Welcome to ReachOut.com’s Ask the Expert service
Through this service the ReachOut.com team will be working with a group of professionals and experts with detailed and specialist knowledge of youth mental health issues such as anxiety and depression to answer your questions and address your concerns. The issues covered will be the same as those covered throughout ReachOut.com but through this service we will be able to provide valuable insight into more specific and personal concerns that you may have.
Questions and answers
Each month we will concentrate on one particular mental health area and work, mainly, with one specific collaborator. Michael Barron from BeLonGTo is our featured expert for the month of November taking your questions about sexuality, coming out and his work with BeLonGTo.
We won’t have all the answers to every question – but we do have access to the best available information, so let us know what’s on your mind by submitting a question here.
Your question and an answer from Michael will be published here at the beginning of each week in November, so you may wait up to a week for an answer.
The advice provided through this service is not intended to replace face-to-face professional advice or any on-going support that a person may be receiving. If you or someone you know is in crisis now you should go to emergency support information.
I’m pretty sure I’m asexual. I’m also beginning to worry that I don’t have a gender because I would relate to guys and girls equally but not feel like I belong to either one. My brother also seems to think the same. He teases me about not being girly or a tomboy I’m just nothing – a freak. Physiologically I am very much a girl but I never fancy fellas or girls even though I’m 19. It’s like I don’t belong anywhere and it’s not as if there’s anyone I know that I can talk to and it’s really knocking my self-esteem.
Not knowing where we fit in can be a really difficult thing to handle. It knocks our confidence, can make us question our own self-worth and at worst make us see ourselves as something abnormal.
The truth is, all of us, at some point question where we belong, and the answer to this can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. For you, you have made a great decision to take a step forward and ask, and for this you should commend yourself.
To start with, peoples gender identity (seeing yourself as a man, woman, etc.) does not always match our sex (being male, female or intersex). Some, may feel that their body is the opposite to what their sex is (e.g. being born female but seeing yourself as a man). Others may feel that they don’t have a gender identity that is exclusively that of a man or a woman, but somewhere in between (people use various labels to describe this including gender queer, gender fluid, gender neutral, etc.) and then there are those who don’t feel that they do not have a gender identity (again, different terms are used by different people, and include agendered, nongendered, etc.).
All of these are as valid and ‘normal’ as being cisgendered (having a gender identity that matches your sex) and there are many other people in Ireland that feel the same as you.
If you are living in Dublin, there is a youth group for young transgender people and those who are questioning their gender identity run by BeLonG To Youth Services called IndividualiTy. They meet in their offices located at 13 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 every Wednesday from 5:30 – 7:30.
If you have and questions about the group, and what they do call their office on 01 670 6223.
With regard to your sexual orientation, again this is just as valid as any other. BeLonG To Youth Services also works with people who are asexual and again, if you would like further information on this, call their office.
All the best
In a way I’m very lucky and shouldn’t really be complaining. I was raised in a very gay friendly environment with both my parents emphatically telling me there was nothing wrong if I was gay. I know if I came out tomorrow there wouldn’t really be much of an issue with anyone in my family. The only problem is I have no idea what I am, or what I’d be coming out as.
Sometimes I think I’m gay, sometimes I think I’m bi (I am fairly confident I’m not straight). Sometimes I might even think I’m a mild form of transgender.
I would have come out much much sooner (and would probably be much much happier) if I knew exactly what I was. Instead I lead this double life, with most people assuming I’m straight and my gay friends assuming I’m gay (I’ve never actually lied about my sexuality, I’ve just never challenged these assumptions). Bisexuality seems to be such a rare thing that I don’t really feel comfortable broaching the subject with anyone. One day recently my Mum hinted that she had issues with people who claim to be bisexual, though she has no problem with gay people.
I guess my question is: what do I do? I’m fed up of hiding who I am but I’m also afraid of coming out as the “wrong” label. I’ve been waiting so long to see if I settled on an identity, but that doesn’t show any sign of happening any time soon.
I understand that you feel you are living a double life, if both your gay and straight friends are assuming your sexuality. We all question were we belong at some stage within our life, you are showing great courage and strength by posting this question on line.
