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not knowing if im bi sexual or lesbian

Question:

Hi trevor,
My name is Esperanza and i’m really confused about my situation of being bi sexual or lesbian.I have been with my girlfriend for a year and a couple months.I love her more than anything and she means the world to me and i only want her,i want to be with her for the rest of my life.But i still check out guys and girls this part confuses me because i don’t see myself with a guy because of my past relationships and i don’t want to go back to guys period.I have had a girl call me out about being bi or lesbian i don’t know what i am but she told me that i shouldn’t be with my girlfriend and that’s not what god wants and i’m committing a sin.I brushed it off but i cant help but feel like i’m being judged for what i am.I want to say i’m lesbian but i’m scared to and i cant tell if i am.I feel alone and that i have so much problems but i’m young and that’s what happens when your young right? I also don’t know how to take criticism or weird looks at me i usually ignore them or don’t even notice because my friends support me and help me so much.But most of all i want to make my girlfriend happy but how can i if i don’t know if i’m bi or lesbian.I have came out about being bi sexual with my girlfriend and people look up to me or think i’m brave for coming out but others don’t. I really don’t know how to explain how i feel but i think this can sum it up loneliness, scared, happy in my relationship, feeling like no one cares sometimes and bottling up my emotions.I know i can go to my mom but its hard to talk to her.me and my mom have a good relationship but i still find it hard to talk to her about these kind of problems. Their is one last thing i would like to ask is how can i tell my family when they have seen and think i’m straight?
I hope you can help me Trevor because i’m so confused.

Submitted by

Answer:

Dear Esperanza,

I’m so glad to hear from you! I know you are probably very confused and stressed out right now, but that’s okay. You’re right, it’s something that happens when you are young. It’s also something that happens when you are older. There is never going to be a time in your life where everything is perfect, but that’s okay because conflict is part of life itself. Recognizing what upsets us and exploring why, and what we can do about it, is how we discover what is most important to us and how we grow as people. I know that may not ease your situation right now, but I hope you will try to remember that the very act of feeling confused and looking for answers is always a wonderful personal step. When you find those answers, you will be wiser in yourself and in this world, and that would not happen if you were not first confused.

Let’s talk first about your confusion over your sexuality. You have said you are attracted to men (at least that is what I assume from saying you check them out) and women, but you are happily with a woman now and do not want to be with a man again due to past experience. From these statements, it sounds like you already know how you feel, just not if these feelings together amount to you being bisexual or homosexual. My question is, why does the label matter? You are with someone you love, and sometimes you check people out on the side which is natural regardless of sexuality or involvement with another. I would hate to label you as bisexual OR lesbian if hearing that made you feel like you had to behave in a specific way. There is nothing wrong with what you feel right now. If that means you don’t think either bisexual or lesbian applies to you, or just that you aren’t sure which one does, that is fine. I think it’s much more important that you act true to yourself than true to a label.

Sexuality is a very fluid thing, and many people change their minds about where on the spectrum they fall. There is an incorrect idea that there are only three options: heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual. Rather, those are three points on a long line. Say homosexual is 1, bisexual is 5, and homosexual is 10. Maybe you yourself are located at 7, and there isn’t a clear label for that. Some people might call that being bisexual with a female leaning, while others might say they are homosexual with exceptions. Maybe for you there is an appreciation of the male body but without any intention or desire to have sex with a man. That’s all fine. There are really no rules here. But the fact that there are so many ways you can feel attracted to others means that sometimes the three traditional labels aren’t going to quite fit perfectly. And personally, I think that is fine! Just how some people adamantly hold to the idea that heterosexuality is the only acceptable sexuality, I think having only three acceptable sexualities also creates a very boring and unaccepting world. You have the right to describe your sexuality in whatever way you wish, and you do not have to answer to anyone about what that sexuality is. I want to really encourage you to think about your sexuality outside of labels, and once you have a good hold of that, you can decide for yourself which labels apply, or if any do, or if you even need one at all.

Now onto the matters of the criticism, the weird looks, and the so-called ‘sin’ of homosexuality. I think it is not just unfortunate, but unforgivable that many of these things will be an issue your entire life. I would love for humanity to abruptly advance to the point where people stop thinking the love and sex lives of others are their business, but I think it is much more likely to be a gradual change. Because of that, whether or not to come out or how to hide your identity if you choose to is a very important decision. I think you are already on the right track as far as how to do with the negativity of others; you have supportive friends, and a mother who loves you. Rely on that, and do not be afraid to ask them for help. In the case of your mother, perhaps it will be hard for you sometimes. I certainly understand the feeling of knowing your mother loves you but even so fearing an awkward discussion. But I believe if you work on that, you can eventually come past the difficult stages and your mother can, like your friends and your girlfriend, be someone you are comfortable with always. Life is always going to have difficulties for you, so I think you should do your best to build a good support network for yourself. That what, whether you decide to be more or less overt with your sexuality, when there are difficult days and difficult people, you have others to help you through that.

Next, let’s talk about coming out to your family. From your letter I have gathered that your mother knows about your girlfriend? If this is the case, asking her what to do would be a good place to start. Families can react very differently to finding out one of their own isn’t straight. You and your mother are going to have a much better idea of how that will go than me. Trust your knowledge of them and your instincts. Do you think they will be accepting and you are just afraid of awkwardness, shame, or gossip? You could probably come out to a few more trusted members and slowly expand from there. As you reveal the truth to more of your family, you can add them to your support circle so that if you do come out to someone who doesn’t support you, you already have other members of the family on your side. Pressure works both ways in families, and you can use this fact to make coming out easier and also to encourage acceptance from the less accepting.

But if you feel the situation might be more dangerous, if you could get wholly rejected from your family, kicked out, abused, or anything you think you aren’t ready to risk or handle, you need to be prepared for the worst outcome. Some people do not come out to their family until they live away from home and are supporting themselves, so that if they are rejected, they are not at risk of ending up homeless. If you fear abuse, it is important to have an escape route; prepare a bag with your necessities and make sure you have a friend who will put you up for a while. Be prepared to call police if a situation becomes abusive.

I don’t know the details of your situation so I am simply advising you for the range of possibilities. Follow what you know. If you have no idea what your family’s feelings on people who aren’t heterosexual are, you might bring up popular topics and see where the conversation goes. Get them talking about someone who is openly gay, such as Ellen DeGeneres, and see what they have to say. Or if you can get them watching reality tv shows that often feature gay people (Project Runway has quite a few openly gay men) you might be able to pick up how well they think of bi or homosexuality without exposing yourself.

Above all, be careful and thoughtful. I think it is important for you to come out if you feel letting the people in your life know about this part of you is important for your happiness. I would never advice you to stay closeted if you want to be out. But how you go about it can make all the difference. And always be prepared for the worst. Even if the worst is just that things are awkward for a while. The truth is, I think you have the right to expect everyone in this world to be okay with your sexuality, but that is simply not realistic. For your own sake, you may need to go the extra mile to make sure your coming out goes smoothly. That isn’t fair, but it isn’t uncommon either. If you are prepared for this to not be easy, I think it will be easier than if you are expecting it to be.

Finally, I’m so glad to hear that you have friends who support you, a girlfriend that loves you, and a mother who you get along well with. Those are invaluable things, especially in your circumstances. Never take those for granted, but never fear to use them. Friends are your friends because they want to help you. They want to see you be happy, thriving, and accepted. I want that for you too.

Good luck,

-Trevor