It’s 2017, and you’ve decided it is time to tell some folks the truth about you: you’re gay, you’ve BEEN gay, and you’re tired of hiding it in both big and small ways. If you’ve been agonizing about exactly how to tell people you’re gay let me say this first: the most important part of this exchange is YOU. Your needs, your feelings, your future, and your lifestyle. This conversation can be short and sweet.
Convey your message in simple language so no one gets it twisted:
“Hello? It’s me. I was wondering if you knew that I’m gay. Yes? You suspected already? Ok great just checking, I thought I’d officially confirm it. M’kay bye!” (Hang up phone and start belting out lyrics to your favorite power workout song.)
“Hello? It’s me. I was wondering if you knew that I’m gay. No? Ok well glad I checked because I am. Hella gay. Happy to share with you some ways you could support me, if you’re interested. If not, we can talk about something else now.”
This is an exercise in getting something off your chest for you, about you. Maybe the person you’ve told has questions about ‘how sure you are’, ‘if this could be a phase’, or feels compelled to wonder out loud if ‘maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet.’ If the person you’ve just told you’re gay responds with doubtful comments and questions you can respond like this:
2. Convey you do not have doubts about your sexuality. If they have difficulty believing you are in fact, gay, they should work through those feelings on their own. Maybe they need some professional support and/or expertise to become better informed about how sexuality works.
“It seems like you’re having a hard time believing that I understand my own feelings and my own sexuality. What if I were asking you these same questions about your sexuality? I don’t want to debate my sexuality, just like I’m sure you don’t want to debate yours.”
“It sounds like you could use some time to think about what I’ve just told you, based on your comments and questions. I’ve already thought A LOT about it, and I’m done now. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m gay. There’s nothing else to think about- I’m gay, the end. When you’ve reached that place too, you’ll feel at peace with it, just like I do.”
3. Convey you have choices about how you live your life, and the people in it. Make it clear that while you’d like your personal and professional relationships to remain unaffected by your sexuality, the fact is some people will have a hard time accepting this. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people who respect and support your goals and are willing to treat you fairly regardless of your sexuality. This will be a lifelong endeavor, but worth the effort so that you can live your best, happiest, most fulfilled life.
“I understand there will be people who won’t like me because I’m gay. That’s not really any different than people who might not like you (or anyone for that matter) because of things they can’t change about themselves. If someone doesn’t like me because I’m gay that’s their problem not mine.”
“Maybe it’s not obvious, but I’d rather not have to deal with people treating me unfairly or excluding me from opportunities or even basic rights because I’m gay. The best thing I can do is pursue personal relationships and professional opportunities that allow me to be myself, grow, and pursue fulfilling goals. It would be great if you could support me. If not, I understand that’s your choice. You should understand it’s my choice to build a support group of people who accept me.”
The health toll of having these conversations should not be underestimated. Many people feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the prospects of sharing news about yourself that may not be well-received. This is a good time to invest in regular self care activities and connect with people who accept and support you as you are.
Telling people you’re gay need not be a long, complicated, agonizing conversation. You do not have to allow anyone to make you feel like you’re wrong, unhealthy, or unlovable. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is your life, and no matter what your sexuality is you can find a way to pursue happiness, love, fulfillment and success. We can’t control how people feel about sexual diversity, but we can take strides to protect ourselves from feeling negatively judged by limiting the air time we give them, and focus our attention on building a life of positive self acceptance.
Millennials coming of age experience in the United States has been uniquely influenced by their access to the free, unlimited sexual content widely available on the internet. This access has served not only as a resource for their sexual curiosity and consumption, but as a primary resource for easily connecting to people who share their sexual preferences on the dating sites of the moment. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University analyzed data from a survey of more than 33,000 adults in the U.S. to measure the country’s shifting sexual landscape. The data revealed that Millennials were the most likely generation to acknowledge having casual sex; 45 percent of them said they had slept with someone other than a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse during their late teens or 20s. Overall, adult acceptance of premarital sex increased from 42 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2012, an all-time high. “Americans are spending more of their lifetime unmarried, so they have more opportunities to engage in sex with more partners, and less reason to disapprove of non-marital sex” reports Twenge. She opines that increasingly permissive attitudes toward sex are a sign of the rise of individualism in America. She explains “when a culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result.”
