Sexual exploration later in life for LGBT people can be a tricky thing to navigate, and most aren’t afforded the same time to explore, be guided, and grow like heterosexual people are during their teenage years.

One of my good friends who is also LGBT, Christian, and affirming (believes that God blesses same-gender marriage) gave me the perfect analogy regarding Second Adolescence — you know, that stage people seem to go through when they come out later in life and haven’t had enough time to adjust yet, things done by hetero people in their teens or early twenties at most.  They reach a sudden clarity of conscience and confidence when they finally accept themselves and decide to live authentically, and everything in their lives (behavior, habits, speech, clothes…) goes through a complete paradigm shift. But they aren’t grounded yet.

You’ve seen them. Sometimes that awkward adjustment phase can make us (as bystanders) feel a bit embarrassed for them. Or even a bit judgmental.

But my friend gave me a good perspective on this.

Imagine a 15-year-old.

Puberty is burgeoning.

Their sexuality is awakening.

Take that same 15-year-old and give them a steady income – say 30K a year.

Their own car.

Their own home.

Complete autonomy.

No parental supervision or adult guidance or wisdom regarding how to navigate what’s going on inside or how to relate to the opposite sex.

Now let that same 15-year-old date someone presumably who has the same resources, autonomy, and agency.

How would that 15-year-old live?

Would they restrain themselves or explore?

What’s most realistic?

This scenario is what happens to a lot of LGBT people who come out later in life. After years of sexual suppression (either through ignoring, denying, therapy, depression, suicide attempts, trying to live celibate, or a myriad of other reasons), they come to terms with who they are and accept their full humanity and personhood.

Then, they try to navigate the world of dating and relating to someone who they have the full emotional and bodily capacity to be intimate with – even sexually.

The stuff that heterosexuals learn early on in their teenage years (how to relate to someone they’re attracted to, to express emotional, relational, and even sexual interest with, and even the wisdom, guidance and supervision of adult loved ones on how to do these things), a lot of LGBT individuals only get to discover in adulthood.

Some end up embracing promiscuity full on as a result. With all that used to restrain them now thrown aside, they jump in, ready to run, spirit, soul, and especially body.

Even though this might not be the advisable or most healthy route, it’s a reality that happens more often than not.

It’s a complex reality, and can be hard.

I know it still is for me.

Add to this, LGBT people of faith who are told by the majority of the Church (with a “Big C”) that they don’t have the God-given right or capacity to love the way they are wired to, and are refused support, guidance and even marriage counseling (I know gay married couples who’s churches wouldn’t give them marriage counseling!).  They’re (we’re!) out there alone. Exploring without a guide.

And let me vent for just a second here: it gets me how a heterosexual person’s emotional, relational and sexual attraction to the opposite sex is seen by some people of faith as innate, God-given and a beautiful thing. Yet when you flip that and examine the same facets of humanity (emotional, relational and sexual capacity) of LGBT people, it is something that must be suppressed and denied because God is supposedly against it and will even (possibly) send them to hell for it. It’s sad and unfortunate.

The Church has to do better. We must do better.

Those who have come out early or who have been out for a while, need to reach out a friendly hand. Offer some love, offer some advice. Show some empathy. Help them navigate these uncharted waters. Just be a friend.

Eventually the late bloomers will learn the ropes. They’ll get their balance, get grounded. They’ll get comfortable with who they are.  They just need a little time, time to adjust to this “second adolescence.”

But yeah… Just some thoughts to throw out there about a reality that many face, and a great many more don’t know or consider.

This piece originally appeared on Danny’s blog, In So Few Words.
photo credit: tfooq, cc.

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Fluker-DannyDANNY FLUKER, JR is a Jesus Student. A Compassion Chaser. An Atlanta Native. A former Telecom/IT Infrastructure Tech. A Social Advocate, and a BackGround Actor.
He’s recapturing his lost love of writing, and you can follow his personal reflections and short stories on his blog, In So Few Words.