Misperceptions Concerning Same-Sex Attraction (SSA)
Written By Floyd Godfrey, LPC
Those who struggle with SSA often misperceived many experiences as "abnormal" or "gay".
Sometimes we grew up thinking we were different than everyone else, when others were experiencing the same feelings. It is unfortunate that we misunderstood common experiences.
The following are typical examples of SSA misperceptions.
1. MISPERCEPTION: "I always longed to be with boys not girls…I must be gay."
REALITY: Boys desire the company of other boys. Boys like to be with boys. Many times they will even become angry or upset with girls who interfere in this important relationship. For example, a group of
boys create a special clubhouse and become enraged when girls try to be part of the group. They intend the clubhouse to be for boys only. Sometimes they hang a sign: No Girls Allowed! Sometimes buddies become angry with each other when one leaves them for a girlfriend or fiancé. When you go to a dance, don't the boys tend to stand together against one wall while the girls stand against the other?
2. MISPERCEPTION: "I always felt curious about other boys' bodies…. I must be gay."
REALITY: At a very early age children become curious about their own body and how it compares to others. Later at some point during puberty most boys have a renewed curiosity. The changes are new and intriguing. Teenagers also start to wonder how the changes they're experiencing compare to others their own age. Muscular development and more obvious changes emerge and a more masculine image is developed. Sometimes in the shower boys will "sneak a peak" at another to see and compare. Soon they discover there a variety of differences between individual body types.
3. MISPERCEPTION: "I'm drawn toward men/boys who are attractive…I must be gay."
REALITY: Everyone is drawn to those who are attractive in appearance and personality. Other men and boys like to be with others that are good-looking, successful and popular. We all like to associate with what we admire. We look for models of behavior and qualities that we would like to be like. This is not "gay" but rather a normal tendency. Sometimes those who struggle with SSA are especially drawn because they may feel inadequate in some particular way.
4. MISPERCEPTION: "When I was molested I knew I was 'gay' because it felt good."
REALITY: Most often molestation or abuse is enacted by someone we care about or perceive as a role model. We trust them and want to be close to them. When they take advantage of our vulnerability it can be very confusing. We truly want to be close to this person. Our genitals can be very easily stimulated. We are born with this area sensitive and ticklish. Parents generally teach their children not to touch or tickle one another's private areas. This can be a natural tendency for kids. Whether a woman or a man had done the inappropriate touching, it would have produced pleasurable sensations. These feelings do not mean you are "gay", it means your parts are working correctly.
5. MISPERCEPTION: "I got sexually aroused or excited with other boys… I must be gay."
REALITY: Boys can have spontaneous erections that can be pleasurable as private parts rub against clothing, towels,etc. Puberty is an acute time of arousal. Simply being naked can trigger excitement and a speedy erection. An adult once joked that "…. The wind would blow up my shorts and give me an [erection]…"
6. MISPERCEPTION: "A person is either homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual"
REALITY: Sexuality is an adjective, not a noun. It does not describe a person's character, but how a person feels. A person is not born one or the other. During adolescence a young person can feel a mix of feelings as sexuality develops. Sexual orientation is more of a pendulum that swings depending on life experiences and
current psychological state. There are documented cases of women who have gone through severe trauma (e.g., rape) and experienced several shifts in their orientation.
7. MISPERCEPTION: "I hate sports and love [music,art,dance,etc.] All men love sports."
REALITY: Many men and boys don't participate in sports because they prefer other activities. Music and art are often preferred by those who are more creative. However, even within sports men tend to drift toward certain things they prefer. For example, larger men may tend to play football over swimming. They may feel inadequate about their swimming abilities. Everyone's physical make-up is unique.
8. MISPERCEPTION: "I'm gay because I am not attracted to girls."
REALITY: Few boys are attracted to girls before they start puberty. They are still heterosexual in nature. As they grow older, they begin experimenting with a kiss or holding hands with a girl. They talk with other boys about the `cute' features of girls. Later, this talk brings a curiosity which blossoms into sexual feelings.
9. MISPERCEPTION: "I`m curious about girls but not attracted 100% of the time…I must be gay."
REALITY: Most men do not think about sex 100% of the time. Those that are compulsive about their sexuality are on the other end of the scale. You don't want to become a full-blown sex addict toward women. Most heterosexual feelings will come from time to time when you notice attractive women. The feeling is more peaceful than the compulsive SSA feelings. Don't expect a shift in orientation means you'll constantly be fantasizing about girls. You don't want to be walking around with an erection all day.