The “Q” in LGBTQ: How Do I Know if I’m Not Straight?
The study of sexual orientation has been quite a controversial area of psychology, and one that continues to raise numerous questions. What makes a person identify as queer, and what per cent of the population currently identify as such? Is sexual orientation determined solely by biology, or what role do early learning and other social experiences play?
As a complex of an issue as sexual orientation is, it is easy to see why many people, particularly young people, struggle in determining their preferences. For many teens who are perhaps experiencing their sexuality for the first time thanks to those new, surging hormones, exploring their identity can be exciting, scary, and completely overwhelming.
Determining Sexual Orientation
While many people ‘know’ their sexual orientation, a certain percentage of young people find themselves in a nebulous area. No test can be taken to determine if you are gay, straight, bisexual, trans, queer. And there is no one way that queer people act. The queer population, for example, is just as diverse as the straight population.
Young people must understand this. Just because a young man might be gentle and effeminate does not necessarily make him gay, just as a classically masculine and brash bloke is not necessarily straight.
To identify your sexual orientation, it is vital first to understand what that phrase means exactly. The British Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as an ‘enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional’ attraction towards another person.
With this definition in mind, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you might be queer:
– Have I ever been sexually attracted to the same sex?
– Do I feel strong emotional bonds with the same sex?
– When I fantasise, am I with people of the same or opposite sex?
– Am I physically attracted to the same sex?
– Have I considered having a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex?
– How did this make me feel?
– Have I had same-sex sexual experiences in the past? How did I feel during and after?
Discovering I am Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans or Queer
Depending on where you live (small town vs big city) and what kind of support system you have (loving and open-minded friends and family vs unsupportive an old-fashioned), you may find it challenging to discover your sexuality. You may be tempted to hide your real self and feelings from others.
But having worked with lesbian gay, bi, trans and queer-identified teens in my practice, I can tell you that hiding your true feelings and identity is typically an excruciating place to live.
Know this: if you determine that you are LGBTQ, you are not alone. There are many others like you who are leading healthy and happy lives. If you come out to friends and family and they don’t support you, there are other resources you can turn to.
Also, consider working with a therapist if you find dealing with your sexuality overwhelming in any way. They can offer guidance, support and coping strategies.
More and more LGBTQ youth are coming out and finding support and loving themselves. While things may not seem scary right now, your life can feel exactly as healthy and happy as anyone else’s.
If you or someone you know thinks that they might not be straight and would like to explore counselling, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.