Going through your teenage years can be a difficult time, especially if you are confused about your sexuality. This guide if here for those of any age and tries to help if you are confused about your sexuality. It tries answers some of the questions that you might have.
What does being gay mean?
Putting the whole "nature v nurture" argument to a side, the Cambridge dictionary defines it as....
a person, who is sexually & emotionally attracted to people of the same sex
.... and that is what it is an attraction. Not that you have slept with, or had any sexual experience with, a member of the same sex. This is the textbook definition of being gay. However, often society places stigmas and presumptions on the word, and it is a point to note that the implications of sexuality need not trangress the actual definition. Although to an extent the meaning is different to different people, as a standard, being gay means nothing more then to be sexually, emotionally and physically attracted to those of the same sex alone. It does not change who you are, and is only one factor of an individal. As such, the the collective of LGB people are just as diverse as the collective of heterosexual people. There are LGB journalists, sports figures, entertainers, lawers. LGB people that study courses from Art to Physics, and LGB people with interest from fitness to gardening. The LGB people on TSR prove this!
I had a "same sex fantasy" - does that mean I am gay?
No this doesn't mean that you are gay. People have dreams about many things many of these mean nothing. If you are having sexual fantasies and you are attracted to the same sex then that could indicate that you are gay or bisexual but it is by no means a certainty and only you can really know.
I had a gay encounter, does that mean I am gay?
I have a friend who, in his words, "banged every girl at uni" - but he is gay, he is attracted to men and not women. So, it works the same way for straight peeps. Its the attraction.
Again only you can really know who it is that you are attracted to and a single sexual experience does not define your entire sexuality.
How else can I find out if I am gay?
There isn't a set time or place in which you can discover yourself. Some kind of know whereas for others it takes going through a marriage!
Is there a 'yes' and 'no' to being gay?
This is a very complex subject. The fact that TSR has threads all the time proves that. How can we label it as 'yes' or 'no' when you can study this subject to degree level and beyond. There are many theories - but no shoe fits all.
Human sexuality is a very complicated thing. Who you're attracted to can be totally irrational. Many people are attracted to people of both sexes. Don't feel you have to define yourself as either gay or straight. If you're enjoying spending time with someone that you're attracted to, is isn't really important that usually you prefer girls/boys.
Your romantic history
How did you feel when that guy kissed you? Did your heart have a heart-attack - were there fireworks in your stomach? Who did you have crushes on? What sort of fantasies did you have? What turns you on? These questions mould your orientation. Also remember that we're attracted to individual people and just because you've always been into girls before doesn't mean you can't like a guy in the future.
Coming out is a big step, so it's important to get it right, for you. But firstly, let's define coming out. Coming out has two different contexts; that of coming out to yourself, and coming out to other people. To come out to yourself is realise your sexuality, and be comfortable and happy with that. This is of course the most important step, and often, to some degree, occurs before coming out to others. Coming out to others is to begin telling people about how you honestly define your sexuality. This latter process is often described as a continual one by older LGBTQ, as with new people constantly entering your life, there are new people to find out (as the assumption is often there that an individual is heterosexual).
It's really important to note that coming out is a process, and this process is different for everyone. Whatever pace you find yourself going at, or however way you are going about it (within reason), is fine and fair, so long as you are ultimately happy and comfortable with it. In the same way people get frustrated over figuring out what their sexuality is, many people find them frustrated over the pace they are coming out at (either to themselves, other people, or both). It's a big thing, so don't put pressure on yourself, or let others put it on you.
Now, how do you do it? There are several preferences over how to do this. Some people decide to come out over facebook, others decide to start off with a close friend, some tell counsellors or relevant professionals, some begin with their parents... As you can tell, there are lots of ways, reflecting the differing comfort levels of those coming out. Each carry there own benefits and cons. Using facebook seemingly delivers the news to everyone at once, which is hence, a quick effective way. However, in most cases this means is overrated, as it's found very few people actually read the information section on facebook. [TBC]
Lastly, I think it might me an idea to have a few brief quotations over others LGBTQs experiences and advice over coming out. Please feel free to leave your own.
"I say, find a special friend and confide in that friend where you can discuss your emotions and feelings. I also advocate timing, come out when you want to and when it is economically and emotionally feasible to do so. Don't let it be the situation where you come out and have to suffer the consequences of having a backwards family."
You are NOT alone
Irrelevant of what point you're at on the coming out scale, or where you are in terms of your feelings on your sexuality, you're not alone. There will always, always, always be someone else out there who's at the stage you are, so don't feel as though you're the only one in your situation. There are many LGBT people (even as close as TSR!) who come from different backgrounds and have been in your situation.
It's often natural for people to want to communicate with other LGBT people, or other people that are confused, either to serve the purpose of providing help and support, or to just talk about the cute girl in your class that you have a huge crush on! There are plenty of places you can do this.
1) All around the UK there are LGBT youth groups, usually for people aged 14-25. These are safe spaces run by youthworkers, where you can meet with other LGBT and talk freely, without fear. Even if you're not out, it's still perfectly fine to go. You also needn't fear being outed...everyone there will have been in the same boat at some point and will therefore respect your decision (and it's the rules anyway :P). Groups usually meet once or twice a week to take part in chilled activities. To find your nearest one, I'd advise googling something like "LGBT Youth Group" followed by your location.
2) If you're not quite ready to go to a group yet, or just prefer for whatever reasons to talk via the internet, there are plenty of websites where you can do just that. To name a few, there are: Queer Youth, Gay Youth, and The GYC. Queeryouth is paticularly good as the boards are quite active and there is a community atmosphere. Furthermore, they run regional "meets", whereby around once every month or two, people from the same region meet up at a central location.
3) Social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace are also a method for meeting other LGBT (however, these are more ideal for those that are already out). Even TSR has its own LGBT soc! Although I haven't tried it myself, LiveJournal I've often heard is great for meeting others.
4) If you feel as though you need an anonymous chat, Helplines also exist.
Support systems do exist as points 1, 2 and 4 show, so if you need help and advice, take it, as it's there. However, it is important to recognise that the people currently in your life, irrelevant of their sexuality, can also serve as a support. Parents can be supportive, as can friends, and talking to these people if and when you are ready, and when you feel comfortable and safe, can be very beneficial.
What not to do
- Don't start sleeping around - with either sex. It’s terrible advice. Like I said being gay is about your emotions and not your sexual exploits.
- Don’t let your feelings towards being gay lead you towards drugs or alcohol. This won't make them go away and using drugs only adds more problems.
- Don't let your homosexuality become the main aspect of your personality
- Do not shut out the straight world or your straight friends!
- Don't let anybody drag you out the closet, only come out to whom you feel comfortable with and when you want to.
- Don't socially isolate yourself, there are plenty more people in your situation, so don't worry about it too much.
What to do
- Choose your friends wisely, especially when coming out or confiding in them.
- Practise safe sex at all times and make sure you are prepared even when drunk
Other useful links
- The thread that this article was based on can be found here