How to figure out your sexual orientation

6 Aug

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I found this article on www.plantout.com . Figuring out your sexual orientation is difficult and if you’re from a small town or from a religious background, this part of your life may be really hard to figure out.

1)    Know that if you realize you are gay or bisexual, you are not alone. There are many, many gay people in each community, and many people are supportive. Your parents, friends, teachers, or other people in your life may be supportive, if you feel comfortable talking about this with them.

2)    Understand that questioning your sexual orientation does not make you automatically gay – many who question their sexual orientation come to the conclusion that they are straight. On the other hand, you may realize you are gay or bisexual.

3)    Seek out gay people or others who are questioning and talk to them. Attend support groups in your community (you can often do this anonymously). Some communities even have non-profit organizations dedicated to helping questioning young people. Look online for resources. Also, you can check out online resources for message boards, chat rooms, and advice pages. These are all anonymous.

4)    Seek help if you are in school, talk to a school counselor, whose job it is to help you through issues. These counselors typically are not required to tell your parents what you tell them unless you are a danger to yourself or others, but if you are uncomfortable, ask them not to share the conversation with anyone. This might not be a good idea if you go to a conservative religious school, if your counselor decides that it’s more important for you to conform to a theological prohibition against homosexuality than it is for you to find the truth about yourself, or for you to be happy.

5)    If you are experiencing a conflict between your religious beliefs and the possibility that you might not be exclusively heterosexual, consider the following:

–       Many religions make a distinction between inclination and action. In the same way that it’s ok to get angry but not ok to hurt people when you are angry, some religions consider it ok to have a homosexual inclination, as long as one does not commit homosexual acts.

–       Many religions have ‘welcoming’ congregations, which generally hold the same beliefs as mainstream congregations, but are culturally or theologically accepting of LGBT people. Many LGBT are religious or spiritual.

–       You may want to confidentially talk to someone who shares similar beliefs to yours, but whom you know will be accepting no matter what you find out in the end about yourself (such as a leader or member of a welcoming congregation, or religious LGBT support organization). Even if you don’t agree with them, they may be able to help you to better understand both yourself and your faith.

–       If you realize that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual and talk to friends and family members if and when you are ready and feel comfortable and safe. They can be great supports, and many people who you might think would be not supportive might be very understanding.

NOTE:

–       Never do anything that doesn’t feel right or that you really don’t want to do “just to find out”.

–       Online resources can be a great source of information, and online message boards can be very useful in connecting you with other questioning people.

–       Remember that stereotypes are just that. Not all gay men worship Madonna or can throw a good brunch or go to the gym every week. Just like not all straight men are macho, not all straight women stay home all day and take care of the house and kids. There’s nothing that qualifies you or anything else for a particular sexual orientation other than being attracted to people of a certain gender. Also, remember that Pride parades are not necessarily representative of everyday life for most gay people, any more than a Halloween party is a representative of life for people in general.

–       If you’re uncertain or fearful about what it would be like to be a member of a sexual minority, the best way to deal with that is to meet people who are in that minority. You’ll probably find that most of them seem about as normal as anyone else.

–       Just because someone is attracted to some people of a particular gender, doesn’t mean they’re attracted to everyone of that gender. There are ugly and obnoxious people of all genders and orientations.

–       Not everyone of a particular orientation is going to be attracted to you. Tastes differ. Most people in most everyday circumstances are being friendly or professional, not sexual. Nightclubs are a different story.

–       If you don’t want to, you don’t have to label yourself at all. You like whom you like, and leave it at that. You can tell people that, and it’s polite for them not to read too much into that. It may help to think of sexual orientation as a spectrum, rather than in black and white terms. Or to think of yourself as loving just people, not just their gender.

Warnings:

–       Practice safe sex at all times. The conflicting and confusing emotions that may accompany the realization that you are GLBT can make it difficult to act rationally when presented with your first same sex experience. Take care of yourself, and try to NOT be intoxicated when you are exploring your sexuality.

–       Do not hide from your potentially negative feelings about your sexual orientation in drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse will only make accepting yourself more difficult than it may already be.

–       Choose your friends wisely, do not befriend other GLBT people simply because you have just discovered that you are GLBT yourself. Seek out caring, supportive, levelheaded people within the community who share your interests.

–       Do not shut out the straight world or your straight friends. Sexual orientation is not the most important thing about a person. It is healthy to develop and maintain relationships with a diverse group of people.

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