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Am I too young to think I'm gay?

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Anonymous asks:

I've only just turned 14. Am I too young to think I might be gay? Or is it just hormones playing with my emotions? If I am really gay, is it bad or stupid cause I'm so young?

Heather Corinna replies:

Do you think you or your friends are too young to know if you're straight?

Hint: there's actually no right answer to that one.

If you say yes, people at 14 can know they're heterosexual, then it only makes sense to posit that if a person can know they are one orientation at that age, they can know if they are another. In other words, if you're not too young to know if you're straight, you're not too young to know if you're gay or bisexual, either.

Answering no is also a valid answer. It's normal for the development and understanding of our sexual orientation to take some time, and it's also normal for our orientation to have subtle or even big shifts through life. Understanding our orientation also often involves seeing patterns in our attractions and our relationships: over a handful of years or more, who are we attracted to most strongly? Who do we want or have emotional and sexual relationships with, and in terms of gender, what partners feel most right for us to be with, deep in our guts? Plus, since a lot of us are just going to love who we love -- and since who we love and are attracted to is about a whole lot of things, not just sex or gender -- in many ways, it's sensible for us to say that none of us can ever be 100% when it comes to our sexual orientation.

But anyone who identifies their orientation at any time can't be expected to be psychic.

When we say, "I am gay," or "I am straight" or "I am bisexual," or "I am questioning," or "Hell if I know who I like," we're speaking for what we know about ourselves and our attractions now and in the history we have had up until right now. We can have a feeling something may be permanent or temporary, but we've no way of predicting that: all we can speak to is what we know right now, and that's all any of us should be expected to speak to with any authority. That's all someone at 14, 18, or 48 is speaking to when they say they're straight, too.

During adolescence, we do tend to be what's called "less selective" about sexual partners due to a couple things: not just a bunch of hormones flying around, but also because that's a time when we are feeling all of this out, starting to figure all of it out. That can mean attraction to people we might not be as attracted to during another time of life, it may mean choosing sexual partners less cautiously, it can mean having less barriers to sexual relationships. But that's the case for many young people of all sexual orientations, so I'd not put too much stock in the idea that your hormones have the power to make you feel things you wouldn't otherwise be feeling. Most of our interpersonal desires and longings are about our hearts and minds, not about estrogen or testosterone. Plus, you'll have those hormones once you're out of adolescence, too.

I don't think anyone is too young to think -- or even know -- that they are a given sexual orientation, no matter what that orientation is. By all means, that's an experience which varies among people. Some people will say they knew as children: others will say they were uncertain about their orientation, or thought it to be something different than they later discovered it was, for decades. But I certainly don't think there is anything bad or stupid about any sexual orientation, at any age. Every sexual orientation is what it is, just like every race is what it is: we are who we are, and all of us should be proud and accepting of who we are.

It certainly can be tougher in certain areas and communities to be out as gay when you're young, as it can be more challenging to find support and peers with the emotional maturity to be supportive and compassionate. So, if you're thinking about coming out, you'll want to consider some things before taking that leap, to weigh if being out right now -- be that to one person or everyone -- is going to be a benefit to you or something that either endangers you, or just brings you more grief than good. I'll give you some links at the end of this page to help you consider some of that.

But in the meantime, especially when it comes to what's going on in your own head and your own heart? Trust it and accept it. If you fall in love, like or lust with someone, no matter their gender, enjoy and relish it: it doesn't happen every day, after all, and there's nothing bad or stupid about it.

Here are those links for you:

written 27 May 2008 . updated 22 Jan 2014

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