WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE GAY?
Gay is a non-gender specific term that refers to those who are involved with members of the same-sex, however, typically people define gay as men who have relationships (mental, emotional, physical & spiritual) with other men. Gay men are everywhere: in every community, every type of job, every culture, and every age group.
How Do I Know If I’m Gay?
There is no checklist that determines whether or not you are gay. People often focus on sexual behavior, attraction, and desire as the defining factors of sexual orientation. However, being gay is not just about sex! Take some time to ask yourself:
Who do I have crushes on or romantic feelings for?
Who do I want to share parts of my life with—mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual?
Who do I imagine being the person(s) I want to do simple, everyday tasks with?
Your answers to these questions can help provide valuable insight into what your sexual orientation might be. As well, because gay relationships are about more than just sex, some people are more likely to identify their romantic orientation as gay instead of their sexual orientation (i.e. homoromantic as opposed to homosexual). Some people choose to make this distinction because a growing number of people are identifying romantic and sexual orientations as different things (asexual folks, for instance) as opposed to interchangeable elements of relationships. However, both work together to describe the complexity and beauty of human experiences.
You may feel confused or uncertain about your sexual orientation, and that’s okay! It is yours to explore and there are lots of resources out there to help you out along the way. Check out books in the local library and contact places like the Avenue Community Centre to learn more. Again, only you can identify your sexuality and you can do it at your own pace.
Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.
~ Jason Collins
Okay, I’m Gay. Now What?
Once you are comfortable identifying yourself as gay, you will need to make some decisions. Decisions about who you tell, how, when, or if you even tell them are totally up to you. There is no set of rules for coming out, and every person and every situation is different—which can be challenging or fun, depending on how you look at it. As well, there are places like the Avenue Community Centre that can help you figure things out.
You will need to be realistic about coming out. It can be as difficult for someone to hear that you are gay as it is for you to say it. Throughout this process, you may experience difficult changes in some relationships, as well as deepening of others. This is why many gay people wait until they support and love themselves before coming out. Again, since you know your situation best, only you can decide if and how you will come out to people.
Choosing openness over hiding or self-denial is an important way to ensure mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Unfortunately, it is common for people in denial of their sexuality to use unhealthy ways to cope; drugs, alcohol, unsafe sex, and self-harm or suicide are some of those ways. Gay men often say that accepting their sexuality helped them become calmer, happier, and more confident and self-aware individuals.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.
~ Harvey Fierstein
Where Can I Find Other Gay Men?
The most obvious place to find other gay men is within gender and sexually diverse spaces and communities. Queer nightclubs, festivals & pride events, community centres and LGBTQ-friendly neighbourhoods are all places you will find gay men. Refer to gay magazines, websites, and newspapers for personal ads and to find out about nearby LGBTQ events.
Do I Need To Worry About HIV/AIDS?
Every sexually active person needs to be aware of the risks they are taking when having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Using fresh, undamaged latex condoms and latex gloves will substantially reduce the risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS or a number of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important that you never take risks you are uncomfortable with.
Studies indicate that 25% of gay men who are HIV positive don’t know that they’re positive. This means that they can unknowingly pass on HIV to their sexual partner(s). Want to find out what your HIV status is? Want to see if you have any other STIs? Come to the Gens Hellquist Queer Sexual Health Clinic at the Avenue Community Centre on Thursday nights between 6 and 9. The Clinic provides a full range of tests for HIV (including the rapid HIV test – results within 5 minutes), hepatitis C, syphilis, and other STIs in a queer-positive environment. You can either book an appointment or drop in.
If you want more information on lowering your risk of getting HIV/AIDS or other STIs, contact your local sexual health clinic or AIDS organization.
No matter who you are or how you identify, you have a right to be happy, safe, and fulfilled. Being gay is a wonderful thing and gives you a unique perspective on life and the world. And at the end of the day, it’s your life and your choice how to live it. Choose being your happiest, most fulfilled self!
There is just one life for each of us: our own.