You are not alone. We live in a very permissive society these days (thank goodness!) where any and all sexualities are socially acceptable. Just look at the number of letters being added to what used to be just LGBTQ – now we have LGBTQIA +, a little + to include anything that doesn’t fit an existing mould. They stand for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Asexual, plus the +. Whilst having definitions is useful, it can also be non-inclusive, meaning that people can feel disassociated if they don’t see themselves as fitting neatly into one category or another, which is not great for anyone, but especially for teens who are just starting their sexual life and are looking for a sexual identity as part of that. There are so many ‘choices’ around who and what you are these days, that it can be confusing.
I think I’m gay, but I don’t want to be. How do I stop feeling this way?
This is such a sad sentiment. It’s worth pulling this feeling apart a little – why do you not want to be? Are you facing disapproval from family and/or friends? Are you afraid of facing disapproval? Are you worried about not conforming in society? Are you worried about not having a family of your own? These are all deeply complex issues and if you’re experiencing one or more of these then talking to a sexual health counsellor is a good idea. You can find help from your local sexual health centre, or if you’d rather not engage face to face, then there are always online options.
How do I know if I’m bisexual?
The definition of being bisexual is to find both males and females attractive. It’s possible to do this without being bi, especially if you’re at an experimental stage in your life, ‘trying out’ different feelings is very much the norm these days. The best advice here is not to label yourself as one thing or another. Some people find males and females equally attractive, which fits more into the bisexual category, but others have a preference for one gender or another within finding both attractive. Bisexuality is all about being inclusive, if you like, not ruling out one thing or another. And don’t forget that your sexual preferences are completely up to you, so you don’t have to discuss them with anyone if you don’t want to, or you can help from the professionals either at a sexual health centre or going through your GP.
I’m heterosexual, but I’m transgender. Am I now gay?
Technically, yes. Because you find the opposite sex attractive and you’re now identifying as that opposite sex. Likewise, if you were gay before then you might find yourself identifying as heterosexual now, but these are just terms, you don’t have to label yourself as anything. Think about how many choices we have in life, about how many things we automatically do and assume day to day without too much thought. This is one of them, you don’t need to stress over it if you don’t need to.
I’m married with children but I’ve realised that I’m gay – do I have to leave?
This is a tricky one, emotionally. Whereas usually your sexuality would have little to do with anyone else, for someone in this position there can be fairly major repercussions. First of all, analyse your feelings, what do you want to do? What is the right answer for you, in your heart of hearts? Is it an option to stay in the marriage and satisfy yourself within your relationship without your partner being aware? Would your partner be understanding or horrified? Could you talk about an open marriage without causing huge ructions? If none of these are going to work for you then it might be time to think about leaving the relationship, no matter the cost. Living in a way that makes you actively unhappy is never going to work and have a bad effect upon the marriage, so it’s really important that you assess how you feel closely and understand the impact that it will have on your loved ones. Most things can be sorted out one way or another and there are loads of sexual identity professionals who can help you work all of this out. Remember – you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do.
All of these are very real situations which are happening around us every day. This is good for two reasons – because it very much normalises these issues and makes people realise that they aren’t the only one. And secondly, there are a multitude of options for help, if you need it. Sexual health centres are set up for exactly this reason and you’ll be able to access a sexual health counsellor through them. If you’d rather see your GP then you can also do that and they will be able to point you in the direction of some help, or refer you for phone talking therapy. Lots of people don’t want to discuss things like this face to face and if that’s you then you have plenty of online options for accessing counselling, or even just talking to others in the same situation. There are internet forums out there where you can find like-minded people and it might be that all you need is just a little support to make your move forwards. Remember – it’s no-one else’s business but your own what sexuality you are and you only need to share if you want to.
Regardless of your gender, or sexual orientation, there’s one thing which is universally applicable – and that’s to ALWAYS use protection during sex. Condoms are the only method of contraception that protects against pregnancy and STIs, and there’s a huge range on the market today, so get choosing!