As a way of raising awareness and providing the tools for teenagers to begin to understand themselves, we have the pleasure to present our new section named VT Open Talks, a space we will dedicate to talking about topics that matter and that can be helpful for our readers. In each section, we will talk with an expert who will give us the best answers to the questions we all have. Psychologists, sexologists, sociologists, and other professionals will join us to solve our doubts.
For this first part, we talked with Maria Francisca Burgos @psicologafranciscaburgos, an incredible psychologist and sex educator based in Chile who reflects on topics like sexuality, gender, emotional relationships, self-understanding, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Finding one’s identity during adolescence, how preferences can change over time, how are the process of coming out, the key steps that will make your journey a lot easier, and dating apps and the impact they are having on how we emotionally relate to one another are the three main topics we talk about in this first part.
If you are ready to make a progress, understand yourself or your friends, or simply clear out some doubts about who you truly are, how to deal with certain emotions, and how to manage them, then keep on reading!
VT: Teenage years are a little bit complicated because it’s the time when we discover ourselves and therefore we might get pretty lost. What advice would you give to teenagers who feel unsure about their sexuality, who might not feel comfortable talking or thinking about sex, who have just started experiencing their sexuality and don’t really know who they are?
Maria Francisca Burgos: Asking ourselves who we are sexually is a question that only current generations of teens can do freely. Teens from previous generations weren’t able to ask themselves who they were because they didn’t have the option to discover an identity outside the norm, which would have been terrifying to accept. This is a relatively new question. Who are now adults didn’t really go through that process, so it can be hard to find guidance and calmness in adults that attempt to guide this process.
I would tell them to take all the time they need, and remember this is a never-ending process. At all ages, people go through periods of identity crisis regarding their sexuality. Adolescence is the time when there is a global identity, so it may feel like a lot, but remember that even if you figure things out, identity and preferences can change over time, so be aware that there is no real finish line.
Ultimately, always remember that labels are removable. The funny thing about labels is that although they give us identity and a community, they can also feel like a box. Choose some labels if you want to, but keep in mind that as soon as they don’t fit you anymore, is time to let them go. It is possible that you may not find a label that fits perfectly with your experience as we are all diverse and have unique ways of living our sexuality and gender, so there should be as many labels as people, just choose the one that feels more comfortable, but compromise to your uniqueness, not tags.
VT: When talking about the LGBTQ+ community, what’s your advice to their self-acceptance and their coming out process? How do you think that should be done and how can they face that?
MFB: Self-acceptance is a slow process, we are in a culture that until recently, has taught us that everything that is not desirable for society should be repressed or changed. Most teens had parents that were raised in a less acceptable culture, based on shame, so as we are still in a transition to a more lovable, acceptable, and diverse culture, it is still difficult. I would give them three key pieces of advice:
1. Find safe spaces where you can open gradually and start from the more accepting people to the less accepting. First coming out experiences are fundamental to how confident you will feel during the process, so make sure to find people that are most probable to support you. If you don’t trust the reaction of your close ones, you can look for online spaces, The Trevor Project or It Gets Better Project both have good resources that can help you with the process of self-acceptance.
2. Prepare yourself for the hard questions. Before talking to your parents or people that may have a difficult time with your identity or sexual orientation, practice yourself to answer hard or rude questions. Is important to know your boundaries and to which extent you want to communicate intimate aspects of your process. It’s also ok to say you don’t have all the answers, and that you are still figuring some things out. You want to respond calmly, clearly, and with confidence.
3. Remember that most parents start with a bad reaction, but this usually changes over time. It is very possible that your parents and older loved ones show resistance to your coming out process and that is both terrifying and sad. Just remember it may take time for them to process this new information. For some parents, it could take several months to grieve their own expectations and be able to empathize with you.
VT: Nowadays, with the overuse of dating apps, we are losing that process of finding new love and everything that goes with it. So many people just look for sex in these apps. What’s your opinion about this and how do you think this affects how teenagers see sex and love? Do you think this affects the commitment to relationships of teenagers?
MFB: Talking about adults, I do think that people have been looking for sex and objectifying people, especially women, for a long time, much before dating apps. It was common and accepted that men would date women and trick them by saying everything they wanted to hear, just to have sex with them and never see them again. The well-known Casanova, or Don Juan archetype.
Now, instead of lying, people are more direct regarding what they are looking for, and that seems more honest, but of course, is a raw reality. Those old practices, and nowadays apps could send a negative message to teenagers, so it is very important to communicate and explain the purpose of those apps, the risks as well as the advantages and disadvantages.
The truth is there are dating apps for teens like YUBO or SKOUT, and for the LGBTQA+ community that is a very attractive possibility as sometimes it is not as easy to find someone to date as for their straight or cis peers. I would not recommend the use of these apps for someone who is an early teen. However, I do think it is important to promote critical thinking and understand that dating apps can be a dangerous place where objectification, catfishing, harassment, or pedophilia can happen.
If you enjoyed this first part and would like to go in-depth on any specific topic, you can book a session with Maria Francisca Burgos, who is now doing online therapy for all of you who might be interested. You can contact her through her page www.franciscaburgos.com, by calling her at +56967582401, or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org for English speakers and at email@example.com for Spanish speakers.