Do other people know something about me that I don’t?

Hi, I’m a 4th year female student. I’ve been wondering about my sexuality for years. It started when I was 13 and a bully called me gay and lesbian and even les-b****. I didn’t know why she called me names, but she did and even though an ex-boyfriend defended me, she did anyways. This started for me years of questioning and at first anxiety. Although, my older sister is gay and I’ve never thought it was something definitive or negative at all. To me, it was just a single facet of her multi-facet personality if you will. So I didn’t understand why this girl used those terms as insults. But even to this day, some people assume that I am gay and I don’t date at all, let alone have I ever dated a girl so I don’t know why they think this. Maybe they know something about me that I do not. I know it may sound like a strange question, but how does one figure out that they are gay? Is it that first attraction to a person of the same gender? I’ve never been in love before and I’ve always thought that people fell in love with the person and not the gender, so this is all very confusing and frustrating for me.

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Hi there,

Thanks for this question. We’re glad to hear that you had support from people around you and that you have a positive role model in your life. It’s really a shame that some people use those terms for insults, and that it can make us feel confused about our own feelings.

Understanding our sexuality and/or how we fall in love is a deeply personal thing, and varies intensely from person to person. While some people think that they “know for sure how to tell if someone is gay/lesbian/straight/or another sexuality”, there’s really no such thing as “gaydar”. No assumption about another person is a safe assumption; the only person who can know if you are gay is you!

Which brings us to the crux of your query – how does one figure out that they are gay?

We love what you said about falling in love – that you do it with a person, not a gender. It reminded Liz of this image:

Whenever people come to me for advice on figuring out their sexuality, I always say the same thing: Experience attraction freely, worry about labels later. Labels are meant to fit YOU, you’re not meant to fit THEM. There are way more different kinds of sexual orientations then there are labels, so you just need to find the one that best suits you! (and you can always fall back on umbrella terms like “queer”)

Experience Attraction Freely, Worry about Labels Later – Image found on Tumblr

It might be helpful to take your time to introspect and try to identify your different feelings of attraction. Did you know that having an attraction to a person of the same gender does not always mean that someone is gay? Folks who experience same-gender attraction might be bisexual, pansexual, or multisexual. The attraction they feel could even be a different sort of attraction, like a strong friendship. Then there are some people who, while sexually attracted to the same sex or gender, may not be able to fathom a romantic relationship with them, or vice versa. There are also people who aren’t sexually attracted to anyone at all, but may still have romantic attractions to one or many different genders. We need to stop here before we ramble on! Clearly, there are lots of different sexual and romantic identities, and the only person who can know what yours might be is you. It might be helpful to check out different labels and what they mean. If any of them “ping” for you, they might be worth examining in more detail. Opening yourself up to reflection can be hard and scary, so try not to rush. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that you don’t owe an explanation or a label to anyone.

While it is a personal discovery, it’s not something that you have to do alone. There are plenty of resources for folks who are struggling with these same questions. Consider reaching out to them, just like you reached out to AskOUTline!

CampOUT could be a good next step. They offer peer-to-peer group support in a confidential location once a week. Just drop a line to campout@uoguelph.ca to find out where the next meeting is being held.

If you’d like to meet and socialize with other gender and sexually diverse people, consider going to a Guelph Queer Equality Social. They host one every Tuesday evening in the University Centre. You can email them at gqe@uoguelph.ca to find out more.

We’re also wondering if you might consider chatting with your sister about the feelings you’ve shared here. If you feel you can trust her with this sensitive information, it might be helpful to hear about her experiences. Everyone’s journey is different, but understanding how your sister came to know that she is gay could give you food for thought. Even if talking to her doesn’t help with your feeling of confusion, it might be a relief to be able to talk about it with someone who’s been there.

That brings to mind another resource – OUTline! Our gender and sexually diverse volunteers love to listen, and you can chat with us confidentially and anonymously. Give us a shout at (519) 836-4550 or hit us up on the web at www.studentlife.uoguelph.ca/outline if you’d like to talk. We’re on the lines and online on Mondays from 3:30-6pm, Wednesdays, from 1-3pm and 6-9pm, and Fridays from 1-3pm.

We hope this gives you a helpful start towards self-discovery!

All the best,

❤ Alex and Liz

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