More and more young adults are supporting the current trend in sexual decision-making, where commitment and emotional connection are seen as unnecessary precursors to first time sexual encounters with others. In theory, this allows people to get their sexual needs met, while minimizing the emotional risks and responsibilities associated with interpersonal intimacy. In my practice as a coach in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s relatively common practice for both men and women to report having sex with someone they’ve just met. Based on this first sexual encounter, they may choose not to see them again, may establish a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, or opt to get to know them on a deeper, emotional level through dating if a romantic relationship is something they’re seeking. In most cases there’s a trial and error period, as people who are still very new to each other attempt to communicate their sexual preferences and get their needs met. Millennials’ prolific use of texting as a primary form of communication, habit of avoiding vulnerability, awkward interpersonal exchanges, and peer conflict can all contribute to frequent misunderstandings and rapid start/stops within their sexual encounters, regardless of what the end goal may be. In some cases, getting stuck in a pattern of ineffective/unsatisfying sexual encounters can lead to poor health functioning or an over-reliance on recreational substances.
As a health educator I help people build the necessary skills to find, establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships. This article aims to provide some practical guidelines for optimizing the outcomes of your casual sex encounters while dating, and insightful tips for decoding the opposite sex along the way.
Men seeking sexual encounters with women:
Adopt an early communication style that encourages a positive response from women. What does that mean? Skip the crude humor in online and text exchanges- chances are, you’re likely only entertaining yourself (or infamously landing yourself in one those Buzzfeed Tinder Fail lists) and that’s not the point is it? Humor is fine, and can be a good initial approach online, but seriously, a little goes a long way. Increase your odds of getting a genuine response from women by taking yourself out of the dregs of online dating wasteland- try telling an original, funny story about yourself, relate to something personal on a woman’s profile, or at minimum, send a quick hello with your array of pics to see if what you have going on is of interest to her. Have a friend (preferably female) screen your online pics. It may seem trivial, but poorly chosen pics can make or break your online dating success.
Once you’re corresponding consistently with someone, be proactive and suggest a specific plan toget together. While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of guys fail to get the ball rolling while they have a woman’s attention. Comedian Aziz Ansari conducted focus groups with hundreds of people for his new book Modern Romance, getting intimate details on why people have problems with dating. He shares “The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end, but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.” So guys, to optimize your chances of establishing a sexual encounter, strike while the iron is hot. While you’re keeping someone around as a text buddy, someone else is closing the deal as her new sex partner by making specific plans. It might be entertaining and easy to have an assortment of women to text and exchange photos with, but these women will eventually fade you out of the picture for someone they know in real life.
Be sincere and honest about what your ideal arrangement is right now. Just because you’re wanting to keep things casual doesn’t mean you’re decreasing your chances for sexual opportunities with women. There are plenty of women who are open to keeping things casual too! Plenty. It doesn’t make sense to allude to wanting a more committed relationship if you actually don’t- doing so only increases the odds of introducing drama I’m sure you’d rather avoid. Women can absolutely relate to wanting to experience an array of people before settling into a committed relationship, and understand you may be in a stage of your life where you’re prioritizing other life goals above romantic relationships. In short, aim for integrity when you engage with someone in pursuit of sex. Establishing this mutual understanding up front will create a space where both of you can focus on what you’re actually there for- sexual pleasure.
