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When one determines their sexual orientation it is usually an extremely confusing and frustrating experience; however, you are the only one that can determine whether or not you identify yourself as a gay person. You may know right away or you may not, there is no one set course. It may take weeks, months or years to determine what your sexuality truly is but the important thing to remember while you’re making your way through this is no matter who you are and how you end up identifying yourself you are an invaluable human being. Determining and understanding your sexuality isn’t a race, take your time, discover who you are and determine where your sexuality lays, whether you turn out to be gay or lesbian, bisexual, or discover that you are straight after all. Afterward you may pass onto the next stage in your life, one of acceptance and eventually to “coming out of the closet” and having a successful gay or lesbian relationship.

Please Note: Whether you are identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or pansexual this guide is still for you. We will be using the term “gay” as an inclusion of all forms of homosexuality and bisexuality.

Steps of Understanding

How do you define gay for yourself? There are many differing viewpoints on the subject and you may get a different answer each time depending on who you ask. It’s important to be completely honest with yourself as to what “gay” means to you. We often refer to this debate as the “nature v nurture” conundrum.

For the purposes of this guide we are leaving this debate out of the forefront. Please see the “Nature v Nurture” section for more viewpoints on both sides of this debate.

Different Paths –
There are many different paths to discovering ones sexuality. No two instances are ever “exactly” the same. Some people understand what they believe they are and that they were “different” from a young age. Others take the time to discover their “true nature,” perhaps only finally realizing it at some point later in life.

Degrees –
Human sexuality is a very complex issue. There is the room for every degree of sexuality, some exclusively straight or gay, and may never consider having sex or relations of any kind outside of their orientation.

Respect of Others – It’s important to not undermine anybody’s perceptions and realizations of their sexuality. Coming to terms with sexual orientation is a difficult and complicated process. Respect the privacy of anyone you may know that is struggling with their orientation or struggling with “coming out.”

Respect of Self –
If you are struggling it’s important to seek advice if you need it but please realize if you broadcast it to the world everyone you know or may not know will weigh in with their advice wanted or not. This is usually not helpful and only works to complicate and cloud the issue. Do confide in someone that you truly trust and talk about your feelings and desires, just not everyone else.

Same Sex Fantasy –
The most important thing to understand is if you are fantasizing about a member of the same sex it does not automatically determine your sexuality. Straight people can have the occasional same sex fantasy, a strange dream for a woman involving a lesbian experience or a man thinking of what it would be like to have sex with the jock in the locker room. Just a fantasy or a daydream does not mean that you would jump on the chance if actually given an opportunity to do so. Sometimes a dream is simply just a dream.

Same Sex Encounters –
It’s important to know that if you act on your fantasy and have a same sex encounter it doesn’t mean that you are now exclusively gay. People who later identify as gay have had heterosexual encounters that have been quite satisfying. One experience does not equal a lifetime orientation. If after a same sex encounter you feel nervous, anxious or unsettled about it you may not be gay after all. If you, on the other hand, found enjoyment from your same sex experience, and after you’ve thoughtfully considered it, you may realize that you’d like to continue to pursue your sexuality and seek out a same sex relationship.

Past Experiences – Take a moment to think about your past experiences. How did you feel when that guy or girl kissed you? Was there that special spark? 

Self-examination – Think of your recent behavior with friends and acquaintances. If you’re a girl thinking you might be a lesbian has there been that special friend that you’ve felt different about or possessive or over protective of? For guys thinking they might be gay is there that guy you go to tackle every time? Trying to make it to the locker room at the same time? A friend that you’re more than passively interested in? Is there that guy that you always try to get a look at his body or get excited about thinking about naked or with his shirt off? For either party think about your feelings and examine and analyze what they mean.

You Are Not Alone – The most important thing of all is to realize that you are not alone. There are many people within your community who have been in your exact situation. If you feel at ease talking to your friends, teachers or parents they can be extremely supportive, but make sure you feel comfortable and safe doing so. The fact is that many people you may have felt would not be supportive are actually very understanding. Tips

Conventionality – Everyone has that certain type that turns them on. Just because you don’t fall into a conventional norm of who is hot and who is not doesn’t form or determine your orientation. Life is about finding who we are and what we like. Only you know who you find attractive and what turns you on. 

Comparisons –
Searching online for stories of people that have been through what you’re going through can be an invaluable source of information. Message boards and forums can help you connect with others that are going through the same thing you are right now. Seek out others that are questioning the same things that you are and talk with them. Don’t feel like you are the only one, you’re not.

Labeling – There isn’t a need to label yourself if you don’t wish to. Who you like is who you like and can be simply left at that. Don’t let anyone label you into a corner. It’s ok to tell people that it’s not right for them to read too much into it. Don’t let your orientation be the defining thing about you. There is no qualification for yourself or anyone else when it comes to sexual orientation other then the same sex attraction itself. If you are afraid of being a sexual minority it can be best to meet others in the same sexual minority. You’ll find that most of them are just as normal as anyone else. Pride parades and events are not a representative way of life.


Promiscuity – It’s important to not just start sleeping around with either sex. Often when someone is coming to terms with being gay or lesbian they try to sleep with anyone who is attractive to them either in an attempt to prove they aren’t gay or to prove they are open-minded or sometimes just simply to experience this new orientation. This doesn’t work for anything other than cheapening the sexual experience and defeating the purpose that you intended in the first place. It’s important to break that gender barrier but to do so in the right way. Go for that special kiss from one person rather than sleeping with everyone you can. 

Safe Sex –
It’s extremely important to make sure to practice safe sex at all times. It can be difficult to act rationally when you find yourself going through conflicting and confusing emotions and acting safe with your first same sex experience. Try to not feel “intoxicated” by your exploring of sexuality.

Avoidance of Feelings – You’re going through a difficult time but don’t try to hide from your negative feelings of your orientation. Some turn to substance abuse as a way to escape these feelings. Doing so will only serve to make it more difficult than it already is.       

Friends –
Always choose your friends wisely. You don’t have to befriend other gay people simply because you’re gay yourself. It’s more important to seek out supportive level headed caring people within the community who share your interests. It’s imperative to not let your sexuality define you; it’s only part of what makes your person. Finding others that are going through the same things that you are is important; however, don’t shut out your straight friends or the straight world. It’s healthy to maintain diversity in your relationships with different groups of people.