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Gay Sexual HealthYour Sexual Self

Am I Gay? Or LGBTQIA+ | Your Sexual Orientation

Am I gay?

Figuring out your orientation can be complicated. Are you certain of yours? The sex researcher Kinsey saw orientation as a six point scale from entirely gay to entirely straight. But understanding today’s many labels can be confusing. As our ideas about gender and sexuality continue to evolve, a word that means one thing to one person might mean something totally different to another. Labels that pertain to sexuality and gender never cease to capture people’s interest. The Miriam Webster dictionary even named the gender fluid pronoun ‘they’ 2019’s Word of the Year.

In a society where most of us are expected to be straight, it can be difficult to take a step back and ask whether you’re gay, straight, or something else. Truth is, you’re the only person who can figure out what your orientation truly is.

Born gay?

Some of us just know we’re gay or trans from an early age – but many of us grow up to assume that we’re straight only to find out, later, that we’re not. Sometimes, we realize this because we have sex dreams, sexual thoughts, or feelings of intense attraction toward people of the same gender as us. However, none of those things — sex dreams, sexual thoughts, or even feelings of intense attraction — necessarily ‘prove’ your orientation. Having a sex dream about someone of the same gender as you doesn’t necessarily make you gay. Then again, having a sex dream about someone of the opposite gender doesn’t necessarily make you straight.

There are a few different forms of attraction. When it comes to orientation, we usually refer to romantic attraction (who you have strong romantic feelings for and desire a romantic relationship with) and sexual attraction (who you want to engage in sexual activity with). Sometimes we’re romantically and sexually attracted to the same groups of people. Sometimes we’re not. Indeed, it’s possible to be romantically attracted to men but sexually attracted to men, women, and non-binary people. This sort of situation is called ‘mixed orientation’ or ‘cross orientation’ — and it’s totally OK.

Despite various would-be dubious questionnaires, there isn’t a reliable test to help you figure out your sexual orientation. And even if there were, who’s to say who qualifies as gay or straight? Every single straight person is unique. Every single gay person is unique. Every person, of every orientation, is unique. You don’t have to fulfill certain ‘criteria’ to qualify as gay, straight, bisexual, or anything else. This is an aspect of your identity, not a job application — and you can identify with whatever term fits you!

Coming out

There’s no ‘right’ way to come to terms with your orientation. However, there are a few things you can do to explore your feelings and help figure things out. Above all else, let yourself feel your feelings. It’s hard to understand your feelings if you ignore them. Even in this day and age, there can be shame and stigma around orientation. People who aren’t straight are often made to feel like they should repress their feelings. Remember, your orientation is valid, and your feelings are valid.
Learn about the different terms for orientations. Find out what they mean, and consider whether any of them resonate with you. Consider doing further research by reading forums, joining LGBTQIA+ support groups, and learning about these communities online. This could help you understand the terms better. And if you start identifying with a certain orientation and later feel differently about it, that’s OK, too. It’s all right to feel differently and for your identity to shift.
Sometimes people do get their orientation ‘wrong’. Plenty of people thought they were one thing for the first half of their life, only to find that wasn’t fully true. It’s also possible to think you’re gay when you’re actually bi, or pan – or think you’re bi when you’re actually gay, for example. It’s important to remember that your orientation may change over time. Sexuality is fluid. Orientation is fluid.

Why are some people gay? Why are some people straight? We don’t know. Some people feel they were born this way, that their orientation was always just a part of them. Whether orientation is caused by nature, nurture, or a mix of the two isn’t really important. What is important is that we accept others as they are, and ourselves as we are.

Do I have to tell people? Well there’s no law that says you have to tell anyone anything that you don’t want to. If you feel uncomfortable talking about it, that’s OK. Not disclosing your orientation doesn’t make you a liar. You don’t owe that information to anyone. Telling people can be great, but keeping it private can be great, too. It all depends on your personal situation. On the one hand, telling people might help you feel better. Many queer people feel relief and a sense of freedom once they come out. Being ‘out’ can also help you find an LGBTQIA+ community that can support you.

Stay safe – homophobia

On the other hand, coming out isn’t always safe. Homophobia — and other forms of bigotry — are alive and well. Queer people are still discriminated against at work, in their communities, and even in their families. So, while coming out can feel freeing, it’s also OK to take things slow and move at your own pace. It’s not easy, for instance, to deal with loved ones who don’t accept your orientation, but it’s important to remember that there are many people out there who do love and accept you.
If you’re in an unsafe situation — for example, if you were evicted from your home or if the people you live with threaten you —arrange to stay with a supportive friend for a while, or try to find an LGBTQIA+ shelter in your area.

There’s no easy, foolproof way to figure out your orientation. It can be a difficult and emotionally tough process. Ultimately, the only person who gets to label your identity is you. You’re the only authority on your own identity. And no matter what label you choose to use — if you use any label at all — it should be respected.

Remember that there are plenty of resources, organizations, and individuals out there who are willing to support and help you. All you need to do is find them and reach out.

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