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Ask the Experts

Question:

Hi, I am an 18 year old male. To be honest, I have always been confused about my sexuality, and I don't really know whether I am straight, gay or bisexual. I have always been sexually attracted to other men as long as I can recall. When I am attracted to women, it is often more to their intellectual qualities, and never their bodies, etc. Is there a conclusive way to figure out my sexuality?

Answered by: Robert Kertzner

It sounds like you’re asking how to figure out which attractions are most important to you and for what reasons.

As a general guideline, attraction that is rooted in sexual desire has special significance for well-being, since the wish for closeness and acceptance by others is uniquely expressed in sexual attraction, fantasy, and behavior. We can be known and loved for our interests, character, and good deeds. But having our sexual desires and behaviors reciprocated by another person allows for a physical and emotional intimacy that many see as an essential human experience. This can be felt with partners of the same or different gender (or both genders), but it is the combination of sexual desire and expression that lies at the heart of sexuality.

All of this leaves open the question of how to identify yourself. The terms gay, straight, and bisexual are oversimplified labels for all the “moving parts” of one’s sexuality. Who you desire, who you have sex with, and what you call yourself don’t always line up in one direction and can change over a person’s lifetime. However, these labels can be helpful in terms of finding a support network, friends, partners, and life mates. Because sexual attraction is often strongly linked to intimacy and well-being, it is fundamental to many people’s sense of personal identity.

This doesn’t preclude other meaningful aspects of identity or important attachments, but it often provides a base from which to create a life of love, acceptance of oneself, and contributions to the lives of others. Figuring out your sexuality may be a matter of figuring out which attractions are most likely to yield these dividends.