Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
As of right now, I'm more confused about myself than I have ever been in my whole life. You see, I'm a 20-year-old girl, and I very recently discovered something...I think I like girls. For me, this is an incredibly mind-blowing realization because up until about a week ago, I identified myself as a straight female, and though I had always noticed girls who I found attractive, I just never thought that maybe I could actually like them that way. I'm also from a tiny, tiny town in Texas, from a very conservative family with extremely religious parents, who both find homosexuality disgusting, and openly talk about how disgusting it is. And to be honest, up until a year or two ago, I thought it was an absolutely disgusting lifestyle choice, because I didn't know any better.
So now, I'm at a loss as to what to do. For starters, I'm not really sure how to tell for sure if I really do like girls, or I'm just feeling upset in general toward the entire male population because I've recently gone through a couple of pretty rough relationships with some really immature guys. Another thing, I'll sometimes see a girl who I do find really attractive (and have some pretty inappropriate thoughts about), but then sometimes I see attractive guys and have the same feelings for him, and then sometimes I feel like I have a crush on my (extremely straight, attractive, and female) best friend, which makes me wonder if I'm gay or straight, or maybe if I like both guys and girls. I'm just so conflicted because I don't even know how to go about trying to talk to women in that way, especially since where I live isn't too friendly toward people who aren't Baptist, white, straight, and conservative. (Sometimes it sucks to live in Texas.)
Also, if I did find a girl who I liked, and who liked me back, I could never introduce her to my parents because I don't think they'd accept her or me in that way. I just feel so lost and confused about myself right now and I don't know what to do about it. And yes, I know this sounds terrible, but I don't even want to feel this way about girls in the first place to be honest. I just want to be normal and straight because according to my parents and many other people I know, the way I'm feeling right now means that I'm going to hell, and I just feel so guilty for having these thoughts. So please, tell me what to do because I am so very confused about everything in my life right now and I just want to be happy with myself and any future relationships I may have.
Well, hey, here's a thought! And hang on to something, cause I'm about to blow your mind: yes, you've heard from certain people in your life that homosexuality is abnormal, an abomination, and a one-way ticket to hell. But then again, you also were told by those very same people that being gay is a disgusting lifestyle choice, which you now know to be a steaming pile of total horse-puckey. So maybe, just maybe, it's time to realize that when it comes to matters of sexual orientation, the people around you don't actually have a solitary clue what they're talking about, and also aren't very nice.
Because that's a realization for which you are long overdue, darling. I don't mean to sound harsh, but you're twenty. Twenty! Sexual identity crisis nonwithstanding, you're just too old to be this sheltered, this uncritical, and this cavalier about your total lack of awareness. For instance: people do not suddenly become same-sex oriented just because they've had a handful of bad experiences in heterosexual relationships, and the fact that you believe this is possible is, to be blunt, both depressing and not a little scary. Whether or not you eventually conclude that you're gay or bisexual, it's time for you to understand that the world is bigger and more complicated than you've been led to believe, and that "normal" and "happy" have a broader, better, more diverse definition than the one you've been brought up with—which has nothing to do with homosexuality, and everything to do with the necessity of thinking critically and asking questions so that you can be a person.
So do me a favor: forget your sexual orientation for the moment. It's just one little tree in the forest of you needing to figure out who you are and what you believe—and to nevermind the generic whitebread norm of a person that you were "supposed" to become. And since you've asked me to tell you what to do, I'm going to give you some very specific advice which, though difficult, I hope you'll take. Here it is:
Pack a bag, pick a city, and go live somewhere else—and if you can't do that right away, then make a plan and set a date. It doesn't matter where you go; it could be Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, or Austin, or New York, Portland, Chicago, or Baltimore. All that matters is that you spend some serious time outside the homogenous confines and stifling expectations of your current community, and expose yourself to other people, other ideas, other walks of life. Give yourself the gift of lived experience, a changed perspective, and an opened mind. Go to a place where you can be anyone, and see who you are when you get there.
And if what you find is that you're a girl who likes girls, either instead of or in addition to guys, then you'll be coming to that realization in the best possible place: one where you can walk out your door and see proof, in the form of a thousand living, breathing examples, that it's perfectly okay, that there's no such thing as "normal," and that you can be happy just as you are.
Bon voyage, grasshopper. Send us a postcard. You're going to be fine.
AND SPEAKING OF VOYAGES: I'll be on vacation next week, so there will be no advice. In the meantime, you can revisit old columns in the archives, and send me lots of letters at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.