…a question I’ve heard many times before, often asked by straight people trying to be funny or antagonise me – “but how do you KNOW you’re gay/lesbian?” I often reply with, “how do YOU know you’re straight?” There’s often no answer or sometimes a “well, I just know!” This can become an annoying question to be asked but for some it’s genuine curiosity or uncertainty; perhaps because they’re questioning their own identity. I actually usually answer back to such a question with “well, you just know”.
‘Gay/Lesbian’ means being attracted to the same sex; ‘Bisexual’ is attraction to both the opposite and your own sex (these are the most well-known sexualities but there are many more ways that people identify themselves). These labels can be really important for a lot of people. They can provide a sense of meaning, purpose, grounding and allow people to feel part of a community. But equally, identity labels can often be quite rigid and restricting. What if a person identifies as a Lesbian but also sometimes finds men attractive…is that allowed? What if a person identifies as Straight but occasionally finds people of their own sex attractive? Who draws the lines, the boundaries? Who makes up the rules?
I wouldn’t like to tell anyone how they should identify, I believe it’s something you come to know for yourself. If you experience attraction for people of the same sex as you, then ‘Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual’ may well be an identity you feel comfortable with owning. However, I also don’t believe that sexuality is fixed. For many people, who they are attracted to changes throughout their lives; there is no one way to be anything! And although statistically young people know at roughly 13-14 years of age that they’re lesbian/gay/bisexual, it’s different for everyone. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why I personally choose not to label myself. My advice to people unsure of their sexuality would be to go with your heart and let that guide you, do what feels good and ‘natural’ for you now and worry about labels later. Another option to explore your feelings and thoughts with others who are likely to understand you and share your experience(s) is to attend an LGBT group; there are many available online and in person. Rainbow Noir creates a safe, non-judgmental space for LGBTQI people of colour to meet, talk and socialise. For other groups in Manchester see here.
Rainbow Noir, Anon.