How do I know if I am gay or lesbian?
Sexual identity and orientation is something which can change over time
Many people are brought up to believe that everyone is sexually attracted to the opposite gender. However, this isn’t the case. Loads of people are attracted to the same gender, or more than one gender, and this is absolutely fine and normal.
Gay is the word used to describe someone who is only attracted to the same gender. It can be used to describe both men and women, but sometimes gay women are also referred to as lesbians.
How do I know if I’m gay or lesbian?
Some people know what their sexual orientation is from a very young age, but some people aren't so sure. It can be hard to know if you’re gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual and there’s no definite way to know.
If you’re male and you’re only attracted to other guys, then you might be gay. If you fancy other guys, feel excited when you think about them, masturbate to thoughts of them, and want to date and have relationships with them, this could be an indicator that you’re gay.
If you’re female and you’re only attracted to other girls, then you might be lesbian. If you fancy other girls, feel excited when you think about them, masturbate to thoughts of them, and want to date and have relationships with them, this could be an indicator that you’re lesbian.
If you’re attracted to both men and women, you might be bisexual.
It’s ok not to know what your sexual orientation is. Many people find that their sexual orientation isn’t fixed and can change at different points of their life. The most important thing is to be comfortable and happy with yourself, no matter what way you identify.
Is it ok to be gay or lesbian?
It’s absolutely ok and normal to be gay or lesbian. In fact, being gay or lesbian is something to be proud of.
Being gay or lesbian does not mean you have to behave or live your life any differently. Gay and lesbian people come in all shapes and sizes and live all sorts of different lives.
I think I’m gay or lesbian - what now?
Firstly, congratulations! It can take time and work to accept your sexual orientation, and you should feel really proud for making this step.
If you’ve accepted that you are gay or lesbian, the next step for many people is coming out. Coming out is the period of time during which you accept and admit to yourself that you are gay or lesbian, and begin to be open about this with other people. Unfortunately, most people are assumed to be straight unless they come out.
Coming out can be scary and emotional, but it can also be exciting and can help you to live your life in a more open and happy way. Remember, only tell who you want to tell. Take your time with coming out and go at your own pace. It’s totally fine to wait until you’re ready.
What are gay and lesbian relationships like?
Gay and lesbian relationships are as diverse and different as straight relationships. Any good relationship is based on love, care, respect, and communication, including gay and lesbian relationships. Relationships between two men or two women come in every shape and size - it depends what you and your boyfriend or girlfriend are looking for and want out of a relationship.
And what about gay or lesbian sex?
Just like couples of all sexual orientations and genders, gay and lesbian people can have sex in loads of different ways and everyone has different tastes. It’s all about what you and your partner like and feel comfortable with.
It’s super important too that no matter what kind of sex you’re having, that it’s emotionally and physically safe. You should read up about contraception, STIs, consent and respect. Find more information here.
Where can I meet other gay and lesbian people?
When you’re growing up it can be hard to meet other gay and lesbian people, especially if you live in a rural area. You will eventually meet plenty of other gay or lesbian people, but it can feel a bit lonely until you do. BeLonG To, Ireland’s LGBT youth service runs LGBT youth groups all over the country - you can find a list of them here.
Discrimination and homophobia
Attitudes in society are changing, and there is much more support and acceptance for gay or lesbian people now than there ever has been before. Unfortunately, there are people out there that do not accept gay and lesbian people. When someone treats a gay or lesbian person worse simply because they are gay or lesbian, this is called homophobia. It can be really upsetting when someone doesn’t treat you as an equal for something completely outside of your control.
Remember though, there is nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian, and it is actually something to be proud of, no matter what anyone says. Find out more about homophobia here.
Being gay or lesbian can be amazing, but there are challenges too. Sometimes dealing with homophobia can be damaging to your mental health. It’s really important to look after yourself and make sure you’re getting enough support. You can find more information on this here.
I need more support
As we said, being gay can be amazing but there are challenges too. If you ever need any extra support, information or advice, there are always plenty of places you can turn to.
A good first port of call is BeLonG To Youth Services. They are an LGBT organisation especially for young people. If you need any extra support, you can contact them on 01 670 6223 or visit their website at belongto.org.
These are some other useful numbers and services:
- LGBT Helpline - 1890 929 539 - www.lgbt.ie
- Gay Switchboard Ireland – 01 872 1055 - www.gayswitchboard.ie
- TENI - Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) – 085 147 7166 - www.teni.ie
- Dublin Lesbian Line - 01 872 9911 - www.dublinlesbianline.ie
- Crime Victims Helpline - 116 006 - www.crimevictimshelpline.ie
- Samaritans Ireland -1850 60 90 90 - www.samaritans.org