Hi there. Recently I’ve been compelled by my thoughts that I might be gay. I’ve never been attracted to or wanting to kiss a girl and the idea of that makes me feel sick. However I’m riddled with the fear that these thoughts mean something and I don’t know how to get rid of them. I only ever liked boys but I fear what if all along I just didn’t realise. I’m currently in a relationship with a boy for 8 months now and I’ve been very happy up until when I started having these thoughts. I find them distressing as they are something I can’t speak to him about. I spoke to my therapist and she said it was normal to question sexuality and also that I don’t portray the characteristics of a lesbian and I felt better for about a week but unfortunately haven’t been able to go to another appointment with her yet and won’t be for awhile. I’ve been reading up on HOCD and seem to relate to the symptoms. I just fear that this will never go away unless I say I’m gay even though that would make me unhappy and I will always be triggered to question my sexuality and have these thoughts throughout my life as a heterosexual. It has really taken over about 80% of my day and I find it hard to concentrate on anything else.
Most people who are gay know it at a very young age. Part of how they know, is that they are attracted to people of the same sex. In your case, you have never been attracted to anyone of the same sex. Not ever, according to you. It hasn’t even crossed your mind, until recently. That would strongly suggest that you’re not gay.
What does seem to occupy your mind, is fear. Fear seems to be what’s driving this problem. That is in line with an anxiety disorder rather than someone who is gay.
If I could interview you in person, there are several questions I would have for you. One would be when did you notice your anxiety developing? Did it coincide with any changes in your life? Think about its origins and it might help to uncover what is motivating your anxiety.
Another question I would ask, “why are you so frightened of being gay?” Is it the idea of being gay or is it the idea of being gay and not knowing it? The former would suggest a bias against gay people. The latter would suggest an anxiety disorder.
In the American culture, homosexuality is accepted by most people. Unfortunately, there’s a small-minded subgroup who hate gay people but thankfully that is not the norm. Gallup polls show that the majority of Americans support gay rights, gay marriage, and gay persons in general. The idea that the majority of Americans support gay people runs counter to why you would fear being gay.
In other cultures, same-sex relations are not only forbidden but they are illegal. As of April 2019, 71 countries consider homosexuality illegal. In some countries, if you’re caught engaging in same-sex relations, you could face fines, jail time, lashings, life in prison or even death by stoning. If you live in one of those countries, then your fear of being gay might make more sense. It makes less sense if you live in United States.
One additional characteristic of your thinking, which further supports the notion of an anxiety disorder, is your fear of being gay and not knowing it. That would suggest a fear of losing or having lost control. It’s the idea that something is happening to you without your knowledge or your ability to control it. That line of thinking is consistent with anxiety disorders.
When one is dealing with anxiety, it’s always important to focus on the facts. Your therapist confirmed that it is normal to question one’s sexuality in adolescence. She is right. That’s a fact.
She also confirmed the fact that you don’t seem to, as you put it, “portray the characteristics of a lesbian.” In other words, nothing you’ve said or done or thought indicates that you are gay. Couple that with the fact that you have no desire for or attraction to anyone of the same sex and this strongly indicates that you are not gay. Those are the facts. Believe in the facts and this should reduce your anxiety. When you start to feel out of control or anxious, return to the facts. You might even keep a list of facts to remind yourself what is true. It might help to reduce your anxiety.
Hopefully, you can work with your therapist sooner rather than later. Also remember, in a worst-case scenario (at least in your mind), even if you are gay, and it strongly appears as though you’re not, who cares? There’s nothing wrong with being gay.
Thankfully, you are already in counseling and anxiety disorders are highly treatable. It would seem that you’re already on the road to recovery. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle