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How Do You Know If You're Gay?

Andrea has a background in astrology, Myers Briggs, and pop culture, with expertise in relationships and dating.

There are ways that you can understand your preferences better. Your sexual orientation doesn't have to be a mystery to you.

There are ways that you can understand your preferences better. Your sexual orientation doesn't have to be a mystery to you.

How Do I Know If I'm Gay?

There isn't a litmus test for sexuality. I think the best way to figure out what the word "attraction" means to you is to consider a few key variables and questions.

The best piece of advice I've heard when it comes to figuring out your sexual orientation is to consider what are your enduring patterns. When you really like someone, want to be with someone, or have a distinct attraction you'll notice enduring, repetitive aspects. You'll have a history of falling for certain types. It might help to make a list of the crushes you've had. Your answer might come to you right there.

Celebrities Aren't Always Informed

We're in interesting times, and sometimes what celebrities say about sexual orientation is confusing albeit inaccurate. Let me make this clear: It's okay to be straight and not like someone of the same sex; it's okay to be bisexual and find yourself liking people of either sex; it's okay to be gay and only like people of the same sex; it's also okay to be pansexual and be open to any gender identity.

Consider Your Crush History

If you've had a history of only liking one sex then it would be silly to say that if feelings arose for the other sex, you would be open to it. You don't need to say something like this to seem more open-minded or hip. If you have a particular pattern, that's your sexual orientation. You'll confuse people if you make up theoretical aspects of your sexuality.

You don't need to force yourself to be part of the LGBT+ community when in actuality you're more of a straight ally. In some arenas, being gay is seen as cool. But if it's not your persuasion, then don't make something up to satisfy your peers.

Sexual Orientation Can Be Complicated

It's possible that you may have romantic desire for one sex and physical attraction to another sex. You might be stuck between what you think is expected of you and what you actually want. At the end of the day, you're the one who calls the shots on your desires. You're the one who gets to interpret your desires.

How This Article Works

The following article will answer questions people commonly have when it comes to addressing their sexual orientation. At the end of the article, I've posted references for this topic.

I'm not a therapist, scientist, or education expert on this topic. I'm more like a big sister who has a lot of knowledge in this department due to the people she's met, the things she's read, etc. If it helps, consider the questions as your own and the answers coming from a big sister.

I encourage you to read more on this topic for your own clarity and not to just look at this one article for help.

Q. Is it normal to not know your sexuality?

A. Yes, it's not always crystal clear to people what is their sexuality. They may find it's more complicated rather than something that fits into a neat box. You may have experiences that change your mind and make you feel different. Sexuality can be fluid.

Sexuality sometimes isn't clear because people sometimes don't have a lot of sexual desire. They don't feel strongly about one sex or the other. This is perfectly fine. It can be hard to know what you want when you don't have as strong of a libido as others.

Q. Can I change my sexuality?

A. Your brain and hormones are going to naturally decide what they find attractive. Trying to mess with that to have a sexuality that may fit in with the cultural norms of your community could actually make you feel really frustrated and depressed.

I know a lot of people who tried to bury their sexuality and got married to someone of the opposite sex because they thought it was more socially acceptable. These friends of mine wanted to be bisexual because they felt that gave them more choice, but after years of marriage, they found they couldn't ignore their gayness anymore. So they got divorced and found partners that were more honest to their attractions.

You can't really bury your attractions if you have them for the opposite sex or same sex. Ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself. Trying to be with someone who doesn't really fit your preference might feel similar to writing with the wrong hand.

Q. What are things that might indicate I'm gay?

A. You'll dwell in your thoughts about people of the same sex. You might feel butterflies in your stomach or have sweaty palms. You'll be eager to make a good impression. You'll send cues through body language, like staring across the room, smiling a lot, laughing more, or feeling a need to hold their hand. You'll have more open body language. Many of these things you'll do unconsciously.

You'll get nervous about spending time with them because you want to date them. You might daydream about your future together. You desire to be physically intimate with them. You feel more excited about relationships with people of the same sex than ones with the opposite sex. You miss the person when they're gone. You have lingering and enduring thoughts about them in their absence. Encounters with someone of the same sex make a deep impression on you. Basically, you do a lot of things people do when they have a crush or feel aroused.

Q. Do I have to experiment to figure out my sexuality?

A. No. The best way to figure out your sexuality is to consider what's going on in your mind and consider your patterns. Consider all the crushes you've had since you were young. Some people start having crushes as early as elementary school. For many, it's very obvious to them who they like. For others, it's not so clear. This could be because of libido; you might not have as strong of a sex drive or drive for companionship as others do. . . and this can make it harder to tell whether you like men or women. You might find you don't want intimacy or a relationship at all.

If you already have a good idea of what kind of people you find attractive, you don't need to test the waters to figure out what you like. You might come off as a tease if you flirt someone up for fun, but you actually don't feel that strongly about the person because you're not attracted to that sex. Sometimes people experiment to try to be cool and edgy.

Try your best to be authentic. Don't do something just to impress others. Listen to your heart and mind.

Try your best to be authentic. Don't do something just to impress others. Listen to your heart and mind.

