I’ve only dated women, but I like flirting with other men online. Does this mean I’m not straight?

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  • It’s normal to question and explore your sexual identity, but societal and family pressure may have stopped you in the past.

  • Reflect on your upbringing and any messaging you may have received that could make you subconsciously fear and avoid sexual exploration. You can work past this fear with a curious approach.

  • Continue talking to other men who have or are currently exploring their sexualities, and confide in supportive friends or a therapist. Doing so will make you feel less alone.

  • Have a question for Julia? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously. You can read more Doing It Right here. 

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I’m a straight 20-something male and I’ve only had sex with women.

But I haven’t been with any women in a while because I’m a pretty picky dude.

Recently, I’ve been going on Grindr and talking to other men with no intention of ever meeting them. I just like flirting with the people on there.

But one time, I decided to meet up with one of the men. It was great at first, but things got sexual and when I saw his penis, I freaked out and immediately left. Why did I react that way? Am I definitely straight?

I feel so uncomfortable asking these questions, especially since I see myself married with a wife and kids in the long run.

Why do I like going on gay dating apps when I’m horny?

– Toronto

Dear Toronto,

It’s normal to want to put yourself into a box when it comes to your sexuality, because, well, that’s a human tendency. We love to compartmentalize others, and ourselves, because it makes life easier.

But sexuality is more complicated.

Researchers have learned that sexuality exists on a spectrum, meaning a person’s attractions might not be as black-and-white as liking men or liking women, and attractions can change throughout a person’s lifetime.

That might be the case for you, and there are ways to explore your sexuality and what’s stopped you from doing so previously in an affirming way.

Take some time to learn about yourself

According to Kristie Overstreet, a California-based psychotherapist and sexologist, societal standards and your upbringing may have played a role in how you view what’s sexually allowed. Whether you realize it or not, you may be subconsciously worried about how your proclivity towards men could affect how others view or treat you.

You can ask yourself certain questions to better understand if messaging you received from friends, family, teachers, or media during your childhood affects how you navigate your sexuality now.

“I would start by just asking yourself, ‘What was I told growing up? What were the types of stories or narratives that happened in my family system about dating, about same sex relationships?'” Overstreet told me.

If a close relative often spoke negatively about gay people, for example, that sentiment could have impacted how you subconsciously view those types of relationships and shut you down to the possibility of exploring your own sexuality.

Even though you’re grown up, it’s not too late to explore that part of yourself. It seems to me you’ve already started.

Talk to others in your situation and take things slow

Flirting with other men on Grindr is a great way to spur sexual exploration, Overstreet said, and you shouldn’t be ashamed about your curiosity and enjoyment in doing so.

If you aren’t already, Overstreet suggested you take it a step further and ask to these men about their own experiences with sexual identity. Their stories could help you feel less alone and give you inspiration to learn more about your desires.

Since getting physical with another man made you uncomfortable, taking things slow and focusing on conversation could help, Overstreet said. YouTube and LGBTQ communities, both online and in-person, are other helpful resources for exploring this part of yourself.

She also suggested talking to a trusted friend, family member, or a therapist who can listen in a judgment-free way and offer support.

Throughout this process, never forget to “be very gentle with yourself, not judge yourself, and don’t over think it and feel pressure that you have to put this label on who you are,” Overstreet said.

As Insider’s resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

Have a question? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously.

Related coverage from Doing It Right:

I’m having an affair with my best friend’s partner, and he’s become manipulative. Should I come clean?

I can’t orgasm through penetration alone. Is something wrong with my vagina? 

I caught my husband watching gay porn and he admitted he’s seen it before. Does that mean he’s gay?

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