Thursday, September 5, 2013

For Teens (or anybody asking): How To Know If You Are Gay

Determining your sexual orientation can be a confusing experience, but only you can truly determine it, on your own terms. There's no test for it yet, so the most reliable method is do look at your history, your feelings, and make an educated guess. Below is some helpful information on figuring out a little more about your sexuality. Note: In this guide, the term gay has been used to include all forms of homosexuality and bisexuality, whether that be people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or pansexual.

Part One: Things That Don't Mean You're Gay

1. Understand that fantasizing about members of the same sex does not necessarily mean that you are gay. Straight people do have the occasional "same-sex fantasy": a woman having a strange dream involving a lesbian experience, or a man wondering about what it feels like to kiss that guy in the locker room. Just fantasizing or daydreaming, however, does not necessarily mean that you were responsible for the fantasy or welcomed it.

That being said, fantasizing mostly about members of the same sex is a pretty strong indication that you lean primarily in that direction. If you only fantasize about members of your own sex, and rarely or never fantasize about members of the opposite sex, consider finding a way to experiment with members of the opposite and same sex.

2. Understand that having a homosexual encounter does not necessarily mean that you are gay. Smoking one cigarette does not mean that you are a smoker.[1] Of course, there will always be people out there who say that smoking one cigarette does make you a smoker. Don't listen to them. What makes you a smoker, or gay, or straight, is having a history of behaving in a certain way, and using that history to predict how you'll act in the future.

Understand that you could be somewhere in between. Many people who later identify as gay have had heterosexual encounters, many of them quite satisfying. Many straight people, too, have experimented with people of the same sex, out of curiosity or attraction. One night does not your sexual orientation make.

Also be aware that choosing an orientation for yourself will not flip a switch in your brain changing everything about how you feel. You can try, but chances are you won't be very successful. Moreover, there are no rules against identifying with a different orientation at a later date. Many transgender people identify first as gay before discovering more about themselves.

If you've had an encounter with someone of your own sex and feel anxious or unsettled about it, they probably weren't the right person for you. Resist making a generalization about your orientation and stick with what you know: the person you were with wasn't right for you.

3. Understand what it means for someone to be transsexual or transgender. Transgender people are a smaller minority than homosexuals and most people have some misconceptions and confusion about them.
Many if not most of us have had some experience hearing about or maybe talking to a transgender woman (male to female). Some of us may have even been attracted to or kissed a trans woman. Trans women are women, just as female as any other. If you're a guy, this does not mean you are gay! In fact, you may not know if you've met a trans woman. Often transgender people are very focused on appearing like a "normal" man or woman and concealing the fact that they are trans.

On the other hand, if you find yourself attracted to the idea of woman who has male genitalia, this probably means something about your sexuality. Even this doesn't necessarily make a man homosexual or bisexual. Most of the time it's more of a fetish. If you're confused about it you might want to consider thinking about how you would act in a real life situation.

If you are a guy who likes to crossdress, this can also simply be a fetish, or you could be transgender yourself. Again it often depends on how it effects the rest of your life.

Keep in mind the difference between masculine/feminine traits and exclusively gendered traits. Gender is very complicated. If you like more masculine women - or more feminine men - it doesn't necessarily mean much about your sexual preference. In fact there are a lot traits traditionally or biologically associated with one gender that are considered attractive on the opposite gender today E. G. women who are tall or have a more defined jawline, and men with long hair.

If you are/were in a heterosexual relationship with someone who comes out to you as transgender and they decide to transition, this also doesn't mean you're gay. However, if you stay with them through their transition, it does mean you should identify as bisexual. It will probably be difficult to stay in a romantic relationship with someone who is transitioning, especially if you're not willing to let it change.

Part Two: Figuring Out If You Are Gay 

1. Be clear on your definition of "gay." There are several different ways of thinking about whatmakes a person gay. Some people will argue that one's sexuality is determined only by who you sleep with, while others argue that sexuality is about one's innate preference for one gender or another.[2] Still, others believe that sexuality is a construct that is more or less forced on people through socialization.[3] Whatever you believe, it's helpful to be clear on definitions, which are pretty much uncontested:

Heterosexual (Straight): Being heterosexual means that you are sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex and you don't have sexual or romantic feelings for the same sex.

Bisexual (Bi): Being bisexual means you are romantically and sexually attracted to both sexes. You can still have a preference for one gender and be bisexual.

Homosexual (Gay): Being homosexual means that you are sexually attracted to members of the same sex and you don't have sexual or romantic feelings for the opposite sex.

Pansexual: Being pansexual means you will have sex with anyone regardless of who their gender says, or said, they are.

Asexual: Being asexual means you have no sexual attraction for either sex.

