Recognising and embracing your sexuality is a highly personal experience. Although no two individuals are alike when it comes to accepting who you are, many people who identify as being same-sex attracted nonetheless share similar stories when they first began their journey of discovery.
Figuring out your gender identity, sexual attraction and preference takes time. It usually starts in adolescence, with many people coming to the right conclusion in their teens or early 20s. Even so, for a variety of reasons (social pressure, cultural or religious reasons, etc.), many people either take longer to understand who they are, or feel that coming out isn’t something they can do yet.
So how do I know if I’m gay?
Before you start thinking about whether you identify as being same-sex attracted, it’s very important to realise that there is no such thing as a rigid divide between ‘straight’ and ‘gay’. There are considerable variations outside of the definition of heterosexuality, so much so that the term LGBTQIA+ has seen increased usage, in acknowledgement of the fact that there are a huge variety of non-binary orientations.
In short, it’s just not that simple.
If you are unclear or questioning your sexual preference, don’t worry – you don’t have to make a decision right away. However, when you feel you’re ready, a good place to start is by thinking about your feelings, thoughts and emotions.
Strong sexual feelings start to manifest from puberty onwards so think about your thoughts and feelings, then and now.
- When you dream or fantasize about someone, what is their predominant gender?
- When thinking things like “that person is attractive”, what gender are they?
- Do you fantasize about being with people, whether it’s sexual fantasies or just thinking about being close? Again, what gender are those people?
- What were the genders of the people you had crushes on? What other strong feelings of attraction do you have?
- Do you feel something was ‘lacking’ or didn’t feel like you were ‘connected’ with people of the opposite gender? If you’ve had sexual experiences with them, have you found yourself wondering what the big deal is?
- Finally, have you had close, intimate or sexual experiences with people of the same sex? How was the emotional and physical satisfaction compared to someone from the opposite sex? How did you respond to physical intimacy like hugging and kissing?
It should be noted that many people who do not identify as heterosexual initially identified as bisexual and then feel that they are gay or lesbian. Similarly, some people first identified as gay or lesbian, but later feel that they are bisexual.
You may find that you are, or were, attracted to men and women, but that this changed and became clearer over time. It is not uncommon to find people who have been married to a person of the opposite sex and have had children, but identified as gay or lesbian later in life.
Coming out is the act of accepting your feelings of same-sex attraction and being open about it to your family and friends.
For various reasons, many people do not feel comfortable living their lives ‘in public’ and therefore hide that part of their lives from friends and often family.
The experience of coming out is never identical for two people. While it can be difficult or even traumatic for some people, most who come out report positive feelings like relief and satisfaction that they can now truly be themselves.
Whatever your feelings, whatever you identify with, and regardless of how you express them, remember that both sexual orientation and gender identity exist on a continuum of experience that is unique to each person.
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online social and mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.