MY hormones! AH! I don’t want a label, but where do I fit in?

Hi Jack,

Thank you for your question. If I understand correctly, you are struggling to understand yourself in terms of your sexual orientation.

From what you write, it sounds to me like you are quite attuned to your emotions and you analyze events and your reactions to them in detail in order to understand yourself. You are also aware of the fact that our behaviors are guided not only by our biology but also by our social, cultural, political, and economic environment. Having insight like you do is part of the solution, because knowing how we feel and how we react in various situations helps us understand ourselves.

I think it is also very important to know that “labels,” like “bi,” “straight,” “gay,” “queer,” etc, may serve to rally those that identify with a category and may serve as sources of pride or communal support, but that they are only valuable to the individual as long as the individual wants to identify with those labels (or feels an affinity or sense of belonging with the group in question). It takes courage to reject labels and, to some extent, their rigidity. And it is indeed important to first understand who we are, before we decide to adhere to one group or the other.

So this brings us to the crux of the matter – you would like to understand what exactly is your sexual orientation and whether it will (or can) be changed. It sounds also like you are expressing a sense of powerlessness (it is your hormones that appear to be in control!) and some amount of despair at the fluctuations that you have been discovering in your sexual desire for the same and the opposite sex.

I can reassure you that the teen years are filled, for everybody, with much angst, both sexual and otherwise. It is a time of sexual exploration and some people continue to explore well into their 20s. So it is absolutely normal that you find yourself fluctuating between attraction for guys and also attraction for girls. I would encourage you to continue exploring your feelings: how do you feel when you are around a girl that you have a crush on? What is it about her that stimulates you – sexually, intellectually, emotionally? What about a guy that you like? What is it about him that stimulates you? If you decide to become intimate with either guys or girls, think about how your body and mind are reacting to that intimacy. It might take some time, but eventually you will be able to figure out whether you are attracted (1) exclusively, (2) a lot, (3) to some extent, (4) a little, (5) not at all to guys and to girls.

Recall that people are not just attracted to one sex or to both. Many people are attracted to both but in varying degrees. Recall also that some people who are, for example, only a little bit attracted to women, may decide that they do not want to act on that attraction, ever. Other people, though, will disagree, and continue to have intimate relationships with women because they feel the need to satisfy that attraction. Our behaviors are not the same as our emotions. What is important is that we make the decisions that will keep us happy, content, and true to ourselves.

I hope this has been helpful. Please do write back if you have any other questions.

Rimma, for Alterheros.

About Rimma Orenman

She has a B.A. in Anthropology, an M.D.C.M. degree from McGill, and has started her psychiatry residency, also at McGill, in 2008.

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