2. Understand a bit about what science says about being gay. Studies seem to support a strong genetic component in sexual orientation. A hot area of research currently is in epigenetics, or the study of how non-genetic factors influence the expression of genes. Geneticists hypothesize that homosexuality is linked to "epi-marks," or extra layers of information that determine how genes are expressed.[4] Normally, epi-marks are deleted when genes get passed from parents to children. With homosexuals, scientists believe that epi-marks are not deleted, and instead passed on from either father to daughter or from mother to son.[4]
Scientists also think that having several older brothers increases the likelihood of a man being gay.[5] A male born to into a household of several older brothers is about 2% more likely to be gay, according to researchers at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada.[5]

Scientists strongly doubt that environment plays a role in a person's sexuality.[6][7][8] They believe that a person does not have a choice about whether they are gay, and that — on top of this — gay people do not usually become straight through self-dedication or coercion. Scientists have even determined that there may be an evolutionary benefit to being gay, called the "balancing selection hypothesis."[9]

3. Think about your past romantic experiences with the other sex. How did you feel when a person of the opposite sex kissed you? Did you ever fantasize sexually about members of the opposite sex? Did you ever have crushes on a person of the opposite sex? If your past romantic history involved sexual or romantic encounters with the opposite sex, encounters that still leave you sexually excited, there's a good chance that you are straight, or possibly bi.

4. Think about romantic experiences or fantasies with the same sex. Were there people you were afraid to admit you had a crush on? Did you ever fantasize sexually about a member of the same sex? Did you find yourself consistently not attracted to the sex you thought you were supposed to be attracted to? If your romantic experiences with or fantasies about the same sex still leave you sexually excited, there's a good chance that you are either gay or bi.

5. Examine your recent behavior with your friends and acquaintances. When you really look at it, can you detect any lingering romantic or sexual feelings about friends or acquaintances who happen to be members of the same sex? Remember that, while a sexual fantasy does not automatically make you gay, consistent fantasies about members of the same sex do mean something.

Females: has there ever been a close friend you felt extra possessive of? One that you wanted to be your "best friend forever," someone who you were jealous of if she had a boyfriend? Do you find that the idea of a naked female gets you excited, not the abstract sense ("Oh, she's pretty.") but in a very real sense ("Wow. I want that")?

Males: do you try to tackle the guard during every practice, just so that you can be close to him? Are you more than passingly interested in him? Do you try to get a look at his body in the locker room, getting excited about him taking off his shirt?

6. Examine who gets you aroused. We're talking about sexual arousal here. Try to obliterate any preconceived notions of who you're supposed to be sexually attracted to. Picture a naked woman, and then a naked man. Which sex gets you more sexually aroused, if any?

Part Three: Being Proud Of and Comfortable With Being Gay

1. Remember that you are not alone. If you are gay, know that there are many, many gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight people all over the world who have been in your situation. The doubt. The nagging guilt. The uncertainty. They've all been through it. [10][11]Try not to think of your new sexual revelation as a burden; instead, think of it as a liberation. There is nothing wrong with being gay. You are not any less of a person for being who you are.

Find people who are supportive of your questioning and who won't respond judgmentally, or worse, report you to local authorities, church leaders, or your parents. Talking to friends and family members is something you can worry about later when you're more confident about who you are.

Know that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender or anything in-between is okay. No one should make you feel bad about who you are inside. If your friends are your true friends, they will love you no matter what. If your parents love you, they will respect you for who you are, no matter what.

Realize that the people attacking you probably have problems of their own. These people are usually the type who take out their anger on other people, perhaps because they are confused themselves. The people who may lash out at you do so because they are unhappy with themselves.

2. Watch out for anyone who insists that you're a "confused heterosexual." Especially if that person doesn't know who you are, or is trying to pressure you to adopt a set of beliefs or a course of action. You may very well be "confused" or "experimenting," but only you can determine what you are. You have the right to determine what you call yourself, if you call yourself anything.

3. Realize that there are many different paths to discovering your sexuality. Some people know that they're gay from a very early age; others take time to discover their true nature, perhaps even realizing it only in later life. There is no statute of limitation on unwrapping your feelings and tendencies. If you feel a certain way, then you feel a certain way. Try to be grateful that you found out at all — some people wrestle with it their entire lives, never admitting that they could possibly be gay.

Understand that narratives abound about why one develops a particular sexual orientation. This does not necessarily make it true, or even testable. Freudians have argued in the past that homosexuality is the result of "a distant father and overbearing mother" or the result of being stuck in the "anal stage of development." These hypotheses, while certainly interesting, have little grounding in fact or science, and have fallen into disuse by mainstream psychology.

4. Understand that sexuality is considered by some to be a very complex issue. It's important not to let outside pressure exclusively determine your sexual identity. There are many shades of grey when it comes to sexuality; don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

There is room for every degree of sexuality: some will be exclusively straight or gay, and never consider having sex outside their normal orientation. Some lesbians occasionally seek out male partners, and some gay men seek out female partners.