Q. Could I turn someone gay?

A. No. If someone isn't attracted to people of the same sex there isn't a switch or magical phrase to make that happen. Even if you got them to experiment a little, if they really don't have an attraction to same-sex people. . . there's a good chance they'll eventually leave you and find someone that fits their desires better.

Don't force anyone to try to be a sexuality that they're not.

Q. What if my family might disown me if I come out of the closet?

A. You may want to test the waters before making a full announcement. There is a good chance that your parents or siblings already know. Sometimes they really are clueless. If your family is very old-fashioned and/or conservative, they may react poorly. They've focused on the wrong aspects of dogma, so they may be resistant to your announcement. There is no perfect one-size fits all answer for this. Each family has its own dynamic. Know that there are people that are going to accept and love you regardless of who you're attracted to. As an adult, you get the chance to decide who will be your family. Close friends might become family to you.

Don't get too distracted or offended by the opinions of others. If someone doesn't want to accept you or make you feel welcome and safe, that's their problem. You can hope that they'll work through that so they can be better to you, but there is no guarantee that it will happen. Have people gotten past this? Absolutely! People can change and be more open-minded. Some people just don't know a lot about the LGBT+ community and haven't thought about it very deeply; it's possible to get more educated on these things and, in turn, be kinder to gay family members.

I'm sorry if your family isn't accepting of you. Just know there are accepting people in this world who won't be bothered by who you want to date. It's really no one's business except for your own. Just make sure that whatever you do, that you follow safe practices.

Pro Tip: Take a quick look at what your family watches on TV and what they read. This may give you an indication of whether they'll be friendly to you or aloof (to put it kindly).

Q. If I have a sexy dream about the same sex, does that mean I'm gay?

A. Dreams shouldn't be taken too seriously when it comes to your sexuality. When you're sleeping, your brain likes to tell you stories out of bits and pieces of information. It's common to have sexual dreams that have no relation to what you actually desire in real and waking life. Some psychologists think that when you have a dream about a same-sex encounter it means you're trying to understand something about your gender.

Dreams wouldn't be the only variable I would look at when it comes to sexuality. A lot can get pretty crazy in your head when you sleep. It might be way more erotic than how you'd ever actually behave. It doesn't mean that you have dormant desires. Don't punish yourself for having absurd and intrusive dreams.

In a Nutshell: Just because you have a dream that you're a flying pig doesn't mean that you actually want to be a flying pig. Just because you have a dream that you're in a prison getting tortured doesn't mean you want to take a trip to prison. Dreams aren't necessarily prophetic either. Sure, you might have an intuitive dream every once in a while, but don't expect all your dreams to be meaningful.

Q. What if I had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex, but never pursued something like it again?

A. This is a good example of experimentation. Sometimes people test the waters of their sexuality and try something intimate with a same-sex partner. At the end of the day, they find it's not really for them. You may find that you don't have lingering feelings for someone of the same sex as you do when you're intimate with someone of the opposite sex.

It's perfectly fine to say you've experimented with your sexuality and realized you're actually straight. You may also take on different partners of both sexes, but you actually have a preference for one or the other. It might be wise to focus on your preference and not just have sex for the sake of having sex. If you're having sex with others just for the sake of having sex, it could mean you have a sex addiction (which isn't good).

Q. What if I can't kiss someone of the same sex?

A. If you are attracted to someone of the same sex and desire to be with them, but you can't kiss them. . . you may want to evaluate what's happening.

Perhaps you're not actually attracted to the person, but you like the idea of it. Perhaps you're not actually attracted to the person, but you think they're pretty. You might actually want to copy their look for yourself more so than getting entangled with them sexually.

If kissing someone of the same sex makes you uncomfortable, squeamish, out of your element, awkward, so on and so forth. . . then you're probably not that interested in them. You might be young and new to intimacy, but kissing someone you like should feel natural.

There is a reason you're putting on the brakes. Are you this way with both men and women? Don't force yourself to do something you don't actually want to do.

Q. What if my religion goes against my sexuality?

A. Several religions try to put people into specific boxes when it comes to sexuality and gender. It's important that you feel comfortable around people and feel supported and loved. You may want to explore a different version of your religion that's more accepting of the LGBT+ community.

Some people in the world face more severe challenges when it comes to expressing their sexuality. This causes a lot of discomfort and risk for them. I wouldn't pretend that you have a different sexuality than what you actually have in order to be accepted by others. There are religions that won't ostracize you. In some situations, it may be better for you to move to another country or location for your safety. Hopefully, if you're in a situation like this, you have the resources to make it better for yourself.

Make sure to prioritize your safety. It's best to reach out to people who you think are accepting of LGBT+ people. Homophobia is unfortunately common in religion.

As for yourself, being gay isn't evil or a sin. Focus on what you can do to be good to others, which is essentially a universal rule among religions. Don't beat yourself up for the attraction you have. You have your own unique cocktail of hormones and experiences that are going to determine your sexuality.

Every person's hormone levels are different, and this likely plays into how you think. Not everyone has the same chromosome structure either. A friend of mine who grew up as a girl had Y chromosomes. People are biologically diverse, and that is perfectly fine.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence