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**Content Warning: Abuse**
“I’ve recently realized that I’m gay. The thing is, I was sexually abused when I was a kid. What does this mean? Am I gay because I was abused? I know I didn’t chose this, but I can’t help but wonder if these two things are related.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Rachel Halder Says:

First of all, congratulations on realizing an important and beautiful aspect of yourself—that you are gay! It sometimes takes a lifetime for someone to admit this to themselves, and you’ve overcome the first and arguably hardest hurdle. That must be celebrated!

Secondly, I am impressed with your vulnerability in stating that you were abused, and in allowing yourself to voice your concern in these two things being related. Abuse of all kinds is traumatic, and it takes deep, personal reflection to even acknowledge its influence in our lives.

I, too, am queer and an abuse survivor. I knew I was queer since I was 15. Or at least, that’s the first time I can remember admitting that I fantasized about women. But I didn’t allow myself to act on that until nearly 10 years later. Why?

I first encountered sexual abuse at three-years-old. I didn’t consciously allow myself to realize this though until I was 22. Even though I shoved that traumatic memory deep into my subconscious, it still affected me in many ways, including that I was seemingly unable to act upon my attraction to women.

There’s this really pervasive thing that exists in our society called shame. Unfortunately, we are all plagued by it, without even realizing that’s what it is.

Shame is the thing that keeps us in the closet. And shame is the thing that keeps us from talking about our traumatic experiences with sexual abuse.

We cannot talk about sexualized violence without talking about shame.

We cannot talk about gender and sexual identity without talking about shame.

Shame plays these tapes in our head telling us that we did something bad, we’re gross, maybe even disgusting. Shame makes us feel like we have no reason to live, that we’re somehow worthless and wrong. The thing about interlinking homosexuality with abuse is that it doubly shames a person.

Once a man asked me, “So how much of your being gay has to do with your history with sexual abuse?” His inquiry completely shattered me. I walked away in dumbfounded tears, unable to fully grasp why this question made me so hysterical. Thankfully a friend helped me see how the comment had been humiliating because it not only insinuated that I should be ashamed of the abuse I’ve experienced, but that I’m also guilty for having that abuse “cause” me to “turn gay.” I felt doubly shamed. In one question that took two seconds to utter, my entire self-worth felt shat upon. I heard, “You are not worthy. You are not good. You are broken goods. And because of your brokenness you now do disgusting things. Oh yeah, but none of it is your fault.”

Experiences of sexual violation are prevalent in the human population in general. According to reports that I believe are drastically underestimated, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually violated. Yet, I’ve personally only met and spoken to one queer survivor open about her history with abuse. There are many who identify as straight who are survivors of sexual abuse. I’ve met and spoken to hundreds of them. My website Our Stories Untold documents their stories. They email me on a monthly basis. So I wonder, if sexual abuse is causing people to turn gay, where are all the gay stories on my website?

Would it be fair to ask someone, “So how much of your identifying as a heterosexual man have to do with your history of abusing children and women?”

Five years ago when I was in therapy for my sexual abuse trauma, I finally began talking about my attraction to women. I had a major crush on an openly gay girl at work—in fact I was totally in love with her—yet I felt paralyzed in doing anything about the crush, let alone admit to people around me that I was interested in a woman. Through therapy I realized the reason I felt terrified to “come out” publicly was because I had been abused—the idea that my abuse somehow “made me gay” was nearly too much to bare, and my biggest fear was someone making that assumption about me. It took my therapist repeatedly saying for months, “Your sexual abuse has NOTHING to do with the gender of the people you fall in love with” that I finally gave up trying to pretend that I wasn’t attracted to women. I freed myself from the cage I locked myself into. I allowed myself to become vulnerable with my multiple identities of both queer and abuse survivor. And I finally decided that what others thought about my life could not continue to dictate the way I lived, the people I loved, or the experiences I wanted to have. From that point on, I took my life back.

Let me do for you what my therapist did for me: Abuse you experienced in the past has nothing to do with the gender of the people you fall in love with. You can free yourself from your own cage. It’s tough, but you can learn to embrace the multiple identities you hold of both survivor and gay, and not let society’s false perceptions of how those two are connected to control how you feel about yourself.

I really don’t think my abuse “caused” me to be attracted to anyone. If anything, it gave me an opportunity to look deep inside my being and find true devotion and self-love for the human that I am. It offered me the opportunity to explore vulnerability and overcome shame in the most liberating ways. And it gave me a strength I never knew was possible. I’ve been in love with women, men, and a trans identified person. I love to love—as hard and scary as love can be—and I strive to open myself to love in any healthy forms it comes to me in. The most important love of my life though is myself. And loving myself means accepting both my sexuality and my abuse stories, and creating a life in which I can live fully and vibrantly as my unique, badass self.

