"Am I Gay?"
A Guide for People Who Question Their Sexual Orientation

Richard H. Reams, Ph.D.

With the visibility of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people in American society, questioning one’s sexual orientation is becoming more common.  Although such questioning is usually associated with adolescents, some adults engage in questioning after years of living a heterosexual life and maintaining a heterosexual identity.  For some, the period of questioning is brief.  For others, it lasts for months or years. 

There are multiple reasons why you might question your sexual orientation.  Those reasons include:

  • Having LGB friends, which prompts you to ask yourself, “How do I know I’m straight?”
  • Receiving an expression of romantic or sexual attraction from a same-sex friend.
  • Engaging in same-sex behavior, including kissing or touching, perhaps under the influence of alcohol.
  • Not feeling ready or comfortable or interested in dating anyone of the other sex.
  • Finding individuals of the same sex to be physically attractive.
  • Experiencing a deep emotional connection with someone of the same sex (if you have understood yourself to be heterosexual) or of the other sex (if you have understood yourself to be gay/lesbian).

No matter how old you are or why you question your sexual orientation, this guide can help you understand yourself better.  I wrote it after searching books and the Internet for such a guide.  What I found was plenty of guidance for gay people who face the challenges of coming out to others and living openly, but minimal guidance for people who are questioning their sexual orientation. 

You may have looked online for a "gay test" (or lesbian test or bisexual test) that would answer your question about your sexual orientation.  If so, perhaps you noticed they are usually humorous quizzes for based on stereotypes.  You won't find a "test" here.  Instead, you'll find useful information as well as questions to contemplate in your journey to understand yourself.

This guide is based on my work as a psychologist who teaches a college course about sexual orientation and who counsels clients who want to clarify their sexual orientation.  In order to clarify your sexual orientation, there is a lot you need to know about sexual orientation itself as well as the identity development process that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience. And there is much evidence from your life to gather and examine.  With so much information to consider, I have divided this guide into seven parts:

  • Parts 1 and 2 explain two critical and related concepts — sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity — to provide a foundation for understanding yourself. 
  • Part 3 addresses seven myths about sexual orientation that may contribute to your confusion.  
  • Part 4 will help you gather and examine the evidence about your sexual orientation.  
  • Part 5 explores four obstacles to sexual orientation identity development. 
  • Part 6 recommends next steps, depending on the outcome of your examination of the evidence. 
  • Part 7 identifies resources that can assist you in your journey if the evidence indicates that you are LGB.

You may be quite eager to settle the question, “What’s my sexual orientation?”  Perhaps your answer will come after a single reading of this guide, or you may discover that you need more evidence.  Alternatively, you may be hesitant to settle the question if the thought of being anything other than heterosexual evokes anxiety.  I honor whatever feelings you bring to the process of clarifying your sexual orientation.

Let’s continue with a basic question that we’ll explore in Part 1: “What is Sexual Orientation?


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