Identity and Mental Health
Every guy has his own way of thinking about who he is.
One of the big things you might be thinking about is your sexuality or sexual orientation. These have to do with the kind of people you’re attracted to, want to date, or want to have sex with.
This can bring up big questions. For a lot of guys who are into other guys, it’s lonely or scary, especially if other people say bad things about guys who are into guys. Sometimes other people seem like they’ve got it all figured out. It can be tough to feel different, so it’s important to know that whoever you are, and whoever you like, you’re not alone. Naming your sexuality can actually be empowering and exciting!
Some of the questions that might come up when thinking about your sexuality are:
- Am I into guys?
- Am I into girls, too?
- Am I gay?
- Is that the right word for me?
- What if I don’t know?
- What turns me on?
- What turns me off?
- What should I do about these feelings?
- Do I want to tell other people, or “come out?”
Thinking through these questions is normal. Whatever your answers are, or even if they change, that’s okay!
No matter how you feel about your sexuality, you are in charge.
Some guys who like guys use words like gay, bisexual, or queer to talk about themselves. Other guys don’t put a name to this stuff. That’s cool too!
Not all guys who are into guys want to have sex right now or at all. You might hear some guys call themselves asexual.
No matter what, you get to pick how you want to talk about your sexuality.
You can use words like that if they feel right and when you’re ready — or don’t use them at all if they don’t work for you!
Your sexuality is only one part of who you are.
For some guys, it’s really important. It might affect the kind of hobbies you like or who you get along with. For other guys, sexual orientation isn’t important or isn’t as important as other parts of who you are.
Gender identity is about who you are and how you identify with ideas like masculinity, femininity, or anything in between, or none of them if they don’t quite fit.
A lot of people think that your gender is given to you when you’re born, but that’s your assigned sex.
Gender is in your heart and mind, and only you get to decide what your gender is. That’s what makes it so awesome!
Maybe you’ve been called a guy your whole life, but that doesn’t seem right to you. Or maybe people assumed you were a girl, but you know that you’re a guy. Maybe you aren’t just one gender, or gender isn’t an identity that applies to you. Some folks call themselves genderfluid or gender queer because one category doesn’t apply to them.
Other folks identify as trans because their gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were born into.
Some Indigenous people identify as Two-Spirit, which is a traditional and spiritual identity specific to Native culture.
There are lots of resources for people who are wondering about their gender identity.
Check out this site for young folks who are thinking about what their gender is!
For more resources on figuring out or talking to someone about your gender identity, check out Teen Talk.
“Coming out” is a phrase that means telling people in your life that you are gay, bi, queer, trans or any identity that isn’t straight or cisgender.
Not every guy who likes guys will come out. But for others, it can feel important to tell people who you are.
Coming out is a decision that only you can make, and you get to choose the time that’s right for you. It’s not fair for anyone else to define who you are for you. Some people will only come out to one or two people they trust. Others will make a big post online, have a party, or tell everyone at once.
There’s no one way to come out if you decide to do that.
And if you don’t, that’s cool too. It’s up to us to take care of each other, so if someone comes out to you, be careful with the information, don’t tell other people without their permission, and be encouraging in your response.
People might assume who you are. So, even if you come out, you may have to tell new people you meet. Also, if your identity changes, you may have to find new ways to talk about it.
Homophobia is a negative attitude about gay people.
It’s still a big problem in some schools, sports groups, religions, cultures, families, and other spaces. In many parts of the world, being a guy who’s into other guys is seen as bad, sick or abnormal. In Canada, some people still believe this too.
Some cultures, religions and upbringings have negative beliefs or messages about guys who like guys. This makes it harder to come out and be true to yourself. Many people even question if their religion or spirituality is right for them.
But in every religion and culture, there are gay, trans, queer, and other people who identify differently, who find a way to stick with their beliefs and traditions while also being true to themselves. 🌈✝☪🕉✡🌈
It can be helpful to connect with other people who are in similar situations like you. Talking online or in person to others can help you figure out how to deal with coming out in your culture or where you grew up.
We often face homophobia in our day-to-day life. When people use anti-gay insults, or treat you unfairly just because of your identity, that’s homophobia. If it happens to you, you may have to put your safety first and get out of the situation. Other times, if you’ll feel safe enough, you can call out that behaviour and explain to someone why that’s not cool.
If it’s at school, home, work, or public places, dealing with homophobia over and over can really wear you down. That’s why it can be helpful to talk to other people who have been through the same thing, or to someone you trust.
Homophobia is just one form of oppression and discrimination. 🙁
Each of us is affected by bad attitudes and inequalities in our society. This can be obvious, like using derogatory language or excluding a group of people. It can also be unspoken, such as certain folks having a harder time getting a job or being more likely to be stopped by police.
A lot of us have to deal with more than one “ism” or “phobia”, which can make things even more complicated.
Here are some other forms of discrimination people might face:
Racism is discrimination, inequality and violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of colour.
Transphobia is discrimination against trans folks and folks who don’t conform to people’s limited ideas about gender.
Ableism is discrimination against people with disabilities, whether they are physical or mental disabilities.
HIV stigma/serophobia is discrimination based on people’s HIV status.
Misogyny/femmephobia refers to discrimination or violence against women and feminine people.
Looking for someone to talk to about homophobia or other forms of discrimination?
Try calling Youthline.
Mental health is a part of everybody’s well-being, and most people struggle with it at some point.
Depression, anxiety, stress, anger management, and addiction are common mental health issues. Dating, sex and our identity can also play a big role in our mental and emotional health.
Guys who like guys are more likely to come across these issues than other people. There are lots of reasons for this. Nasty attitudes towards gay people, negative feelings about our sexuality and identity, bad stuff at home or in our family, problems in our communities, and family members who don’t understand or accept who we are, are just some of the things that can add up to making us feel bad about ourselves.
Add that to issues like, being bullied, not fitting in, insecurities about our bodies, and gossip can make things a whole lot worse for us — whether it has to do with homophobia or not. Other struggles like not having enough to eat or a safe place to sleep, and experiencing depression, can make a tough life even tougher.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are lots of guys like you from every walk of life.
Feeling lonely or depressed sucks, and there’s not always an easy answer for how to deal with it.
There are a lot of ways people deal with mental health issues, including talking to a therapist or a doctor, taking medication, exercising, and meditation. Talking to friends and family that you trust, or other guys like you, can also really help. If you’re not sure who to talk to, you can call Kid’s Help Phone, too.
We all need to take care of ourselves. 💞
This can mean doing things as simple as eating well or getting enough sleep at night. It can also mean doing things we find relaxing, like drinking tea or watching movies.
We have to make time to do these things to keep ourselves happy and healthy, even though sometimes it can be hard if you’re not feeling great. That’s why many people make habits out of these or even make plans for taking care of their own basic needs.
Sometimes it feels like there is no way out of a bad situation. Guys who like guys are more likely than many other people to consider or commit suicide.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, talk to someone right away.
There are supports out there for guys who feel trapped, alone, or sad, like LGBT Youthline.