Youth Blog—Ask an Expert: How Do I Know if I’m Gay?
In our “Ask an Expert” blog series, researchers from the IMPACT Program answer questions from LGBTQ youth. This month’s expert is Dr. Michael E. Newcomb, Research Assistant Professor with the IMPACT Program.
Question: How do I know if I’m gay?
Answer: A lot of young people email us and ask: “How do I know if I’m gay?” First – this is something that lots of people go through. You are not alone!
I wish there was an easy answer to this question. But this is something everyone has to figure out for themselves. Many people write to us because they are having romantic or sexual feelings that they didn’t expect or aren’t sure about. There are lots of different ways that people think about their sexual orientation. Some people are attracted to men only. Some people are attracted to women only. Some people are attracted to both. Some people are sexually attracted to both men and women – but they only feel romantically attracted to either men or women. And sometimes peoples’ attractions change over time! I know it sounds complicated. But the important thing is that you never have to make a “decision” about your sexual orientation. You should do what feels right for you at the time.
The best thing to do is to talk to other people about it so you don’t feel so alone. Lots of us have gone through it! And many other people are going through the same thing right now. If you know other people your age who have the same feelings, maybe you could talk to them about your feelings. If you don’t know anyone else your age who is having these feelings, there are great places online you can go to talk to other people about it. Check out Trevor Space, a social networking site for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13-24 and their friends and allies!
Sometimes having questions or feelings about sexuality really upsets people. It is totally normal to be upset by these feelings because they might be new to you. But if they get so upsetting that you feel sad almost all the time or you start to think about hurting yourself, you should reach out for help. It’s OK to see a therapist at your school or college to talk about these things. If you are not comfortable talking to a therapist at your school, the Trevor Project has counselors you can talk to 24 hours a day (they can even text and chat online!). Your questions are ok, and you are ok.
Last – being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer (or any other identity that feels right for you) can add so many positive things to your life! There are supportive communities out there for you that understand what you are going through. Support can come from many places: family, friends, schools, communities, the Trevor Project. What’s important is that there are people who can listen to your questions and help you find your own answers.
Featured image credit: Andrew Stichbury, “Monday Morning,” June 18, 2009.
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