Q&A: Am I Gay? Sexual Orientation Labels And Sexual Attraction

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QUESTION: I am attracted to both men and women, but slightly more to men. I masturbate to both men and women, but more recently (within the last three years) mostly to men. I have only had sex with one woman, who was my girlfriend at the time, and we broke up a few years ago. Does it sound to you like I’m gay?

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Generally speaking, we don’t like to tell people whether it sounds like they are gay or straight or bisexual or any other sexual orientation label.

Sexual Orientation Is Complex

That’s because sexual orientation is complex and the label that someone chooses to give themselves doesn’t always match their behaviors.

Quite often, in our research, we will find men who identify as straight but have sex only with men, or maybe with both women and men. Or else we will have men who identify as gay but have sex only with women, or with both women or men. And the same is true with women.

Sexual Orientation Labels

To many researchers, sexual orientation labels are about more than a person’s partnered sexual behavior, masturbation behavior or even their fantasies.

Sometimes people choose a label because it most fits with their identity, with the community or group of people that they want to be a part of, or simply with how they feel about themselves.

Other times they choose an identity because they feel forced into it, or pressured. There are some women or men who personally feel that they are bisexual, but may feel that they have to identify as either straight or gay so that their friends or partners will accept them.

Deciding how to label one’s own sexual interests and orientation is not always an easy task, and we would encourage you to not feel pressured to put a label on yourself unless or until you are feeling ready to do so.

Recommended Resources

If you are interested in exploring issues around gay identity, consider connecting with the group Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Some men also find the book The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop by Dr. David McWhirter to be a helpful resource for understanding more about men’s relationships with each other. The Bisexual Resource Guide by Robyn Ochs is another resource that may be helpful to you as well.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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