What does it mean if my teenager is sexually fluid?

If your teen has shared with you that they’re sexually fluid, or you think they might be, you probably have a lot of questions. You might be wondering how sexuality can evolve over time and what ‘sexual fluidity’ actually means. Most importantly, you likely want to support them in the best way possible, even if you’re unsure of what that looks like right now. This article aims to answer your questions and to help you feel more confident about supporting your teen as they navigate their fluid sexuality.

This can help if:

  • you think your teen might be sexually fluid

  • your teen has told you they’re sexually fluid or expressed that they might be

  • you know and want to support a young person who identifies as sexually fluid.

Five friends sitting together outside, smiling and laughing.

What is ‘sexual fluidity’?

‘Sexual fluidity’ means that a person’s sexuality can change over time; it isn’t always the same for life. Research into sexual fluidity has found that a variety of situational, interpersonal and societal factors can change some people’s sexual orientation. In other words, as our lives change and we learn more about ourselves, our sexuality can change too.

Sexual fluidity is more common than you might think. A Harvard University study of young people aged 14–25 years found that more than 16 per cent of the participants experienced a change in their sexual orientation and 33 per cent experienced a change in their attractions. For some people, sexual fluidity is more about their feelings or experiences than about identity labels.

A sexually fluid person might notice changes in who they’re attracted to, their identity labels or their behaviours. For example, they might identify as lesbian at one point and bisexual at another, or they might have a cisgender female partner at one time and a non-binary partner later.

Can sexuality change with age?

The short answer is ‘yes’! As young people discover more about themselves and who they’re attracted to, their sexuality can change. For some teenagers, this is an exciting time of exploration. For others, it can be stressful due to fears or experiences of discrimination, rejection, or social isolation from friends, family and teachers. 

This stigma can have a negative impact on sexually fluid people’s mental health (potentially leading to issues such as depression). But, there’s good news: research shows that teens with a supportive family environment are less likely to experience these negative effects, highlighting the importance of family support in reducing the impact of stigma on mental health. 

Is sexual fluidity a phase?

Some parents might wonder, ‘Is my child just going through a phase?’ Teens themselves may be unsure if the way they identify sexually now is how they’ll identify in future. However, this question isn’t very helpful. Nevo Zisin (an acclaimed queer, non-binary writer, activist and public speaker) says it best in this Minus18 interview:

‘Here’s the thing: everything is a phase! Childhood, high school (thank god, am I right?), university, the different jobs you have, your relationships – they’re all phases! But just because something might be short-lived, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real or doesn’t impact you. So, don’t worry too much about something being a phase, or being perceived as a phase. Don’t block yourself off from evolution and growth and change, because that’s exactly what life is all about!’ 

Instead of questioning whether sexual fluidity is a phase, it’s more helpful to embrace the change your teen is going through now and the growth that comes with it.

Image of two teen girls laughing and chatting on a bed.

How can I support my sexually fluid teen?

It’s common for parents to feel confused or to need time to adjust to their teen’s evolving experiences. The most important thing is to create a safe space where your teenager feels comfortable, accepted and supported to be themselves. Reassure your teen that your love for them hasn’t changed and that you’re proud of them. 

Here are some practical things you can do to support your sexually fluid teen:

  • Educate yourself about sexual fluidity (reading this article is a great start!) and learn about the resources available to your teen. 

  • Let your teen know that how, when and with whom they share their sexuality is entirely their choice.

  • Offer to help them find communities, mental health professionals or other support services such as our Online Community and PeerChat

  • Familiarise yourself with LGBTQIA+ experiences (see the resources below). This shows your teen that you’re invested in understanding and supporting them and not expecting them to do all the educating. 

  • Consider advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights and equality within your community to demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity.

  • Check in with your teen over time and let them know you’re adapting to their sexual fluidity. Reassure them that you accept their sexual identity at every stage. 

  • Encourage your teen to access LGBTQIA+ support services, especially if you’re having trouble understanding or accepting their sexuality.

  • Remember to be patient and understanding with your teen and with yourself. Practising self-care and self-compassion will help you to stay available and supportive for your teen.

Resources on queer sexuality and sexual diversity

There’s so much information out there about queer sexuality, sexual fluidity and sexual diversity. Here are some of our favourite resources:

As your teen discovers and navigates their sexuality, remember that your support can help them to stay mentally resilient and well. Accepting and supporting that they are sexually fluid not only improves your teen’s chances of positive health outcomes, but can also deepen your relationship with them.