Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Are Borderlines Confused about Sexual Orientation?

Let’s reiterate that title: Are people with Borderline Personality Disorder confused about their sexual orientation?

First, if you haven’t read the article I posted last Thursday, you should.

Now, I have a question for you. Have you ever been confused about your own sexual identity?

I suspect this is a question from someone that has not been. If you’ve never been in the position to question your own orientation or identity than it can be difficult to understand that other people have a different experience and that things are not so clean cut. Not so black and white, if you will ::wink::.

Sexual orientation and gender identity, is a complicated issue and process for many, many people; Borderline or not. Then again, for others it isn’t. It is entirely dependent on the individual.

Growing up I was a tom boy. I had a ton of close guy friends. I never saw them in any way other than friends until I was about 13, and even then I remember I had my first “boyfriend” because I thought it was what I was supposed to do.

Fortunately this is now changing, but in this country (the good ole U.S. of A.) there was an accepted way to be, and everything else was (and still is in many places) frowned upon. I didn’t grow up knowing anyone that was “out” in the GLBTQ community. I didn’t know this was an acceptable way to feel. To my parents credit, this was never frowned up, and never discouraged (my parents are our first supports of whatever was right for us), I simply didn’t have the exposure to it. All there was to it. I knew what everyone else was doing and thought that was what I was supposed to do too. Turns out, not so much.

Many people don’t experience that kind of tolerance and open-mindedness. Often expressions of orientation and identity that are different from the particularly accepted cultural norm are met with hostility, prejudice, and hate. Not to mention if you’re raised in a religion that views anything other than hetero sexual relationships as a sin; you’re facing religious oppression from the church, “moral” alienation from family/friends/community, and even an internal conflict because what you feel is different than what you have been brought up to believe. So even if it wasn’t a question, it can be an extremely difficult decision to stray from the publically accepted normative relationship style of the community in favor of a personal choice that is privately acceptable for you.

Now add mental health issues where straying from the accepted norm can create a schism between you and the support you need. Add a mental health issue that increases your depression. Add a mental health issue that intensifies anxiety. Add a mental health issue that hyperfocuses on a fear of rejection and abandonment.  There can be an intense conflict between abandonment of what you need from others and rejecting what you need from yourself. 

Then there’s the wacky idea that some people just haven’t got it all figured out from the get go. Crazy!  What do you mean there's no individually tailored road map? Yes, they may be confused about what is right for them. Or they may be curious to explore an aspect of what they are feeling in order to actually come to a conclusion. Or they may just not care that much about anatomy, because who a person is, isn’t necessarily dependent on their plumbing. If you’ve never had the experience of a non-normative-hetero relationship but you’re open to the idea, how can you know if it’s right for you or not, if you don’t do something to figure it out?

And finally, yes, some people with BPD may be confused about their sexual orientation. Many people with BPD do have an extremely tentative sense of identity. Who we are can be almost fluid depending on where we are and who we’re with. Figuring out who we are, on our own, without the influence of the people around us, isn’t always easy. Hell figuring out the question of : who am I? Isn’t necessarily easy for anyone. And figuring out our sexual identity is another facet of that larger process. Please keep in mind that just because some do, does not mean all do though.

Just because many people with BPD are open to the idea of relationships other than hetero ones, does not mean they’re confused either.  Bisexuality, pansexuality (actually how I identify) , sapiosexuality (this too), asexuality, hetero, homo, all of it… are valid lifestyles. Some of those just happen to be inclusive of a larger or different selection of the population. Which is not to be confused with actually being attracted to everyone in that particular population.

Discovering and exploring sexuality, especially when you’re already in a particular kind of relationship, can be very difficult for both partners. I’ve been in relationships with men, actual decent men, where I reached a point that I was so uncomfortable in my own skin because being with men was not what was right for me at the time. I don’t form the kind of necessary emotional attachment to men that I do with women. I didn’t know this before, it was a realization that I figured out as I went along. At the same time, I liked them as people, didn’t want to lose them, didn’t want to be alone, didn’t want to hurt them, emotions and conflicting needs battling it out like my life depended on it, because that’s how it felt…. It was hard on both of us. Fortunately he was understanding enough, and because I’ve never been closeted about my sexuality, was aware that men weren’t really my preference in the first place. It still hurt like hell, but it worked out for the best and we’re actually still friends that chat occasionally. I still struggle with this issue when I’m dating a guy, as I wrote about on my other blog.

Sexuality, orientation, identity, it’s a very complicated issue for some people. Figuring this out under the best of circumstances is often confusing at best. Very few people have the best of circumstances to begin with, which can make this a difficult and painful process of discovery. Add into the mix a serious mental health condition, not to mention multiple comorbid ones, and you have a recipe for some very trying times.

So in short, the answer is yes, no, maybe, sometimes, and not at all. 

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