Real talk: If you aren’t asking what you can do to help a woman achieve orgasm and/or paying close attention to figuring out what she enjoys (and spending more than a little time doing this) it’s safe to guess you’re coming up short in bed. Which of course, is your choice. Just consider that when a woman finally does come along that you actually care about pleasing (even if it’s years and countless women from now), you likely still won’t have much of a clue about how to get her off (especially if you’re a fan of male produced porn). There’s a good chance you’ll pale in comparison to other guys she’s been with, which is not a good look if you want to become that person’s significant other/favorite sexual partner. If that’s not enough motivation, consider this: when a woman reaches full sexual attraction to a sex partner she is going to be much more agreeable and feel more confident about trying new things for the sake of her partner’s pleasure. That sexual fantasy you’ve had since the 8th grade? That could go down if you play your cards right. #Thankmelater
Women seeking sexual encounters with men:
Speak Up Clearly and Consistently To Avoid Confusion. Taking a meek approach in communicating your sexual preferences is going to seriously set back your sexual pleasure (and possibly compromise your sexual safety). Remind yourself: Men cannot read your mind (and your subtle non-verbals can go unnoticed) because men and women are culturally socialized to communicate in different styles. Be direct with your words and your actions about what you like and what you don’t like. Think about it: when men engage sexually, most do a pretty good job of getting their sexual needs met. Porn and sex in movies perpetuate the myth that men do exactly what women love during sex (and women are supposed love it, regardless of how ridiculous it is!)
Set The Pace: Literally and Figuratively. Figuring out a sexual pace that feels good between two people comes from familiarity and predictability, neither of which have been established when you’ve only recently met someone. So in addition to communicating openly, take the time to find a pace that works for both of you. Try not to approach sex like it’s fast food eaten at 2 am after staying out all night- which is usually on a whim, followed by almost instant regret. Take your time and do it right– these SOS Band song lyrics were a hit for a reason!
STOP FAKING IT IN BED.Really. Pretending that you enjoy things during sex that you don’t is synonymous with digging your own sexual grave. Take one for the team, and stop sending guys the wrong message that what they are doing sexually is awesome when you know that it’s not. Funny but true story: A 25 year-old attractive Asian woman I’m coaching tells me “So I met this guy randomly, and after we talked and hung out for a while, we eventually decide to go back to his place where we end up having sex. Right away he starts fingering me with way too much force, to the point where it’s actually hurting me and I’m going numb from it! So I stop him and say ‘hey when you touch me like that it hurts’and he looks at me and says a little defensively “ok well… some women like it like that.” She deadpans, “Christina I had to break it to him… “Um NO. NO ONE likes it like that!” We both had a good laugh at her candor in the moment.I could not have been more proud of her for speaking up for herself!
Stop filtering and dismissing guys so quickly- be optimistic about seeing if you can develop good sexual chemistry with guys who don’t fit your bill. These days, you can swipe right to meet guys using more filters than your favorite photo editing app offers- you can specify height, body type, education level, location, age, etc. One of the most common complaints I get from women is that they rarely feel attracted enough to guys to even see them a first or second time. But who you think will be attracted to sexually may not be a good match in real life. Scientists working with Match.com found that we are horrible at knowing what we want; the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in long term. What works well for predicting good first dates doesn’t tell us much about the long-term success of a couple let alone their sexual chemistry. Social psychologist and researcher Robert B. Zajonc explains, “while we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us more attracted to someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions” – the “mere exposure effect” is repeated exposure to a stimulus which tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.
This last point applies to anyone and everyone seeking sexual or romantic connections of any and all kinds:
Do Not Let FOMO Take Over. You’ve read about, you’ve experienced it, you’re sick of hearing about how Millennials are responsible for amplifying this toxic trend in a digital era. That said, I’ve seen far too many people spend endless amounts of time spinning their wheels, agonizing over not meeting/dating enough people they find interest in. A billion and one first dates later, still…nothing. Begin to rethink what this could mean…maybe this isn’t the strategy that is going unearth the person who gets you excited and holds your attention. Switch it up, peel your eyes away from your phone, pull your earbuds out and take a look around you. Make eye contact and smile, maybe even say hi to the person next to you- this could be your first moment together of many better ones to come.
