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I’m Attracted to Both Boys and Girls – Am I Normal?

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I’m Attracted to Both Boys and Girls – Am I Normal?

Jul 13, 2017

Some women entering sexual maturity may find themselves attracted to both men and women. The internal question becomes "Am I normal?" On this episode of The Scope, Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones discusses sexual attraction and resources available to find a safe space.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: You like guys, but you think you might also like girls. It's a personal question, but how do you figure out your sexual orientation and what's considered normal? We're going to talk about this right now on The Scope.

Announcer: Questions every woman wonders about her health, body, and mind, this is "Am I Normal?" on The Scope.

Interviewer: We're talking to Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones. She's the expert on all things woman. Dr. Jones, we have a letter here from an audience member that's a little bit younger than our typical listeners. She's 16 years old. She's never had sex. She says that she is confident that she likes guys, but she might also like girls. But she doesn't really know what her sexual preference is because, again, she's never had sex. She's wondering, is this a normal thing to be experiencing?

Dr. Jones: Okay. Well, first of all, I'm glad she emailed, but I hope she also has somebody that's safe to talk to. But let's talk about normal again. So sometimes normal is a scientific number, and sometimes normal is a cultural construct, meaning the culture tells you what's normal and what's normal when culture may not be normal or another. And when it comes to sexual preference or sexual identity, it's both a scientific number, and I can give you some numbers, and it's neither because, in fact, we live in a multi-cultural society and people don't always tell the truth, so we may not even have the right numbers.

But let's just do some numbers. The scientific number, which isn't very scientific, is about 4% of people, 18 to 45, identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, meaning not straight. Now, about 7% of millennials will tick that box as "Not straight" and about 12% of Americans in this age group have had some same sex sexual encounter. So normal, we consider anything that at least 10% of the population would be, so we're struggling here because a lot of people don't tell, so the "Don't ask, don't tell" has been around a long time both in medicine and how do we begin to actually get this information.

Now, the cultural, when it comes to normal, it's really very difficult to know what normal is because one culture or subculture may consider one thing as okay. And often, we use the word "normal" as what we think as okay, so that a lot of people would do things that we think are not okay, like have sex outside your marriage, that's like not okay. It's so common that it's normal by numbers. So I don't know what normal is, but you are certainly, this young woman is not alone.

In young people, particularly young women, sexual preference is rather fluid, meaning the kind of people someone might want to have sex with kind of changes a bit, a bunch. The old paradigm, the old way of thinking was that you were born one way or the other and you need to just pick one. You're either gay or you're straight, and you need to stick with it. But in fact, we're finding more and more that, once again, particularly for women, it's not so simple.

So some people, all their lives, will have a preference for one or the other or equally for both, but some people move from one sexual preference to another through their adolescence. A young woman may have a very close personal friend and that person might be gay or might not be gay, and what becomes a very personal relationship starts to feel like a romantic relationship. So for many women, and particularly young women, it's more about the relationship, the person, than it is about the sex. So we tend to, as women can, inflate our romance and our relationship with sex, whereas men do that a little less than women.

So the most important thing is if you don't know right now, don't tell, meaning you don't have to commit right now. This is an important thing for you to talk about and think about, but you need to find someone you can talk to. And most importantly, you need to be safe. So the place that I wouldn't talk about it is all over school or even with one person at school unless you think that person is really safe.

Interviewer: You put a lot of emphasis on making sure that she has someone that she can talk to. Why is that so critical?

Dr. Jones: The important reason to talk through how you're feeling and work with someone that you feel safe with is because in many cultures, and I don't know the culture of this young woman, being gay is considered not okay. And so many young people who find themselves with same sex attraction, that brings with it an enormous layer of guilt and "I am not okay" and self-loathing.

We know that gay and lesbian and transgendered children, young people, adolescents are more likely to commit suicide. We know they're more likely to use drugs and alcohol. And part of this is the alienation they feel from themselves and their family. So I want these people, these young people to be safe, and being able to talk to through it with someone who understands that they're going to grow, they're going to feel more comfortable with themselves as they get older, whichever path they take, will be helpful and keep these young people safe.

So who do you find who's safe? Now, it could be that you have a parent who's safe. Or in this case, it might be an auntie or someone that you know. It could be a counselor because more and more high school counselors are becoming very familiar and very comfortable in talking to young people about sexual identity and sexual choice and the fluidity that people experience in high school.

If you don't feel that this is a safe place for you to talk out your concerns and grow with them, there are several churches that welcome gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people of all kinds. I would say that the Metropolitan Church and there are Metropolitan churches all over the country. The Unitarian Church is often very welcoming and the pastors in those churches are trained to help people talk about how they feel. So you need to be safe.

So the question is, and the answer is, whether or not you're normal and I don't think that's really the question, is that you are okay and you are not alone. You are in really good company.

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