“how can I surely know I am gay? like everyone is saying that they have known it since they were little kids, but can you figure out later that you somehow happen to love women? I told my mother about my feelings because I believed that she would help me with it but she said to me that, she knew me and I cant like women because I didnt obviously like girls when I was a little kid. does it really make sense? I am really confused, I dont think I am faking my feelings but what if she is right?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Your mom is wrong.
Want to know how I know? I know because I am pretty flippin’ gay (specifically a queer bisexual cisgender lady married to a queer cisgender lady, if you really want to know the particulars), and I didn’t have any awareness whatsoever of being anything except tiny Kristin Russo when I was tiny Kristin Russo.
When I was 4 ½ I met a boy named Peter and he was 4 ½ too, and I thought that was the most lovely thing I had ever heard and so we told our parents we were boyfriend and girlfriend and then wrote each other pen-pal letters for a few years. In middle school I had real, heart-stopping crushes on boys and I also adored my very best friend in the whole wide world who was a girl. When she moved from New York to Ohio it was as though all of our limbs were being ripped from our bodies. You know?! In tenth grade I kissed some girls on “dares,” and was like “Oooooh boy, I sure don’t think I am gay… that was a GRAND EXPERIMENT, though!” Then, when I was a senior in high school I kissed one more girl and I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach and I was like “OH WAIT OH SHOOT OH MY I AM SO GAY FOR THIS GIRL AHHHH.”
You can read some of what happened after that when it came to coming out to my family here, but my larger point is that while I can go back and see some deep connections that I made with other girls (like my BFF in middle school) and perhaps overlay some “Oh maybe I should have known something then” logic… I didn’t know then. I didn’t know at all! I wasn’t sitting up at night thinking, “Oh but if only my BFF would kiss me someday, wouldn’t that be swell?!” I didn’t want to kiss her! I just wanted to be her very best friend forever!!
Some people know from a young age, sure. They feel different, they have crushes that are clear, and they might do things that make their parents or family think, “She is gonna be gay.” (Which SPOILER ALERT is pretty problematic bc you cannot tell a person’s sexuality by watching their behavior alone, duh.) Some people might be able to say, “Well, my name is Tina and I am a lesbian, I have known forever, it is clear as day,” and then slap a big rainbow sticker on their laptop. That is super great for Tina! GO TINA.
However, there are a whole ton of people who, like me (and you!), navigate through our sexuality in a more complicated (and sometimes confusing) manner. You might not ever feel like you know who you will be forever, and that is okay. You might not feel like you know exactly how you feel right now, and that is also okay. What you are saying is that you might find girls attractive, and you don’t have a label for those feelings yet. THAT. IS. OKAY. That is great! That means you know something super rad about yourself, and it means that maybe you will explore those feelings with people as time goes on. That exploration might teach you even more about yourself – what you like, what you don’t – and help you in better understanding your identity.
You aren’t faking your feelings. If you were smushing down those feelings and not talking about them or acknowledging them at all, that would be really tricky, and might make you “fake” certain feelings (like forcing yourself to date a boy so you don’t have to think so much about your crushes on girls, for example). If you are curious or interested or super into the idea of dating a girl someday, that isn’t fake! Even if you someday date a girl or kiss a girl and think, “Welp, I didn’t like that after all,” those feelings still weren’t fake!! They were just feelings that changed over time.
It is okay to tell your mom you don’t have a word for yourself yet (and that you might not ever). It is okay to tell your mom that not all gay people “always knew” who they were. It is okay to tell your mom that what you need right now is her support and love as you work to understand yourself better, and that you would really love to keep an open dialogue with her as you figure things out more.
Here is a video where I talk a bit more about my own journey with my sexuality, and here is another video I made with my own mom about our coming out process together.
Coming out to ourselves and other people can be really confusing sometimes, and that is totally, completely okay.
All my love to you and your mom, and I hope 2017 brings you a whole bunch of new questions, new answers, and maybe even a girlfriend WHO KNOWS.