There are many degrees of sexual orientation, and if you find you don't fit easily into one category, perhaps you are bisexual. Don't allow yourself to be labelled until or unless you are ready and willing to be.

Regardless of preference to one gender or another, you have the right to be sexually "different". Our society puts a lot of emphasis on heteronormative sex - male dominance, female submission. Don't let this tie down your sexual orientation. There are lots straight men who are more submissive and lots of women who are more dominant sexually.

5. Don't attempt to undermine anyone's realization or fulfillment of their sexuality. Respect the privacy of individuals you know who may be wary about coming out. Coming to terms with one's sexual orientation is difficult and complicated enough. Don't make it harder on people trying to come to terms with it themselves.

Don't look at the finding of your sexuality as a "struggle," because struggle implies a fight against something or yourself. Rather, see it as a journey of discovery, and consider seeking safe spaces where you can discuss your questions openly and meet others who are going through a similar process. Even if you don't identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, you can use this as a starting point to help the gay rights movement or just meet new people.

Be yourself, and ignore people who try to bring you down for being homosexual. 

If you don't want to, you don't have to label yourself at all. You like who you like, and leave it at that. You can tell people that, and it's polite for them not to read too much into it. It may help to think of sexual orientation as a spectrum, or to think of yourself as loving people, not just their gender. 

Remember that there's nothing that qualifies you or anything else for a particular sexual orientation other than being attracted to people of a certain gender. Also remember that Pride parades are not necessarily representative of everyday life for most gay people, any more than a Halloween party is representative of life for people in general. Also realize it's ok to be straight and enjoy pride parades or any other combination. 

Your value as a human being is not determined by your sexual orientation or fashion sensibilities. 

Many people may judge you or try to; don't take notice of them because all they are doing is trying to bring you down and if they cannot accept that your gay or lesbian or bi then don't associate yourself with them. Rather try to be around people who accept you for who you are and don't have a problem with who you want to be. 

If you're uncertain or fearful about what it would be like to be a member of a sexual minority, the best way to deal with that is to meet people who are in that minority. You'll probably find that most of them seem about as normal as anyone else. 

Search online for stories of people who are bisexual, gay, or lesbian. They don't have to be similar to your story, in fact, everyone's coming out experience is by definition unique. See these online stories as a source of inspiration. Online resources can be a great source of information and online message boards can be very useful in connecting you with other questioning people, like and the Gay Youth Corner. Seek out gay people or others who are questioning and talk to them. You can attend anonymous support groups in your community. 

Please note: This isn't necessarily a fool-proof guide to knowing if you are gay. Really, only you are the one who can figure out your sexuality. Enjoy the experience! 

Just because someone is attracted to some people of a particular gender, doesn't mean they're attracted to everyone of that gender, and not everyone of a particular sexual orientation is going to be attracted to you. Most people in most everyday circumstances are being friendly or professional, not sexual. 

Just because people who are conventionally sexy don't turn you on doesn't mean you do not like that gender. Maybe you prefer a skinny build to an athletic build, or small-breasted women? Try imagining doing sexual things with people of the same or opposite sex (not necessarily someone you actually know). Ask yourself what you find attractive, and what turns you on. 

Don't worry if people judge you because you are a gay. Don't listen to them. Remember some of the people around you are gays. So don't worry because you are the only gay person around. Don't care what other people think, be yourself.

Choose your friends wisely; you don't have to befriend other gay people simply because you have just discovered that you are gay yourself. On the other hand, having gay friends can provide you with a support network of people who are going through similar experiences as you. Seek out caring, supportive, level headed people within the community who share your interests. 

Do not shut out the straight world or your straight friends. Sexual orientation is an integral part of who you are, yet you should keep a diversity of friends and associates in your life. 

Practice safe sex at all times; same-sex sexual activities can lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) just like opposite-sex encounters can. The conflicting and confusing emotions that may accompany the realization that you are gay can make it difficult to act rationally when presented with your first same sex experience. 

Take care of yourself, and try to not be intoxicated when you are exploring your sexuality. 

Do not hide from your potentially negative feelings about your sexual orientation in drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse will only make accepting yourself more difficult than it may already be. This will only further compound your problems, leading you into becoming a nervous wreck.

Related wikiHows

How to Deal With Having Gay Parents
How to Be an Openly Gay Christian
How to Understand Gay and Lesbian People
How to Defend Your Views on Gay Rights

Sources and Citations
4.0 4.1
5.0 5.1


Queer Heaven said...

What a great post!
Every young person should read this.
I am passing it on to my nephews.

Lee said...

this is very good read!
Gonna past it to my friends!
Thanks for sharing!

whkattk said...

A great post! Every teen should have access to, and read, this.