What does it mean to be “gay”?
The word “gay” refers to same-sex romantic and/or sexual attraction, most commonly between men. Originally, it was an adjective to describe someone who is cheerful and merry. While the time of the change in its definition is unclear, “gay” transformed to carefree, as in reckless and impulse-driven, mostly describing sex workers. It became more closely linked to homosexuality by referring to male sex workers to further emphasize it as an obscenity. In contrast to the word “straight” meaning respectable and serious, “gay” continued to further refer to a rejection of respectable norms, including judged lustful and gender-breaking behavior and apparel. In the 1960s, the word was reclaimed by homosexual men, who started using it to self-identify. This was even more pronounced by the visibility of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, a demonstration against the oppression of LGBTIQ+ people in society. From this history, it is clear that the word itself has suffered and changed a lot.
Although the word primarily means homosexuality between men, “gay” has developed into being synonymous with the LGBTIQ+ community at large too. It has become a neutral to positive term for the most part, although its intent to discriminate and bully is unfortunately still relevant.
Is it natural to be attracted to the same-sex?
In nature, same-sex mating behaviors among animals is more common than you might think! Over 450 documented species engage in same-sex courting, pair-bonding and parental responsibilities; sexual behavior is around 100 species. In all cases, the same-sex behavior is the minority of the overarching birthing responsibility of the species. Said species exhibit a form of bisexuality. Exclusive homosexuality is more rare, although it is observed in domesticated sheep. Around 10% of rams will court and mate with other males only, even when females are around.
That said, it is important to consider the word “natural”. It is often used as an opposite to the argument that homosexuality is a choice, and to defend its legitimacy. The reality is: we don’t have a definitive scientific answer as to why some individuals are gay. And while that means we haven’t found a “Gay Gene”, we also haven’t found any factor that proves that it is a choice either. The answer is most likely a constellation of factors between biological and environmental characteristics, but nothing is conclusive.
Dealing with bullying and discrimination
Bullying is a very serious issue, and if you or someone you know finds themselves in this situation, please know that you/they are not alone. There are platforms and resources available to you to help you navigate what is happening. Because this is a sensitive topic, we encourage you to check out BullyingUK, an online website to help everyone be safe from bullying and harassment. https://www.bullying.co.uk/general-advice/what-is-homophobic-bullying/
However, we can confidently assert that nobody deserves to be harassed, discriminated against or bullied. Nobody deserves to be made fun of, hurt, or attacked for existing. Whether you are LGBTIQ+ or not, being called homophobic words to insult you is not okay. Even though it might feel like it, you are not alone. Many people have unfortunately been in a similar situation, which is why many efforts have been made to stop it. There is help. If you are unsure of whether you are or have been bullied, or the target of homophobia, the link above can also help you make sense of the situation.
How to know if you are gay
Ultimately, finding out if you are gay is discovering who you are. That is a process, and it takes some time. No quiz or game you can play will give you the answer. The best advice we can give is to talk to people you trust, visit a gay/queer/questioning support group or nearby resource center, write in a journal and keep asking yourself questions. Be open to who you might be, no matter what the result may be. And no matter the conclusion, you can be happy! A big fear from the possibility of being a different sexual orientation is wondering if you will find a partner, be accepted by peers or find happiness. You can find all of those in any sexual orientation.
This topic does have some myths that should be dispelled, such as: thinking about the opposite sex does not necessarily always equate a romantic and/or sexual attraction to them, questioning your own sexual orientation is not a coming-out (people can question their identity and still conclude that they are heterosexual!), a same-sex erotic dream does not necessarily reflect how you feel, that you have to choose between being attracted to men or women as you might be attracted to either, neither, both or other genders as well!
Legalization of Gay Marriage
Same-sex marriage is a topic that has been trending over the past decade, especially since several countries have been voting and legalizing the union between sex-same couples. This is the result of years of social demonstrations by gay rights activists, starting with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which led to a movement of sexual orientation and gender minorities to fight for sexual liberation, marriage equality, establish discrimination laws and support raising children.
Due to the legislative nature of this topic, the gay community is advancing at different speeds depending on the country. For some, equal rights such as marriage have been obtained a while ago and topics like non-discriminatory adoption is the next hurdle; for others legalizing same-sex activity is still very dangerous. Allies are highly encouraged to show their support on this topic; since it is political, voting often carries heavy weight on these decisions.