You are worthy. You are good. You are not broken goods. And because of your unique and profound beauty created by your experiences and your heart, you can live the life you wish to live in the ways only you see fit. You can evolve, change your mind, and become someone new each and every day.


Rachel Halder is currently an MA in Religion candidate at Claremont School of Theology, studying holistic spiritual trauma healing for those who have been marginalized by the Christian Church because of sexual abuse and/or LGBTQIA sexual identification. She is passionate about interspirituality, believing that mystical spirituality is the origin of all world religions, and that at their mystical core all spiritual paths lead to Love. She blogs about sexualized violence at Our Stories Untold, about spirituality at Heart of Thought, and when she’s not writing or speaking you can find her hiking mountains or walking through the forest, communing with pachamama’s beautiful earth creation. Follow her on Twitter @raegitsreal

Help support our contributors here on Patreon!


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“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

Kristin Says:

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.



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“How do you come out… to yourself?”

Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself? It’s like, obviously different for every human, but it’s all about feeling good and IT IS SO HARD TO FEEL GOOD WHEN YOU’RE MAKING YOURSELF FEEL AWFUL.

Just know that there is no reason to pick a label, there is nothing to announce, there is no right or wrong way to do anything, there is no timeline, there is no box you have to jump into. What you’re doing right now, asking questions, is THE BEST PART. Right now you’re sitting at home thinking, “oh fuck, i do not align with the way society is trying to force me to align, what do i really want?” Since you haven’t figured out what you really want in life, you’re asking us. You want us to tell you, “do u think boobs are cool? OKAY YOU’RE GAY” but it’s not that simple. There is no question and answer guide. The figuring out part is the best part.

Take your time. If you’re finding out that you happen to be attracted to all different types of people, GO ON DATES WITH THEM ALL. Don’t hold yourself back from going out with someone just because you haven’t previously announced yourself as someone who dates a type of person… well… that’s a bad reason is all i’m saying.

You don’t come out to yourself. You slowly but surely figure out the things you want in life. You feel more and more comfortable going against everything people are trying to force you to feel. You’re starting to feel good. You’re FINALLY just STARTING to feel really, really good. Allow yourself the time. You’re doing everything right.

Kristin Says:

Everything Dannielle said, plus this:

When I was fourteen I had a huge crush on a girl but I assumed I just wanted to be her best friend REALLY BADLY.

When I was sixteen I kissed a girl on a dare and I called all my friends to tell them I hated it, so turns out I am straight! Hooray for me!

When I was seventeen I kissed a girl not on a dare and my stomach fell out of my body and I had no idea wtf to do. I came out to my parents as bisexual.

When I was eighteen no one understood what I meant when I said bisexual so I came out again as a lesbian, panicking over the next several years anytime I found a guy attractive and being as gay as I could possibly be.

When I was twenty-six I started actually allowing myself to explore who I was, letting myself have feelings instead of policing myself, and also reading a whole bunch about what it could mean to be queer. Oh, and I learned the word “queer.”

When I was thirty-three I realized I’d abandoned an identity back when I was eighteen for all the wrong reasons.

Now I say I am queer, I say I am bisexual, I say I am gay, and I say it doesn’t matter what I say… because I am me and you’re all you and what I like and how I name it might just go on changing forever.

One last thing: You should read our ‘zine collab with autostraddle on Coming Out To Yourself. It will help a whole bunch more.


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“I’m a gay guy but I fell in love with a wonderful girl, who I’m now dating… What does that make me? Gay? Bi? Something?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

It makes you a person with an attraction to another person.

I have no idea how you identify, that is completely up to you. Labels are cool, when we use them to express who we are in a way that makes us feel comfortable. Labels are not cool because we all feel pressured to use them when we aren’t feeling comfortable.

If you feel gay, you’re gay. If you feel bi, you’re bi. If you feel queer, you’re queer. If you feel pansexual, you’re pansexual. If you feel straight, you’re straight. It is 10000000% up to you. These words all end up meaning different things to different people. That is what’s so beautiful about being able to find a word that you identify with. It’s yours. It means something very personal to you.

I like the word queer because it allows you the freedom to explain yourself a little less. I say “as a member of the queer community” and I call myself “gay.” I don’t identify with lesbian, and I don’t identify as bi or pan, but I also recognize that I am totally attracted to some dudes and there is totally a chance that I would end up with one of ‘em. A lot of people would force me to identify a certain way, but “gay” is what feels right to me. So, I choose “gay” and you choose whatever TF you wanna.

