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Am I Gay?

This is one of the most common questions people type into search engines...

This is one of the most common questions people type into search engines, which means millions

of people have asked it, including people you know. But wait! How could someone not know that he or she was gay? The question is crazy, right?

Actually, it's not crazy at all. People usually ask the question because, whatever their age, they have been using one sexual orientation label since the time they reached puberty - usually, the "straight" label, because that's the label we're urged to use in our culture - and then, one night - maybe because they got drunk - they had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex. Just one encounter, and people start asking themselves, "Am I gay?"

People also ask themselves that question if they have been using one label for themselves - usually "straight" - but they have noticed themselves fantasizing about having sex with someone of the same sex: their hot teacher, maybe, or their neighbor, or the guy who came to fix the air conditioning. Because there is so much pressure on men, especially, to be straight, it's usually straight men who ask the "Am I gay?" question, but straight women sometimes ask it too.

So if you call yourself straight, and if you just had a same-sex encounter or sometimes have same-sex fantasies popping into your head, are you gay?

The answer is... drumroll...

It's a dumb question!

If you take a careful look at massive books like Homosexuality and Civilization by University of Nebraska professor Louis Crompton or The Construction of Homosexuality by Columbia University professor David F. Greenberg, you will find that the idea that some people are "gay" is a very recent idea. The term "homosexual" wasn't even invented until 1886! Before that, no one in the whole world was "gay." It was simply the case that some people sometimes engaged in same-sex sexual behavior.

Were there also people who engaged in same-sex sexual behavior more-or-less exclusively? Sure, but even those people might also have sex now and then with someone of the opposite sex.

If fact, here's another shocker for you: The term "heterosexual" was invented after the term "homosexual." And when it was first used in the early 1900s, it didn't mean what it means today. It didn't mean someone who has an exclusive attraction to people of the opposite sex. It meant people who had an unhealthy, obsessive attraction to people of the opposite sex! You can learn more about this in a book by writer Jonathan Ned Katz called The Invention of Heterosexuality.

So, do you see the problem? We've been conditioned by our culture to believe that people come in two flavors, "gay" and "straight" (or maybe three flavors, if you want to include "bisexual"). But that simply isn't true. It's a myth created by medical and mental health professionals over the last century - a myth that has no basis in reality and that has caused untold distress to millions of people.

The reality is much simpler. According to sexual orientation researchers, the reality is that sexual orientation is actually both fluid and flexible. It's true that some of us are born with stronger attractions to opposite-sex individuals and some of us are born with stronger attractions to same-sex individuals, but all of us have some flexibility in the way we express sexual orientation, and, over time, many of us will experience changes in the attractions we feel (that's the "fluidity" part).

To put this another way, in an ideal world that didn't pressure everyone into pretending that he or she was straight every minute of the day, most of us would feel and act on both opposite-sex and same-sex attractions at some point in our lives. Another way to put this is that human beings are, by nature, bisexual. As Sigmund Freud put this in 1937, "every human being is bisexual... his libido is distributed, either in a manifest or a latent fashion, over objects of both sexes." Freud even said that heterosexuality was a neurosis - that if you forced yourself to fit into the heterosexual mold, you would experience psychic conflict your entire adult life.

So the only legitimate answer to the question "Am I gay?" - besides the obvious one, which is that it's a dumb question - is that people shouldn't worry so much about sexual orientation labels. If, now and then, you have fantasies or encounters that don't fit the label you happen to be using, the problem is not with you, it's with the label .

Always remember that the sexual orientation labels we have been forced to use in recent years are new historically. They are also ridiculously simplistic; they just don't capture the true nature of our sexuality - especially the fact that our sexual orientation is both flexible and fluid.

Because those labels are simplistic, they hold us back, trapping us in imaginary prisons that prevent us from exploring the depth and breadth of our true sexual natures.

If you want to know your true sexual nature, you will need to break free of the imaginary prison and experiment with your life. Fortunately, imaginary prisons have both imaginary walls and imaginary locks. You can break out of the prison if you choose to do so. It's your choice.

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