We live in a hetero normative society that forces us to believe that anything other than a heterosexual relationship is abnormal. Every movie I watched growing up had a prince and a princess who ended up living happily ever after and that was how it ended every time. I thought that was the only option. Anything other than that was seen as unnatural. When in reality, the opposite is true.
Sexuality is not so simple. It exists on a spectrum. You may only be attracted to people of the opposite sex. You may only be attracted to people of the same sex. You can even fall into a gray area between the two. For example, you may be more physically attracted to one gender while being more romantically attracted to the other. Or you may find both attractive, but lean more towards one than the other. Or maybe you do not even consider gender when finding someone attractive or don’t even experience sexual attraction to anyone. There are no real rules on how to deal with questioning your sexuality. Sometimes, you don’t really know the answer until you experiment a little.
Many people see college as the prime time to experiment with sexuality. It is a running joke that girls may go through a “college lesbian phase.” At parties, you will often see guys trying to pressure girls to make out with each other. Females are often more encouraged to experiment with their sexuality than males. Not that men do not experiment in college, but it is not talked about as much. This does not necessarily mean that female relationships are more accepted than males ones, but rather that they are more objectified by other men.
While LGBTQA representation in media and activism has increased over the last few years, there are still problems with stigma and discrimination. A recent religious freedom law passed in Indiana will now allow businesses to refuse service to same sex couples and not receive any legal ramifications. Here are some stigmas:
- You’re questioning or bisexual because you want attention. Many people secure the belief that if someone is experimenting with their sexuality, or in fact is attracted to both sexes, they are just looking for attention. Trying to figure out what you want is not always a cry for help. It is something that will ease confusion and give peace of mind.
- Homosexuals are responsible for the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Even though the present medical world is aware that homosexuals are not at fault for the disease, the stigma still exists.
- All gays are promiscuous and only pursue hook ups. Obviously, this is not the case. There are countless people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual that are in long-term committed relationships. A same sex relationship is not any weaker than a heterosexual one.
- Being in a same sex relationship is a choice. People in a same sex relationship may face questions like “What did a man do to you that made you want to date girls?” This is perhaps the most harmful thing for a youth’s mental health. If someone who is struggling with their sexuality is told that their feelings are not real and that they are based on choice, it can make them feel invalidated, confused, and guilty. They may start to blame themselves for having feelings that are normal and uncontrollable.
- It’s just wrong. For whatever reasons people have, they think the only right way to be in a relationship, is if it’s with the opposite sex.
These types of stigmas are harmful, they can even be deadly. Studies have shown that LGBTQA individuals are at greater risk for mental and physical health problems than heterosexuals. Suicide is the national leading cause of death among homosexual youth. The youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals. And those who have unsupportive families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide than those with supportive parents. Homeless youth in America are 20-40% LGBT.
No one should ever feel guilty about their sexual orientation. It is natural. It is beautiful. And it is part of who you are. There is growing representation of different sexualities in all fields.
If you are feeling shame or fear about wanting to act on your questions regarding your sexuality, remember:
- It is okay to try new things. Don’t let yourself to be limited by social stigmas and misconceptions. And don’t do anything just for the sake of doing it. If you are attracted to someone that you are not normally attracted to, trust your gut feelings.
- Make sure that whatever you are doing, you are doing it for yourself and not for anyone else.
- You are not alone. No matter how much it feels like you’re the only one who feels the way you do, there are millions of people around the world going through it too.
- Focus on yourself and what makes you happy. As more people change their perceptions, society will as well.
Yasmin Sara studies International Political Economy and Communications at Fordham University. She loves to geek out about comics, TV shows, and tattoos. She blogs about news, politics, health, and occasionally dabbles in creative writing at modernmuckraking.wordpress.com. You can also follow her at batglare.tumblr.com.