“Hi, I’m Sara and I’m 15. I’ve been trying to figure put my sexuality for a while and when people ask about my sexuality I just tell them ‘Oh, I’ve had a boyfriend for two years’ and they just leave it at that. When the truth is I’M CONFUSED AS ALL HELL!!! I love my boyfriend but I’ve never been interested in sex. Ever. And I think I’m Asexual but there’s also the factor of having had crushes on people of all genders and I don’t know if that makes me pansexual or what. Or Pan and Asexual? Advice?”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
Kara Kratcha Says:
Oh geeze. I have felt these feelings (confusion! conflict! ambivalence!) and given similar non-answers when people ask about my sexuality so many times. As I’m sure you know, I can’t tell you whether you’re asexual or pansexual or anything else. I can, however, tell you a little bit about how I felt when I was 15 and offer some advice about sexuality labels.
When I was 15, I barely knew any “LBGTQ” people. To make matters worse, almost all of the “LGBTQ” people I knew were gay men. There’s nothing wrong with gay men, of course, but the lack of queer representation in my life really limited my options in terms of possible sexuality and gender labels. (I know you didn’t ask about gender, but a lot of what I’m going to say applies to gender as well as sexuality.) I keep putting “LGBTQ” in quotation marks because, although I knew the letters in the acronym at 15, I didn’t hear the word “queer” as I understand it now until I was in college. As far as I was concerned, the Q stood for questioning. And honestly? 15-year-old me kind of liked “questioning” as a sexuality label.
In a lot of ways, you’re doing better than I was at 15. You have access to words like asexual and pansexual, and you’re not afraid to use them. That’s excellent! Unfortunately, with access to so many words comes pressure to pick the correct words. If it’s possible to figure out that you’re a (for example) biromantic polyamorous grey-ace nonbinary human, wouldn’t you want to know?
Sometimes you would. I bet you’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the truth about yourself. It feels good to find words that reflect how we experience the world. The thing is, words like asexual and pansexual are trying to capture the commonalities between many people’s experiences. Identity words allow us to form communities around shared truths. Identity words also don’t always provide for each person’s experiences all the time.
Having crushes on people of all genders and not experiencing any sexual attraction is an experience that some people would call panromantic asexuality. You can identify that way if you want to, but you don’t have to. For more asexuality words, you can check out this glossary from the Asexuality Archive. You might find something you like there.
My advice is to think about what you want out of an identity label. Who is your identity for? Is it for you, to help you understand your own experience better? Is it for your community, to help you find people like you? Is it for other people, to help you explain your experiences to them? (If you haven’t, it might be a good idea to discuss what you’ve been thinking about your sexuality with your boyfriend. A supportive partner probably wants to know what’s going on with you so that they can support you better.) No matter what you decide, how you use these identity words is up to you.
I also want you to remember that you don’t have to use the same label at all times with everyone forever. Explaining your complex feelings and experiences gets exhausting if you try to do it for everyone! You can tell people different things about yourself in different contexts. You can offer different levels of information about yourself to different people. You can decide on a label and change your mind in five minutes or five years. Let yourself use the words that feel good now, and give yourself permission to use different words later. Your future self will appreciate that!
You don’t owe anyone absolute consistency, and you don’t have to explain yourself to everyone who asks in order to claim the identity you want to claim. You’re pan or ace or queer or whatever enough because you say you are. Anyone who refuses to allow you to keep learning about yourself, preserve your energy for when you need it, and tell your truth how you want to is bad news. You can keep questioning as long as you want to.
Kara Kratcha studies English literature at a university in New York City. She recently applied to library school and tells everyone that she’s an aspiring librarian, but really she’s always wanted to be an advice columnist. (Kara would like to thank Everyone Is Gay for making hir dream come true.) If she had to pick a label, she would probably go with “genderfluid polyamorous demiromantic grey-ace,” but usually she just kind of shrugs. Right now (like, probably literally right now) Kara is working on hir senior thesis on representations of asexuality in Sherlock fan fiction.
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"What advice can you offer to a person in their mid-20s who is curious about women? While I've always had some curiosity (but never acted upon it), I've always classed myself as straight. But the curiosity is getting a lot stronger and I'd like to explore it and find out how I really feel. I've no idea how to connect with other women and I also don't want to waste someone's time if they're looking for someone who knows what they want because I might find that it isn't what I want."