Kristin Says:

I echo a lot of Dannielle’s sentiments up there; I think that you have to reflect on yourself and your identity and own the thing you feel fits most… even if that is no label at all. I want to also let you know that it is absolutely okay if today you own the identity bisexual, but down the road you feel differently. Those shifts don’t ever invalidate who you are or you were (and those things don’t ever have to be in conflict).

When I first came out, I identified as bisexual. A few years later, I identified as a lesbian. I want to note that this first shift, for me, was actually rooted in a misunderstanding of what bisexual could mean. I was taught, strictly, that since I had dated several girls in succession, I couldn’t be bisexual. Please don’t let people tell you this, because it isn’t true. You are who tf you are (as Dannielle previously mentioned). I didn’t have a Dannielle back in the year 2000, though, and I didn’t understand that I could stand proud as a bisexual and still watch The L Word with my girlfriend.

Several years later, I discovered the word queer, and felt much more at home within it than I ever had identifying as a lesbian. This is the identity I wear most these days, but I also am always dialoguing with the shrugging off of my bisexual identity, because I feel that it still has a place within my self-understanding.

I tell you all of this to illustrate that your identity is yours, and it likely won’t be stagnant forever. You have a relationship with words and identities just as you have a relationship with people and the world around you. I think that the visibility of bisexuality is still incredibly important and necessary in this world, and that people perceived as male, especially, are discredited when they own the word bisexual. Since I am a fighter by nature, this makes me want to claim that identity even more. I like to exist in spaces where others challenge my reality. That’s me, though, and you have to navigate this for you.

Lastly: There is a good chance you don’t have a lot of interaction or experience with bisexual guys because this world tends to render them invisible. Two weeks ago I interviewed author Vivek Shraya, who identifies as bisexual and has written a beautiful book, She of the Mountains, which tells a bisexual love story. I have included the interview here, because I think it might also help. <3

Hi! Our advice is always free for all to read & watch. Help us keep this gay ship chuggin’ by donating as little as $1/month over here on Patreon. xo


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“i don’t feel radical enough to call myself queer. I feel queer, but i’m not interested in the politics side of it. I’m interested in art, music and humans; My queerness is just one portion of my identity and i feel like other queers judge me because of this. Like I’m mainstream or ignorant about “important” things. I’m not :/”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Schmidt-Kost as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Sara Says:

I totally get where you’re coming from. Here’s the thing about identity, it is something you, and only you, get to decide for yourself. Your identity is yours, and it will continue to change throughout your lifetime. As you age, your experiences change your identity in large and small ways. Discovering your sexuality and/or gender identity might be one of the large changes. Figuring out a new talent or making a new friend might be one of the small changes.

I teach middle school, and middle school is a very complicated time of growth and development. I see my students begin to discover their identities, and they struggle while they figure themselves out. They change so much from 6th grade to 8th grade, and I know they’ll keep changing in high school and into adult life. Their struggle (and yours and everyone elses) over identity is totally normal and healthy.

There are many things that make up my own identity. I am a teacher, a coach, a mentor. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a roommate. I am a dog owner, a cook, a snowboarder, a beginning golfer. I am a traveler, a photographer, a writer. I am a nerd, an introvert, a liberal, a Hufflepuff. I’m also gay.

I’ve had a few of those identities for a long time, like being a daughter and sister. Many of those identities I’ve only had for a few years. Some of them, like being a golfer, are brand new and I’m still trying them on. Maybe it will fit. Maybe it won’t. And that’s the great thing about identity, you can change it.

My own queerness is still changing ten years after I came out. My queerness used to be a more prominent part of my identity, but over the past few years it has somewhat faded to the background. I used to be much more involved in LGBT politics and activism at my University while I was working on my undergrad. When I graduated, I had other interests I wanted to pursue. Now that I have my teaching position, I don’t have the time or energy to do much LGBT activism, apart from my school’s GSA work. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

As far as “queerness” is concerned, that is your identity for you to own. As the great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Try not to let others opinions bother you (I know how hard that can be sometimes). Your own queerness is yours. Other people’s queerness is theirs.

There are many ways to be queer. Being radical, activist, or political is one way. Being interested in art, music, and humans is another. There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream, just as there is nothing wrong with being alternative. It’s like taste in music. There’s nothing wrong with liking One Direction, or Taylor Swift, or Haim, or Bon Iver, or Jeremy Messersmith, or Nirvana, or Nicki Minaj, or Billy Joel, or Beethoven. Or all of the above. Or none of the above.

The only thing wrong is judging other people for their interests and identities. Everyone wants to be included, and when we start excluding members of our own community because they’re “not queer enough”, we’re only damaging our own cause. As long as they’re not hurting anyone, live and let live. Enjoy your stuff, and let others enjoy theirs. Claim your identity and let others claim theirs.


Click through to read more about our Sara and our other Second Opinions panelists!