18 March 2007

I have strong feelings and attractions for the same sex... am I lesbian ?

Ok, so here’s the thing: I’m not 100 sure if I”m a lesbian. I’ve noticed having had strong feelings, and have attracted to the same sex for around 3 years now (I’m 17). However, I keep telling myself that this could be a stage…I don’t want it to be real because I would lose my mom..my whole family. Anyway, another reason for my doubt is that I haven’t been in a relationship with either sex. I’m pretty sure I am ( think I just don’t know how to accept it)…but I need to know for sure…I think I know for sure…but I guess I just need confirmation either way. Also, let’s say I am a lesbian…how can I let others know, or should I? I know I sound so silly, but I feel so alone and confused…How do I know if someone else is a lesbian…I’m just lost…so silly I know…but any advice or anything would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

sara rahmani

Hi Ashley,

Thanks for writing to AlterHeros.

I understand that you are attracted to other women but are not certain if this is a stage you are going through or if this means that you are a lesbian. You have yet to experience a relationship with anyone of either gender and this has created some doubt in you about identifying as a lesbian. You express feeling lost, confused and alone.

You are asking how it is that you can know for sure that you a lesbian and how you can identify other lesbians.

You fear identifying as a lesbian means losing valuable relationship with your mother and other family members. You also ask if letting others know about your sexual orientation is the appropriate thing to do.

First, know that it is not silly to feel lost, alone and confused. These are normal feelings to express, especially when it comes to questions about relationships, love and sexual orientation. There is no strategy that will allow you to know for sure that you are a lesbian or not. There is also no limit on who you can love or have a relationship with regardless of what you identify yourself as. Sexual orientation is not a series of boxes that you have to place yourself in. You’re not confined to loving men or women exclusively or to expressing only one specific identity. You can choose to love whomever you want and do not have to decide to love women or men if you do not want to. Be yourself and express yourself in whatever way you feel comfortable and safe. There is nothing uncertain about being yourself. This also means that there is no way of being able to identify who is and who is not a lesbian. You will be attracted to people who exhibit characteristics that you value. Since there are no boxes to fit into, you have to trust your instincts and ask questions in order to establish common ground with others. This common ground includes sexual orientation, attraction, love and sex. Trust that you will make decision and be attracted to whomever you you feel comfortable with.

Your uncertainty about when or if to disclose your identity to other is also very valid and normal. You must assess what telling your family, friends and community of your sexual orientation would mean to you. Specifically, you must consider that there are a number of obstacles that may arise with disclosing your identity. You have already mentioned that you fear rejection from your mother and other family members. This is a heavy concern and you must examine what coming out may mean to your financial, social or emotional security. Your sense of security may also be an issue in your community and amongst your friends. There is no way for me to tell you that you are ready to face these challenges. I suggest that you consult with someone in your community you feel comfortable talking to and discuss this with them. That person will be better equipped to guide you on how your particular community may respond to disclosing your identity. You also have to trust that you will disclose your identity when you are ready to do so.

Rest assured that there is nothing abnormal or silly about your feelings and questions. Continue to be yourself and know that you are not alone in your experience. Make decisions you feel safe making and resist the need to catagorize yourself.