We’re so glad you’ve stopped by today. At Empower Counselling Services Winnipeg we offer blogs such as this one as a resource to parents, LGBTQIA2S+ communities, and to questioning folks for their inquiry process about sexual orientation.
And if you’ve been trying to find nearby therapy supports, we’d be more than happy to explore whether we’re the right support for you at this time.
Please let us know if you have any questions for us after reading this blog. To get in touch, click Contact and Booking.
Terminology is very important for correctly and inclusively identifying and celebrating the different sexual orientations. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible but in recognition that terms are somewhat fluid and letters are being added/changed as we learn more about sexual orientation, in this blog I will use the following abbreviations: LGBTQIA2S+
Moreover, I will use the term straight rather than hetero-normative to refer to folks who do not identify as belonging to any of the LGBTQIA2S+ letter orientations. The Merriam-Webster defines hetero-normative as “of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.” For this reason, and because more and more straight folks are LGBTQIA2+ allied, I will use the more inclusive term straight when referring to folks who do not identify with any of the LGBTQIA2S+ letter orientation.
The study of sexual orientation has been quite a controversial topic for many years now, and one that continues to raise many questions. Examples of these questions include:
- How does a person identify their sexual orientation?
- What makes a person identify as non-straight, and what percentage of the population currently identifies as such? Is sexual orientation determined entirely by biology?
- What role do early learning and other social experiences play?
Sexuality is such a beautiful part of being human, and yet for too many of us, sexuality can be so complex. And as complex as sexual orientation can be, it’s easy to see why many people—particularly young people—struggle with determining their own preferences and orientation. For many teens who are experiencing their sexuality for the first time, thanks to those new and surging hormones, exploring their identity can be exciting, scary, and super overwhelming all at the same time.
Sexual Orientation: How Can You Know Yours?
While many people simply “know” their sexual orientation, a certain percentage of people find themselves in a nebulous or confusing world. There is no test that can be taken to determine if you are lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, or something else entirely. And there’s no one way that non-straight people look or act. The LGBTQIA2S+ population is just as diverse as the straight population.
It’s important that people understand this: Just because a young man might be gentle and effeminate does not necessarily mean he’s gay, and a classically masculine and brash jock is not necessarily straight.
In order to try and determine your own sexual orientation, it’s important to first understand what those words mean exactly. The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as an “enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional” attraction toward another person.
With this definition in mind, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether you might be gay, lesbian, straight, bi, etc.
- Have I ever been sexually attracted to the same sex?
- Do I feel strong emotional bonds to the same sex?
- When I fantasize, am I with people of the same or opposite sex?
- Am I physically attracted to the same sex?
- Have I considered having a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex? How did this make me feel?
- Have I had sexual same-sex experiences in the past? If so, how did I feel during and after?
- Have I ever felt romantic attraction to the same sex?
- When I imagine myself being romantically and sexually involved with another person, are they the the same sex as I, and if so, does that excite me? Does that appeal to me? Or is the person I imagine the opposite sex than I?
Discovering You’re Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay…
Depending on where you live (small town vs big city) and what kind of support systems you have in place—loving and open-minded friends and family vs. unsupportive and antiquated/old-fashioned friends and family— you may find it difficult to discover you are bisexual, gay, lesbian etc. You may be tempted to hide your real self, and your feelings, from others.
But having worked with gay, lesbian, and bisexual clients in my practice, I can tell you that hiding your true feelings and identity is typically a very painful way to live.
If you are interested in learning about coming out, feel free to read my blog “Coming Out as an LGBTQIA2S+ Adult”
You’re Not Alone
Know this: If you determine that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or any other letter of LGBTQIA2+, you are not alone. There are many others like you who are leading healthy and happy lives. If you come out to friends and family and they don’t support you, there are other resources you can turn to.
Also, consider working with a therapist if you find dealing with your sexual orientation overwhelming and confusing. They can offer guidance, support, and coping strategies.
More and more LGBTQIA2S+ individuals are coming out and finding support. And loving themselves more as they become who they truly are. While things may seem scary right now, your life can feel exactly as normal and happy as anyone else’s; i.e. as happy and fulfilling as folks who live in the hetero-normative box, and LGBTQIA2S+ allied straight folks. It truly is possible!
If you or someone you know thinks they might identify with any of the LBGTQIA2S+ letter orientations and would like to explore counselling, please be in touch. We would be more than happy to discuss how we may be able to help you.
Would love to hear from you even if you’re not ready to make a commitment to an appointment. Feel free to call or email me today to request a FREE 15-minute phone or video consultation.