-Question Submitted by Anonymous
Ooooooh ok ok ok ready: MAKE OUT WITH A GIRL! MAKE OUT WITH TWO GIRLS! MAKE OUT WITH ALLL THE GIRRRLLLS!
I understand what you are saying, Anonymous, about being worried because “what if it is isn’t what you wind up wanting,” but at the same time: isn’t that the entire point of connecting with people in the first place?! It’s like, when I met my wife and thought “boy oh boy do I sure want to make out with that one,” I definitely had no way of knowing a) that I would actually like making out with her once we made out (I did), 2) whether or not I would want to keep making out (I DID), 3) if making out would mean we’d talk about more-than-making-out (we did), 4) if we wanted the same things for the rest of our lives (who knowwwws but so far we are doing pretty good)! All we could do was make the decision to make out and then reassess… then make out some more and reassess… then get married and keep making out (HOW FUN).
You aren’t obligated to know how you’ll feel about connecting to anyone before you connect with them, so I, Kristin Russo, give you full permission to take that concern and toss it out the window. Cool? Cool.
NOW: On how to connect. Personally, I really like making out, so I screamed a bunch about making out up there… but for you connecting with another girl might mean something totally different! It might mean that you ask someone you have more-than-friend-feelings for to grab a coffee or a beer, and then talk to them for hours. It might mean that you see them again, and tell them that you’ve been questioning your attractions (HINT HINT). It might mean you watch a movie at their house and you hold hands and see how that feels. It might mean you have dinner together and then have all the sex all night long! IT MIGHT MEAN YOU WRITE EACH OTHER LOVE POEMS, WHO KNOWS.
Point being: you should think about what you like, and what you want. Then, once you have some thoughts, you do like the rest of us and clumsily stumble around trying to make those thoughts a reality. It’s okay to mess up or feel scared (IT CAN BE SO SCARY BUT EEEE THAT’S THE FUN!), it’s okay if you stumble a bit, and it’s okay if you love it too much or you don’t love it at all.
Our desires and attractions can be so much fun if we let ourselves have the room to explore… and that is exactly what you are saying you want to do, Anon.
THREE CHEERS FOR MAKING OUT WITH GIRLS!
“I have started to think I might be a lesbian. Thinking about it makes me feel wonderful, like I belong and everything is right in the world. I keep daydreaming about girls and having a girlfriend. I never thought about boys that way. Sometimes though, I feel like I’m faking it, because I have no idea how to feel. The thought of me being wrong about this makes me so upset. Any advice?”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
I am going to take a moment here and repeat some words that you just said back to your sweet, sweet head so that we are all sure we have heard them:
“Thinking about it makes me feel wonderful, like I belong and everything is right in the world.”
Let me tell you something, dear, sweet Anon: those feelings are anything but fake. They are wonderful, amazing, incredible, awesome, totally badass feelings. You should take those feelings and hold them close to your heart-space and then put on your coziest sweater and then lie on top of the snuggliest blanket you can find on the fluffiest bed with the poofiest pillows and then ROLL AROUND AND AROUND ALL IN THOSE GOOD FEELINGS.
We don’t fake feelings. If you are feeling those warm, awesome things when you think about having a girlfriend, that means those are your feelings and they are real real real real real. If those feelings connect to the word “lesbian” for you then VOILA, you are a lesbian! Regardless of the word you use to describe them, they are real and true… and they are yours.
Let me tell you what else! If, in two days or months or years or decades those feelings change?? That still doesn’t mean you were faking it. It means that in 2016 you rolled all around in brilliant feelings and daydreamed about girls and maybe even dated a bunch of them or married one of them or WHO EVEN KNOWS WHAT YOU DID… but you had a blast, and now, perhaps, those feelings happen from some other desire or human or thing or place.
We are people and every moment we breathe in and breathe out, we change.
My advice to you is this: trust yourself. You aren’t wrong. You can’t be wrong about your feelings because you are you, and you know who you are today better than anyone else. Allow yourself to be that person, and allow yourself to wake up tomorrow and rediscover everything all over again. No one day invalidates the last one, and no one feeling invalidates any others.