15 years ago, I completed my doctoral dissertation examining cultural and gender influences of sexual risk behavior among Latino women. I’ve enjoyed educating women on how to embrace their sexuality, overcome obstacles to safe sex practices, and empower themselves for a lifetime of sexual wellness. I’ve served as a Relationship Expert on social media websites like GuysAskGirls.com, and written a range of articles on dating and relationships, with media publications and interviews in popular media sites such as techcrunch. This week I orchestrated what turned out to be an amazing educational workshop for nearly 40 women on Navigating Sex, Relationships, and Dating in San Francisco. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to do this important work. Thank you to all those that participated, there will be more to come! In the coming weeks I will be recruiting a diverse group of men in various stages of their dating life and relationship experience- from single to married. These men will form an expert panel for an open Q & A session for an audience of Bay Area women who’d like to better understand why guys do what they do! I will facilitate an honest and respectful dialogue that will surely be insightful, informative and instrumental in improving dating and relationship experiences for all.
Here are a few candid snapshots from the event on May 27th, 2015, we had a great time!
After years of fighting off rumors about his sexuality, Latin singer Ricky Martin has finally just posted the following message on his official Web site, coming out and telling the world he is gay.
“Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment. These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed … I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am,” he wrote.
Coming out as gay, lesbian bisexual or transgendered is a process that for many, is experienced in stages of change. While there are different models and theories about coming out, the six-step process (The Model of Homosexuality Identity Formation) was created by psychological theorist Vivienne Cass in 1979 and is still an accepted model for understanding the experience. While many will not experience these steps in a linear course, the following steps capture essential components of the coming out process. These steps are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and can be experienced simultaneously. For example other theorists have said that it is not uncommon for people go back and forth in their sexual identity development.
Step One: Identity Confusion
“Who am I?” is the major question in this step. People in this stage of the coming out process start to notice their attraction to same-sex people and really question what it means. Am I gay? Am I a lesbian? Am I transgender? Am I bisexual? Within this stage there may be a denial of inner feelings as a person continues to see themselves as a member of the mainstream, heterosexual population. Some may consider their behavior as ‘just experimenting’. Some people in this stage might keep emotional involvement separate from their sexual activity; others may choose to have deeply emotional relationships that are non-sexual.
Step Two: Identity Comparison
At this stage, a person may try to find an explanation for why they are having the feelings they are experiencing. “Maybe I am gay. Or maybe I’m bisexual.” Feelings of isolation & alienation are common in this stage. A person might wonder “Is this a phase?” “Am I only attracted to this one same sex person, or is this going to be a permanent trend?”
Step Three: Identity Tolerance
In this stage, a person might begin to accept identifying as gay, lesbian or transgender or bisexual. Some might come to terms with some parts of being a gay, but not fully embrace it. One might accept participating in sexual activity with woman and consider it okay, but may not be ready to identity as lesbian or bisexual for example, in public- thus, leading a ‘double life.’ Or a man may come to accept that he has fallen in love with another man, but considers this an isolated situation. At this stage, it is common for people to seek out a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual community or social group as a way to explore or experience identifying with other people of the same sexual orientation as a means for support.
Step Four: Identity Acceptance In this stage a person has begun to accept, rather than just tolerate their sexual identity. People often begin forming friendships with other gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual people. Many begin to realize that being lesbian or bisexual is acceptable, and that their life can and will be happy and fulfilling. At this stage, it is common to begin coming out to a few trusted individuals.
Step Five: Identity Pride
People who are in this stage feel a sense of pride of their sexual orientation, and feel comfortable interacting in gay communities. They start coming out to others in their lives, by making their sexual orientation publicly known. It’s also common for people to feel angry and resentful because of the lack of legal and social rights that gay and lesbian people are not afforded by the majority culture. Some people may get involved in gay and lesbian activism. Others may feel the need to isolate.
Step Six: Identity Synthesis
In this stage, a person’s sexual orientation is integrated into their whole identity. For many, this includes a holistic view of the self and people often feel equally comfortable in straight and gay, lesbian, transgender or bi-sexual environments.