I thought I was gay but now I'm questioning my orientation
turbo18 asks:I've known I was gay for about 5 years (im now 19). Lately however something's been "wrong," I'm being attracted to certain women! I've even started looking at "straight" porn. Last night I made out with a girl for the first time, and I even asked her out and I have strong feelings for her (she knew I was gay).
I feel as I've lost my identity. I've dont know who or what I am anymore. I've been with and fallen for guys before. but now I'm questioning my own sexuality again, but for the opposite reason then most. I think I might be bisexual or straight.
I hear you that this is a tough situation to be in, turbo! It certainly may seem like the reverse of what most people face when they are questioning their sexual orientation. However, I assure you that it is actually much more common than one might think. For all the great resources there are about coming out, there are far fewer that address later expanding one's orientation to (re)include for the opposite sex.
Just as if you were questioning your orientation and thinking you might be gay, I can offer some background basics and things to think about. I wish I could tell you flat out "yes, no, maybe so" but I can't, unfortunately. However, I am sure things will reveal themselves-- and, ultimately, work out -- in time. That said, I understand the feeling of wanting to know now... so, let's get started!
While you may confused on the inside, it sounds like you're doing the absolute right thing by being honest with yourself and the people around you, such as the girl you mention here, as you're questioning things.
GLBT, You and Me (Or what you probably already know but let's revisit)
For starters, I'd like to share my take on sexual orientation. The articles mentioned and linked throughout my reply provide a lot of general GLBT background. They make up the backbone of Scarleteen's take on sexual orientation. I absolutely agree with what's written there, but here's my personal take, too; it's not unusual or undocumented, but I'd like to share it. You are obviously past the so-called "Queer 101 Manual" (well, if there ever were or even could be such a book!) and set on the basics. Still, it doesn't hurt to collect different viewpoints-- from Scarleteen articles, from other users, from other websites, from me, etc. -- and eventually write your own take on sexual orientation. It's not easy -- plus, no one can speak for everyone -- but the process of putting things in words may help your thought process.
I believe that human sexuality is fluid: We're born with our sexual orientation, whatever that may be; however, our sexual orientation is also shaped by environmental factors such as our personal experiences. I think that, while we should be true to ourselves, we do also have a certain power. (Now this gets tricky to express!) We can't necessarily choose who we like or whom are attracted to, but we can choose whether or not to act on those interests. Of course, whereas this is good and necessary for unrequited crushes, squelching who we really are -- such as trying to have only heterosexual relationships when we are, in fact, only attracted to those of our same gender -- takes its toil with time and isn't fair to ourselves or others.
However, along the lines of sexuality being fluid, I feel that while there are certainly people who are just attracted to the same-sex or opposite-sex (or asexual), most people fall somewhere on a broad spectrum between gay and straight (and beyond!) In most cultures on earth, heterosexuality is considered the norm or most desirable orientation, so heterosexuality becomes the default orientation, even though many people might technically be more bisexual and pansexual. (Again, this is my theory and personal take on things, not the site policy or some natural law!)
Unfortunately, more often than not, it's not easy being gay. Not because being gay itself is hard, but because of societal pressure and judgement. Coming out can be really tough; however, it also opens up a new and generally quite awesomely accepting community. As you said yourself, being gay is, or has become, a major part of your identity. The article Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out does really good job of addressing it as well as mentioning some potential pitfalls.
After feeling closed so long or after dealing with so many assumptions by others in addition to our own personal questions, it can feel really nice to finally know what or who we are. Not to mention the added perk of finally being surrounded by people who, finally, accept us for who we are, sexual orientation and all. In other words, who we have always been but had to keep inside. You're out and proud and feeling at home in your local and the greater gay community. Since coming out and accepting your sexual orientation five years ago, it seems that questioning your sexual orientation once again had not yet come up. However, now it's back on the table.
It can be tricky finding people to talk to about this second round of questioning, especially when we want to stay true to those who have supported us coming out in the first place. Likewise, we don't want or need people who care about us but do not care for our sexual orientation, such as a well-intentioned parent, to tell us they are relieved that we, in fact, not gay. ("I knew it was just a phase" and what not.) Additionally, we also want to value and honor our past relationships. But, first and foremost, we want to be true to ourselves-- whoever we are!
It sounds to me that, if you've had feelings for the guys you've been with before, you certainly were attracted to them on some level at least; it sounds like you're finding yourself attracted to and having feelings for women now, too. It is possible to be attracted to different people or genders in different ways, such as sexually, emotionally, and so on. It is also possible to be more attracted to certain people, or certain genders, at certain times in our lives. Bisexuality isn't about being attracted to both genders equally and all the time; bisexuality or pansexuality, being attracted to many genders, is open to various interpretations and arrangements.
That said, it sounds like you could very possibly be bisexual, although it's not my place to put that label on you. Our two main articles on this very topic, The Bees and...the Bees: A Homosexuality and Bisexuality Primer and Bi the Dozen: A Bisexuality Quiz address this quite extensively.
An entirely different -- and quite refreshing, in my eyes -- take on this is the rejection of all labels for sexual orientation. Scarleteen volunteer Jacob puts it very succiently in his article, Living without Labels and I definitely recommend you also check it out.
Speaking of articles, I'd also suggest reading The Makings of a Homo on a young guy identifying as gay (I realize you are beyond this step in your personal journey, but you still might find it interesting) and well as Looking, Lusting and Learning: A Straightforward Look at Pornography. The second article does a good job addressing how sexual fantasy and real-life interests reflect and effect each other, and what roles pornography plays. Gay, straight, bi or beyond, the articles Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models and Potholes & Dead Ends: Relationship Roadblocks to Look Out For bring up important relationship considerations.
Putting the "I" into identity, the "U" into community
For the second part of this answer, I enlisted the help of a dear friend who used to ID as lesbian and is currently in a relationship with a man. Your post prompted a chat on the topic that I'd like to share here. She first talked about how it's human nature to want to identify as part of a group and have that sense of belonging. As I alluded to it a bit in the first part of my response, when you're queer, it can be hard to claim that identity, form that community and more; being gay becomes a huge part of who you are.
Any time that group image changes, it can be difficult and confusing. The gay community tends to be close knit, but just because you're not dating a guy doesn't mean you have to be ostracized from it! In fact, when you think about it, the gay community tends to be a very open and accepting group. While there certainly may be a few people who express something negative to your news, I think (and hope) you will encounter more acceptance from them than you might think. The key is that you are still welcoming and accepting of others, which is obviously the case.
You don't have to give up the queer part of your identity anytime soon or ever; however, perhaps focusing on or developing other parts of your identity right now would be helpful. Our identities change over time no matter what, such as when we go from being a student to joining the work force, from being a single person to a parent, from growing up in one place and then moving to another location. It's not easy at first -- there's a certain aspect of culture shock involved -- but humans are resilient and can get through it. However, you don't have to go through it alone. Chatting with others, both online and in-person, who have been in your shoes could also help give you more insight. You know you are always welcome to continue this discussion with the many users and volunteers on the Scarleteen message boards. Can you think of a person or two in your local queer community with whom you could talk about this first?
I wish I could give you more a more clear, definite answer about your sexual orientation. However, you sound like you've really got a good head about all this and, despite any personal confusion, are doing a good job being open-minded, true to yourself, and honest with others. Please do read those articles, keep thinking about possibilities -- without stressing yourself out too much! If you can just focus more on each individual relationship and person for now, enjoying the company of this person you're dating -- regardless of gender -- that would be best in my mind. Good luck!