriate to come out to others, here is a thread that touches upon it. By any chance, do you (or the people around you) believe that if you had known and come out earlier, your sexual orientation would be more valid? Coming out later in life does not mean that a person is less bisexual, or was not bisexual before coming out to themselves or others. So you are still as much bisexual now than if you came out at 14. In the end, even if you didn’t come out back then, now is your chance to inform others so that they know what kind of romantic and/or sexual relationships you actually wish to have in the future (if that is what you want to do and if there is no threat to your safety). 
I hope I was able to help you at least a little, and I wish you the best of luck on your journey!
Don’t hesitate to contact us again if you have any more questions!
Lorena (she/they), sexology student