Questions about your sexual identity can be complicated. There are tons of words to describe different sexual orientations: lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, queer, pansexual, and so many more. You may be wondering which one fits you best, if any. It’s important to keep in mind that labels can be helpful in understanding your sexual identity, but if you feel like there isn’t a particular label that suits you, that is okay and it doesn’t mean your identity is any less valid.
For some people, the question of “Am I gay?” is easy to answer. Some people can point to a moment when they knew they were gay, and others feel like they’ve always just known. For others, their journey of discovering their sexuality can be a little less linear. There’s no wrong way to go about it.
But by definition, to identify as gay would mean that you feel sexual and/or romantic attraction to someone of your same gender identity, says LGBTQ+ expert Kryss Shane. “Sometimes it’s a general awareness, other times it’s self-recognition from a same-sex friendship that begins to feel like something more, and sometimes it’s through sexual exploration,” Shane explains.
If you think that you might be gay, here are some resources and things to keep in mind as you explore your sexuality.
You don’t have to have it all figured out.
Like we said, there are a lot of terms people use to describe their sexual identity and/or gender orientation. Some of them might even feel like they fit for a while, but you could later decide that they don’t really describe who you are. Learning about yourself and your sexuality is a journey, and it’s actually a really beautiful thing.
Your safety is important.
If you don’t feel that it’s safe for you to be out in certain contexts—whether with family, at work, at school, or anywhere else—you should trust that instinct. It doesn’t mean you’re denying who you are, it means you’re making the best and safest decision for you.
You don’t have to justify or explain your identity to anyone you don’t want to.
If you want to share your journey with people in your life, go for it! But if you’re not ready to come out yet or share this part of yourself with people, that’s okay too. You can share as much or as little as you want when it comes to your sexual orientation.
You aren’t alone.
Although your journey with your sexual orientation is unique, you don’t have to do it alone. If it feels safe, you can include your loved ones as you figure it all out, but if that’s not an option for you, you’re still not alone. There are tons of supportive LGBTQ+ people who can support you on your journey.
Some organizations you might want to look into if you’re trying to find your LGBTQ+ community:
PFLAG: There are more than 400 chapters across 50 states, so you can connect with LGBTQ+ people in your area who have been where you are.
Q Chat Space: If you’re between the ages of 13 and 19 and questioning your sexuality, you can join live online chats for LGBTQ+ and questioning teens facilitated by experienced staff who work at LGBTQ+ centers around the country.
TrevorSpace: This is an online community for LGBTQ+ young people ages 13 to 24, where you can join discussion groups and get advice from other people.
Your local LGBTQ+ community center: If you live in an area with a dedicated LGBTQ+ community center, it likely has support groups for people who are LGBTQ+ or questioning their sexual identity. It may also have groups for LGBTQ+ people of specific races, ethnicities, ages, or other intersecting identities.
Your local community center: Even if you don’t have an LGBTQ+ community center, your local community center may have an LGBTQ+ support group or LGBTQ+ social events that you can check out.
Find support and comfort through queer representation.
Reading books about LGBTQ+ people or watching LGBTQ+ movies can help you make sense of your own identity. There are tons of movies and TV shows with gay, queer, and lesbian representation that you can stream. Or you can start getting into the many LGBTQ+ podcasts out there, from ones that teach you about queer history to ones that address issues that LGBTQ+ people face today.
You can always reach out for help if you need it.
In addition to the above organizations that provide support groups and forums for connecting with LGBTQ+ people, there are plenty of other resources you can turn to as you figure things out.
The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project has tons of resources to help you learn about different sexual orientations, mental health, gender identity, and more. It also offers LGBTQ+ informed crisis counselors you can talk to via chat, phone, or text.
The LGBT National Help Center: This organization operates three national hotlines to provide peer support, information, and other resources to LGBTQ people. It also offers support via online chat and weekly moderated chats for LGBTQ youth.
The It Gets Better Project: It Gets Better helps highlight stories and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth around the world. It also has a resource page where you can find information and support about everything from crisis resources to legal assistance to housing insecurity, with a focus on LGBTQ+ people.
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