Whether we call it orientation, sexual preference (which assumes we have choice), or perversion (which assumes we have judgments), the topic of whom we love can cause great emotional turmoil. The following is a distillation of a common question.
Dear Dr Ren,
I am a 16-year-old male. Recently another boy in my class hugged me and told me that I am really a girl. I knew that was stupid, but I still became confused, tense, and depressed. Now I am not feeling excited thinking about women the way I did before this incident. Honestly, I liked it when he hugged me, but I certainly don’t feel like I’m a girl. I am really anxious about all of this. Please tell me, Doctor…. Am I gay?
I can’t tell you whether or not you are gay. I don’t have enough information, and neither do you. You are only sixteen and, though some of us are aware of our orientation earlier than that, most find it takes us a while in the dating scene to determine the sorts of people that attract us. This refers not only to their gender (male or female) but to their personalities, physical characteristics, and other qualities and attributes we can’t know until we get to know someone a bit.
Of course it felt good to have your friend hug you. His remark about your being a girl was his confusion that if he liked hugging you, you must be feminine (so he wouldn’t feel gay himself….we learn to fear alternative sexualities before we learn the facts). This is just his ignorance, and he will figure this out as he gets more experience. You may sometimes feel drawn to women and other times to men. Adolescence is a time for learning all sorts of things about yourself, including your sexual orientation. You may be gay; you may not. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you learn to treat others with compassion, patience, and respect. This will help you to form meaningful, happy bonds with whomever you choose to love. The physical plumbing, when all’s said and done, is really pretty irrelevant.
Relax and enjoy this exciting transition period as you grow from child into adult. The answers you are seeking will come to you. Moreover, whatever answers you learn about yourself, they’ll be just right for you.