Richard H. Reams, Ph.D.

Counseling Psychologist

For people whose physical and emotional attractions are consistently and exclusively directed toward persons of "the other sex," knowing one's sexual orientation is easy.  These individuals are fortunate to live in a society — and family — that affirm heterosexuality without hesitation.

Others experience some degree of same-sex attractions and struggle to make sense of what those attractions mean. For most, this is challenging because society and most family members regard heterosexuality as the ideal sexual orientation. Or the only acceptable sexual orientation.

If you want to clarify your sexual orientation, there is a lot you need to know about sexual orientation itself as well as the identity development process that LGB+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc.) people experience.  And there is evidence from your life to gather and consider. 

I have divided this guide into seven parts:

  • Parts 1 and 2 explain two critical and related concepts — sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity — to provide a foundation for understanding yourself. 
  • Part 3 addresses seven myths that may contribute to your confusion.  
  • Part 4 will help you gather and examine the evidence about your sexual orientation.  
  • Part 5 explores four potential obstacles to the coming out process for LGB+ people. 
  • Part 6 recommends next steps, depending on the outcome of your examination of the evidence. 
  • Part 7 identifies resources that can assist you in your journey if the evidence indicates that you are LGB+.

You may be eager to settle the question, “Am I gay?" or "Am I bi?" or "What’s my sexual orientation?”  Or you may be hesitant to settle the question if the thought of being anything other than heterosexual evokes anxiety.  I honor whatever feelings you bring to the process of clarifying your sexual orientation. 

Continue to Part 1, where we'll explore a seemingly simple question that has a complicated answer: 
“What is Sexual Orientation?” (Use the navigation, on the left at the top of the page.)    

About the Author

I am a licensed psychologist who has worked at the counseling center of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, since 1994. From 2004 through 2016, I taught a course that explored the complexities of sexual orientation and the sexual orientation identity development process. I continue to teach classes and seminars for psychologists-in-training to equip them to provide LGB-affirming counseling. I received a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; a master's degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky; and a bachelor's degree with honors in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.