Questions Answered–How do I know that I’m really gay?

Here’s the next question for this series: “How do I know this is for real–how do I know that I’m really gay?”

My short answer to this question is one that I’ve given here before: straight girls don’t lie awake at night worried about possibly being gay. But there’s so much more to this issue than that quick answer. Let’s explore this further, shall we?

Labels that we give ourselves and others are merely that–words that we use to describe parts of ourselves. There is no way we could ever describe the totality of our fabulous selves with one or two words. Even within the gay community, there is disagreement about which words to use when.  Gay? Lesbian? Queer? These are all words that I use to describe myself, depending on the situation. I also identified as bisexual for a whole decade when I was in my coming out process.

Whether or not you want to label yourself as “gay” or “bi” or “questioning,” the fact of the matter is that some feeling or experience has brought you to this point. Either you have fallen in love or found yourself attracted to a woman, or something has awakened feelings in you that you have labelled “not straight.” And that is something that you want to give attention to as it is clearly real.

As to your question of whether you are really gay or not, that is a question only you can answer for yourself. That’s why coming out to yourself truly is the first step in the process. I know that I struggled with that label for a long time, until it finally hit me in a very deep way that I was indeed a gay woman (read my upcoming book to learn more about this story!). From that moment on, I had no doubt that I was gay.

Did I find that truth uncomfortable, inconvenient, and difficult to live with at times? Absolutely. But that is very different from the deep knowing and acceptance of your own sexual orientation. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it is not true. In the coming out process, there may be times when you want to wish it all away–it’s too tough to handle. I get it. But I promise that facing those truths inside of you will be worth it once you get to the other side.

Ways that I suggest getting to know that deep truth within you and accepting it:

  1. Meditation practice or other quiet contemplation: Whether it is a daily practice or a few quiet moments to yourself here and there, meditation can be a great tool for listening to that deep voice inside of you. For more information on how to start a mediation practice, try this link.
  2. Journaling: For some, writing is a good way to get at the issues in your mind. Start a journal devoted to figuring out your truth. Keep the inner editor at bay, and let your truth pour out of you.
  3. Retreats or time away from your regular life: While this isn’t feasible for everyone, if you are able to go on a retreat (a spiritual one or simply a weekend getaway to a nearby cabin in a state park), this is an ideal time to contemplate your deeper truths. Also, being out in nature tends to heal us, which helps us to see things more clearly that are difficult to accept in our everyday lives.
  4. Therapy: A good therapist is worth her/his weight in gold! Therapy is an amazing gift to give yourself, and it’s a great way to face those truths with the help of a trusted, professional listener.

Leave me a comment about how you knew that you were gay, how you’ve struggled with this awakening, or perhaps what has helped you in your process to accept yourself. I look forward to hearing from you!

The First Step is Coming Out to Yourself

First, thanks to everyone who commented on my first blog post! I really do appreciate you taking the time to read it and share your thoughts with me.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is the process of coming out. When you hear about people “coming out,” it is usually described as a single event. Sometimes, I even picture a person in an actual “closet” jumping out to surprise their family and friends, “Surprise! I’m gay!”  

Of course, it never really works that way. Coming out is a series of events, usually starting with coming out to one’s self. And that process alone can take years! If you have never questioned your sexual identity, then you might not understand how someone can *not know* that they are gay.  

The mind is a powerful tool for self-deception. We try and fool our minds every day, like when we convince ourselves that we really don’t want that piece of chocolate that’s calling our name. Of course, if you believe that denying our true sexual identity takes a lot more bandwidth than overcoming a desire for chocolate, you are correct.  

“Why would someone do that?” you might ask. My answer to that question is: look around at our society. Is it easy to be gay in our world? Is it celebrated? Is it even tolerated in some countries? When you look at places like Russia, Uganda, and, closer to home, the American states that refuse to recognize marriage equality, you can see how the outside world is a powerful motivator to stay in the closet. And I haven’t even touched on pressures such as family expectations, religious beliefs, workplace rules, and friends’ reactions.  

Given all of these negative pressures, I’m amazed that anyone ever comes out to themselves! But, we do, and the reason we do is because, finally, it simply takes up too much head space and energy to stay in the closet.

Or as someone once explained it to me, “Staying in the closet is like pushing a huge beach ball under the water.  Yes, you can do it, but it takes such tremendous force and attention to keep that ball down.  Letting it go can be scary–which direction will it go?  How will I control it?  But, oh, the freedom!”

And coming out later in life has its own special issues. If you are or were married to someone of the opposite sex, you may wonder if this is just a passing phase. You may try to rationalize it or explain it away. But as someone once said to me, “Straight girls don’t stay up late at night wondering if they are gay.” I had to agree that this was true for me!

If nothing else, coming out to one’s self is a liberating first step in the coming out process. And it’s necessary to know yourself before you share *you* with the rest of the world. I’d love for you to share your thoughts about coming out to yourself in the comments below. Thanks!