The demand society puts on oneself to fit under certain label and fit into one sexual orientation can make life quite difficult for some bisexual people to accept their sexual orientation. At BeLonG To Youth Service we have many young people who access our service who identify as bisexual, equally we have young people access our service questioning what sexual orientation they identify as. BeLonG To provides a safe space where young people can question their sexual orientation.
Remember identifying as bisexual is as valid orientation as gay or heterosexual.
If you would like to discuss this further or would like more information please do not hesitate to contact BeLonG To Youth Service at Ph 01 6706223 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best
It was like last week I think? I was staying over night in my best friends house and we were goin’ to sleep but ofcourse, we just ended up talking, as ya do. So I started talkin about my sexuality and I was talking about how I kind of liked girls (And of course she was cool with it, she’d accept me no matter what) but then I was talking about how I liked guys aswell.
I mean, it’s like if I walked into the street, I wouldn’t be looking at pretty girls first thing. I’d be looking at ‘hot’ guys.
I’ve tried telling myself that it’s just a phase or I can like boys but if I found a girl I liked then I should go for it. But, it’s as if I don’t feel confident, like I really need to know what I am. I’ve got loads of bisexual friends and I think they’re cool but I don’t want to classify myself as ‘bi’ like, I wouldn’t mind having sex with a girl, but I feel as though I could only have a proper relationship or get married with a man.
I’m pretty sure I like men more. But I’m not too sure. Advice?
First of all, I think it’s great that you felt able to talk to your friend about this and she sounds like a wonderful friend who supports you. Well done to both of you. Figuring out who you are and accepting yourself is the first step for anyone thinking about coming out. This first stage of discovering and exploring your sexuality can be a confusing time. If you are unsure of your sexual orientation, you may feel that you are attracted to the same sex, a different sex or both.
It’s OK to take as much time as you need to figure out whether you are attracted to women, women and men or just men – only you can decide what feels right for you. Regardless of what the answer is, it’s perfectly fine to be gay, lesbian, bisexual etc , not to define yourself by any of these labels or to be straight. It’s your sexual orientation and you have to take the time that you need – it’s not about labelling yourself for the sake of others.
If you need support around your sexual orientation then more information can be found on BeLonGTo‘s website about our youth groups and other supports. We are a professional youth service that provides safe, fun spaces and programs for those aged 14-23.
Good luck and I hope that helps!
All the best
I was wondering if you are aware of any mental health supports for gay men in Dublin. I’m 28 and have suffered on and off with anxiety and depression for years. I originally had a nervous breakdown when I was 18 after the guilt and shame of having a number of anonymous sexual encounters, but was probably susceptible before that. I had a lot of disturbing thoughts at that time and couldn’t understand what was going on in my head. I put myself through “Pray away the gay” counselling for some time after that which left me with some pretty messed up ideas about things. I’ve never really dealt with all that stuff properly since (probably because I don’t know of anyone else in Ireland who put themselves through that – it sounds more like the crazy kind of stuff that happens in America!). When I hit a low point, like I’m in at the moment, I just get sucked back into it all, and feel I haven’t made any progress at all. Essentially I’m wondering if you know of any suitable support groups or specialist counselling that might be beneficial. Great website, great to see this type of support around now. Many thanks
Thanks for getting in touch – I think it’s really great that you’re asking for help on this. It takes real guts to reach out about mental health issues and shows great strength of character, especially considering all your struggles with the issue before. I’m sorry that you felt so unhappy about your identity in the past, but I hope you’re starting to realise it’s perfectly ok to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender and that there are supports available that can help you come to terms with your sexual orientation and make friends who accept you for who you are.
In Dublin, the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) would be a good port of call. They have a counselling service as well as personal development courses, and are based in Outhouse which runs a number of different social groups for gay men – these are incredibly important for forming friendships and supports for when you feel down or when you feel isolated. The GMHS can be contacted at email@example.com.
If you’d like to read more about LGBT issues and mental health, there is a great booklet produced by BeLonG To, GLEN and the National Office for Suicide Prevention that gives some great information as well as more contact details for supports.
Good luck and I hope this helps!