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!

When It’s Time to Fly

Below is a short essay I wrote in Lisa Ernst’s Writing and Meditation Workshop offered by One Dharma on 2/15/14:

What touched me today was reading about the actress Ellen Page’s coming out and particularly watching the video  on the Human Rights Campaign website. Here was this accomplished young actress speaking in front of a crowd–something I’m sure she has done many times before. You could hear the nervousness in her voice–the wavering and uncertainty.

But what I was most transfixed by were her hands. They were shaking so much that she had to hold them cupped together for almost the entire time. At one point, she let them go to make a point, and they were like tiny birds released, but still unsure of how high to fly.

About halfway through her speech when she finally said the words, “I’m gay,” and the audience stood and cheered for her, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous if everyone upon coming out had a cheering audience swelling with whoops of joy, mirroring back to you the terrifyingly awesome feeling of finally releasing your authentic self out of your mouth and into the world?”

It’s like watching a birth: the long wait and gestation before, the agonizing pains of labor, but then the deep knowing that there is no going backwards–in fact, what’s back no longer exists even–and you are propelled into a shiny, brand new, sparkling world that blinds you with its rightness. And you wonder how you ever lived in the dull past with you old, small, tightly-reined-in self.

Letting it all go–the expectations, the dreams of someone else for you, your own dreams that never quite fit no matter how you cut and sewed and re-sewed them–it’s the scariest thing ever. It’s tough enough to do that for yourself and your family & close friends privately, let alone on a widely-broadcast YouTube video.

But to live every day as authentically as you can–what a gift to yourself and the world! I could see the relief on her face when the words came out of her mouth. Naming ourselves, saying the words, and believing that you can say them and there will be a bridge to carry you to the other side requires such a leap of faith.

I remember testing out the words myself before I dared to speak them aloud to anyone. It felt like I had a tiny baby bird inside me–me, its nest–and it was time to push her out. Keeping her in the once-safe nest was no longer an option for that would only stunt her growth. I had to have faith that her wings were ready and strong enough to take on the world.  It was her time to fly.