Is it normal for me to question my sexuality?

Sometimes I have feelings that I might not be completely straight. As a teenager, is it normal for me to question my sexuality?

It is very, very common for young people to question their sexuality at some point during adolescence (and beyond). Human sexual orientation can be very fluid and does not always fit within rigid boundaries. Some people are almost completely heterosexual or homosexual, but many others have varying degrees of attraction to both genders and do not fit so easily into one box or the other.

In the 1940s, a biologist named Alfred Kinsey began to do some of the first scientific research on human sexuality. After conducting countless interviews with people about their sex lives, Kinsey concluded that homosexual sex was far more common than had been previously imagined in early twentieth-century society, with significant percentages of both men and women having engaged in homosexual behavior at some point in their lives. Although Kinsey’s particular numerical statistics have been questioned, his central point rings true: sexual orientation is not static and cannot easily be divided into binary (two concrete and opposing) categories.

In fact, Kinsey developed a scale of sexual orientation, which ranges from zero to six. On the Kinsey Scale, people who score zero are exclusively heterosexual, and people who score six are exclusively homosexual. However, there are also many points in between zero and six. A two, for instance, is “Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual,” while a five is “Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual.”

(The Kinsey Scale, by the way, isn’t the only way to measure sexuality. There is also the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which takes into account dozens of different factors, including past behavior and sexual ideals, as well as sexual attraction, sexual behavior, emotional preference, lifestyle preference, and self-identification. We won’t get into that now. But you see the point: sexual orientation is very complex and cannot be easily defined, despite what some people believe.)

So, where do you fall on the Kinsey Scale? We can’t say for sure. Many young people just like you feel some same-sex attraction when growing up, but then go on to identify as heterosexual. On the Kinsey Scale, these people would probably get a rating of 1 - Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual. (You might also be interested to know that research has shown that most self-identified heterosexual females are sexually aroused by videos of naked women and women having sex, and that female sexuality has been found to be more fluid than male sexuality). Of course, you might eventually decide that you are higher up on the Kinsey Scale. Again, we can’t say for sure.

Whatever your sexuality turns out to be, it’s perfectly okay. Remember, cultural attitudes towards homosexuality have varied throughout history. In many cultures (such as ancient Greece), it was quite normal, manly even, for men to develop very close friendships with other men. At the same time, the female poet Sappho was writing poems proclaiming her love for girls (she lived on the island of Lesbos. You can probably guess where the term “lesbian” came from). The Hebrew Bible, however, forbade same-sex sexual behavior for a very simple reason: living in a harsh region, the Israelites’ society needed lots of children to be born to work the fields, and homosexual sex (obviously) didn’t produce any children.