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Young men embracing being gay slide

How do I know if I’m gay?

Northern, western and central Melbourne is an incredibly diverse place. For example, two in five of the 1.6+ million people living in this region were born overseas. But did you know that Melbourne is also home to a high proportion of people who identify as LGBTIQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Queer / Questioning)?

Seven out of the top 10 suburbs which are home to the highest reported number of same-sex couples are located in this region, with inner-city Melbourne topping the list.

Yes, there are a great many people who identify as being LGBTIQ. Yet despite making up a significant part of the population, many of these people have been subjected to (or continue to face) discrimination and prejudice. Consequently, people who identify as LGBTIQ have higher rates of mental health conditions, a higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, and a higher suicide rate.

 

Questions about same-sex attraction

It is a natural and healthy aspect of one’s wellbeing to recognise and embrace one’s sexuality. It is also perfectly normal when this means identifying as gay, queer, same-sex attracted or LGBTIQ.

For many people, the journey of self-discovery begins in their early teens. For others, it can take much longer. It’s a deeply personal process and no two people will have exactly the same experience.

There is also greater recognition of the fact that sexuality isn’t as simple or binary as is often popularly portrayed. This is one reason why terms like LGBT, LGBTQ and LGBTQIA+ are receiving increased usage — they have come into everyday use because they more accurately acknowledge that human sexuality is thoroughly complex and diverse.

For many people, understanding who they truly are may begin by simply questioning their sexual preference. However, it’s important to note that merely having questions about one’s sexuality in no way means a ‘decision’ is needed. It may, however, lead to further thoughts or questions. Common questions that may arise might include some of the following.

  • Does the person feel there is something ‘missing’ or that they are lacking a ‘connection’ when they are engaged physically or emotionally with someone of the opposite gender?
  • Is there a dominant gender to the person’s dreams or fantasies about other people?
  • Do they have a preferred gender that they consider “attractive”?
  • Does or did the person have “crushes” or strong feelings of attraction toward people from a dominant gender?
  • Has the person had intimate or sexual encounters with people of the same sex?
  • If so, how did the person rate the physical or emotional closeness of such an encounter, compared to encounters with people of the opposite gender?

 

Coming out

The only person who knows the true ‘answer’ to questions about their sexuality is the person themselves. Likewise, only that person can decide how long that process takes. For some, it’s straightforward and rapid, while for others it may take much longer (even years in some cases).

It is common for many people who identify as same-sex attracted to identify initially as bisexual or not exclusively heterosexual. The opposite may also be true, with some people first identifying as gay or lesbian and subsequently identifying as bisexual.

Ultimately, the process of acknowledging one’s sexuality may take the form of coming out — the process of accepting and (often) publicly identifying as being same-sex attracted.

As with other aspects of identifying one’s sexual preference, coming out is a uniquely personal experience with no one-size-fits-all timeline. Some people come out gradually, perhaps initially to the people they trust and are most comfortable with, while others are more ‘public’ about the whole thing.

 

Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.

 

The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.