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When do most homosexuals know they're gay?
Some say knowledge comes by age 12 but not all agree

First published January 27, 2012 | Click here for the original online article

DISCLAIMER: Please note since the publishing of this article Caitlin has since transitioned and identifies as a transgender man as well as queer and has changed his name to Colton. With his permission the below article remains published in its original format.

Think back to middle school, or junior high, and remember how awkward you were.

You were just starting to go through puberty, becoming aware of and having crushes on the opposite sex. Everything about you was awkward, and all you wanted to do was fit in.

For some people, that's not so easy. No matter how hard they try – whether it's changing their hairstyle, pretending to be friends with someone they don't like, or pretending to be straight when they're gay – they just can't conform to society's expectations.

According to the most recent StatsCan numbers, one per cent of the Canadian population is openly gay. However, this number may not take into account many homosexuals out there who have yet to terms with their sexuality, as well as those who are openly gay who may be uncomfortable with putting it on a government survey. Nevertheless, many in the homosexual community say that if they are over the age of 12, it is likely they are already aware of their sexuality.

Hill, 20, is one that knew at the young age of 12 that he was gay. "Once I hit puberty, I started realizing I was different in a pretty big way and that not everyone was cool with it."

Despite Hill being raised in a strongly Christian home, he did not struggle long before he decided to come out. At the age of 13 he had already told his closest family and friends.

Although Hill found acceptance as a gay teen, he still felt distanced from his friends. "It was liberating to come out, but it still didn't solve the problem that I was the only gay person I knew. There were still a lot of feelings of isolation and loneliness."

Caitlin Cuthbertson, 21, began to realize who she was at the age of six.

"I always wanted to give kisses to the neighbourhood girl, not the neighbourhood boy like everyone else," she said.

"Back then I didn't know what it was, I just knew I was different."

However, it wasn't until junior high that Cuthbertson realized what exactly she was experiencing.

"It was fine when I was younger, but as I started to realize what it actually was it made me feel awkward and not in with the crowd," she said.

Like Hill, Cuthbertson did not wait to come out; by age 15 she was identifying herself as a lesbian.
John Hampson also realized at a young age that he was gay, "As long as I can remember, I would notice differences, like the sound of my voice. Since then, I realized: yeah, there are some different things going on."

Hampson says it was during puberty when he started to realize that he was gay. "You don't know how to deal with it, or progress forward," he said. "You're young, you don't know everything and there's a sense of uncertainty of what's going to happen.

"That was a turning point in Grade 7, when people started asking questions, because I had never really thought of it in elementary school."

Despite knowing at age 12 that he was gay, he waited until after high school to come out to his friends and family, and says that everyone he told was very receptive.

Nastastia Fisher also says that since she was 12 she knew she was gay. But like Hampson she also waited until she was older to come out.

"I hid until I was 19. I was scared," she says.

But despite being afraid of what people would say or think, she, like others interviewed, had another positive coming-out experience. "My family was really supportive, and my friends were really supportive. I had a really easy coming out," Fisher says.

Not everyone is as lucky, however. Coming out is a delicate event, and not everyone's friends and families react the same way.

Austin, 23, who didn't want his last name published as he is not ready for everyone to know he is gay, was unfortunate enough to have a bad coming out experience. He grew up in a very religious home where he had been taught that being gay was disgusting, wrong, filthy and not normal. His mother had even often compared being gay to pedophilia.

His story is a bit different from those above; it wasn't until later in life that he knew he was gay, and it wasn't until his second year of university that he came to terms with it.

He describes coming out to his mother as one of the most difficult experiences of his life. He had come out to his sister a few months before and she had started to stick up for homosexuality in small ways in front of their mother, which made her suspicious. It was during university exam week that she finally cornered her son and asked him where all the recent ideas and opinions about homosexuality were coming from.

"I manned up and told the truth. The initial glare of disgust was heart wrenching. She lectured me about how wrong it is and it's not normal, and that it's my choice," he says.

When he returned home that day he found a letter from his parents informing him that he was going to hell.

Cuthbertson is open to people's opinions despite disagreeing with them, "Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but I think that you're born that way. It's their opinion; it just bothers me when people feel the need to shove it down other people's throat."

Facing people who suggest that homosexuality is a choice is a battle that those interviewed say they're still often faced with. Hill says, "It's one of the things that angers me most, because it's so foolish. I love being gay now, but when I was first discovering who I was, and when I first started having sexual feelings, I definitely would've chosen to become straight, because it was just so hard."

Fisher said she understands the frustration, "They just don't understand. You can't really, truly understand something unless you're in it, or a part of it. You can try to understand, you can try to relate, but you won't really know. We were born this way, and this is how it works. I doubt any lesbian or gay guy I know would say, 'You know I just chose it, I thought it would be fun.' Nobody picks it."

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