Q: I wasn’t educated about sexuality until freshman year of high school. I didn’t know girls could like girls, but I came to the conclusion that I was bi sophomore year. I tried coming out to my mom recently, now that I am in college, but she dismissed it, saying I hadn’t showed any signs of being gay as a child and thus it was just a phase. This completely screwed me over mentally because it was already so difficult to go through the questioning process.
My family is super conservative and Christian. Women in my family are expected to go to college, get a job, marry a man, have his kids, and die. I don’t really want that.
Despite all this, I feel like a fake, and a liar. I have a girlfriend who I love to pieces. I love kissing her, being intimate with her, spoiling her and I daydream about getting a place of our own someday. I do not want to pursue romance with a boy, and I don’t particularly like being intimate with them either, though I still find them physically attractive. I enjoy intimacy with girls so much more, and I feel a closer emotional connection with them. Yet, I don’t feel an automatic physical attraction like I do with guys.
I don’t feel straight. It doesn’t feel true. I’m scared though. I’m so confused. My heart and mind are in tatters right now. What are your thoughts?
A: Thank you for your very good and heartfelt question. The journey of figuring out one’s sexuality is not necessarily quick or easy and I often encourage young people to allow themselves time to explore, without any rush to decide on a specific label.
You have a girlfriend you enjoy – that’s great! You’re attracted to guys, too – also great! I understand these things may not feel “great” to your family, but please rest assured that according to years of Gallup polls, most Americans — literally millions of people — are accepting of a broad range of sexual orientations as well as same-sex sexual experiences. And family members often do come around, though I understand how difficult, sad, and frustrating it can be to not have family support.
Research has shown that family acceptance and support are important aspect of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths’ self-acceptance. If you’d like to try approaching your mom or other family members again, you might share family resources with them such as those from the Bisexual Resource Center, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Pride Resource Center, or PFLAG which has information about how parents can support their LGBT children.
It’s Not Unusual To Be Bi …
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) demonstrate that bisexual is not rare – especially among young women, more of whom identify as bisexual now than decades earlier. (In the NSSHB, about 4% of adult women and 8% of adolescent women identified as bisexual; and in the CDC data about 6% of young women identified as bisexual, with many more than that – about 17% – reporting sexual behavior with other women).
As you go about your own journey of exploration, you may find it interesting and enlightening to read Dr. Lisa Diamond’s book “Sexual Fluidity.” You might also like to browse videos on the It Gets Better website, which features tens of thousands of videos from people of all genders and sexual orientations talking about their processes of exploring their sexual orientation and creating satisfying, interesting, meaningful lives for themselves.
… Or An Individual
An interesting thing about sexual orientation and romantic attraction is that they don’t necessarily fit into neat little boxes. Sometimes people feel very romantically or intimately attracted to one sex but more physically attracted to another. And sometimes they have strong attractions to a specific person but otherwise aren’t that attracted to people of that person’s sex or gender. It’s pretty individual, which can make it seem frustrating but is also a pretty beautiful complexity; humans are far more diverse than the pressure to conform or be like “everyone else” often suggests. Sexual feelings and attractions can also shift over time, which is much of what the book Sexual Fluidity discusses, based on research with women.
I hope this helps in some way and that your exploration is largely a positive experience as you figure out who YOU are!