How Does a Guy Know if He is Gay?


Apologies if this is a dumb question. But how does a guy know if he is gay?

Tom Travolta


Dear Tom:

Bette Davis (Creative Commons)

You want a simple test?  1) Can you name all of the Kardashian sisters? 2) Do you know who Brett Favre is? 3) Have you seen at least five Bette Davis films? 4) Have you ever shopped for underwear at WalMart?  5) Have you ever (even just once) shaved your legs? 6) Do you drink Cosmos? 7) If told you could watch the Super Bowl or the Oscars, but not both, would you choose the Super Bowl? 8) When you hear “six-pack” do you think PBR?

If you answer “yes” to questions 1, 3, 5, and 6, you’re probably gay. And if you also answer “no” to questions 2, 4, 7 and 8, you’re undeniably gay.

If only it were that easy. That’s why, as previously discussed here, those mysterious gay grammarians have added “Q” — for “questioning” — to the Lesbian (L), Gay (G), Bisexual (B), Transgender (T) lineup. Would that every gay man could know shortly after birth that that would be his last experience with female genitalia. Instead, for many (and I’d hazard to guess most) of us, “coming out” is as much about learning who we are in terms of sexual orientation as it is about conveying that information to others.

There are plenty of gay guys like me, who grew up in a time and environment not friendly to gay people, who managed to repress our sexual orientation for a while. In my case, I actually got married to a wonderful woman who I’m proud to say I still love, although we’re no longer man and wife. Proof that I wasn’t an anomaly came in the mid-1980s at my first meeting of the Hartford, Conn., Gay Married Men’s Association, a group of several hundred gay men with wives who convened to offer one another support. Some even hosted the occasional party at the home of an understanding spouse.

I grew up in a world when there weren’t out gay characters on TV or in the movies, and in a small town where “gay” wasn’t a word anyone spoke. So there was no framework for me to understand that there might be more to my longing for my best friend in seventh grade than a “bromance.” Today, however, when everyone seems to know someone gay, either from television or from the family next door, a questioning young man can put into context his same-sex desire bundled with emotion that just might be love. If he lives in a family and community that is gay-friendly, he can put a label on his feelings and urges and proclaim himself gay. If not, the struggle may continue for years, until the pain of denial becomes greater than the possible pain of rejection by family and friends.

So how do you know if you’re gay? To my way of thinking, the sexual desire is an unmistakable sign that you’re born that way (and a biological contradiction to those who believe that homosexuality is a “choice.”) But, also to my way of thinking, sexual attraction to another man is a sign that you’re homosexual and not necessarily gay. To be gay means you’re open to an emotional connection as well as a sexual one. And that you understand the importance of, if not the Kardashians, at least Bette Davis to modern civilization.

Undeniably gay,


Questions you can’t bring yourself to ask your gay friends and neighbors? Send them to

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Scott T. Imler
7 years ago

Like computers I think there are three components to our sexual expression that combine to make us who we are or in some cases confine us to who we are not. We have hard-wiring, software or programming, and then we have data input, The hard-wiring is our biology, which speaks to us in primal desire and spontaneous arousal. It’s what make you “stand up and take notice. The software would be our environment in which we come of age, manifest predominantly through societal standard and norms of constraint, restrictions, taboo, impediments on our biology promulgated by government, religion, geography and… Read more »

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