As far as I know I'm a happily married straight man. I dream about having sex with men on occasion. I've never done it in real life and really have no desire to do so. But does having gay dreams mean I'm a "repressed" gay?
Signed, HomoErotic Dreamer
Dear HomoErotic Dreamer,
There's a difference between sexual fantasy (what you think), sexual behavior (what you do), and sexual identity (what you are). In fact, they can all be independent phenomena, meaning one doesn't necessarily have to do with the other.
Having same-sex fantasies doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gay. Having many different kinds of fantasies you may never act on is normal, especially when you masturbate. For instance, some people have sexual rape fantasies, but wouldn't want to be raped in real life.
Same-sex behavior is also fairly common. Dr. Kinsey published Sexual Behavior In The Human Male in 1948. Even in those relatively conservative times and much to the shock of America, Dr. Kinsey reported that a lot of the men he surveyed acknowledged having a same sex experience in their lifetime. In fact, almost half of the men said they had a sexual experience with another male at least once. And at least one out of three men said they had reached orgasm with another guy before age 45. The vast majority of men self-identified as heterosexual, not gay. A relatively recent survey out of New York showed at least one in ten straight men acknowledged having sex with another man in the last year.
Both Dr. Kinsey and Dr. Freud believed that human male sexuality is fluid. Most men aren't simply all gay or all straight. Sex with a member of the same sex is a natural occurrence demonstrated by both humans and animals. Fruit flies, rams, flamingos, apes, whales - over 1,500 animal species in all - sometimes "play" with the same sex, some exclusively. So homosexuality is not unnatural, or a crime against nature, and having sex with a member of the same sex is relatively common. In many cultures, same-sex encounters are not unusual for straight men who are the tops, active, or insertive partners. It’s only the bottom, passive, or receptive partner that’s viewed as gay.
So a man can have gay fantasies and even gay sex and still not be gay overall. Although, suffice it to say that a fair share of men may compartmentalize such spheres because of the profound stigma and potential danger that comes from openly acknowledging a full gay identity.
A gay identity is forged when you are predominantly attracted to the same sex, act on that attraction, and feel like you want to romantically love and share your life with a member of the same sex. And the personal is political. In short, being gay is about a convergence of feelings - a mind, body, spiritual, and social orientation, not just a sexual one.
Don’t be afraid of your fantasies. They mean you're human. I encourage you to explore them in a self-accepting, open, and honest way and see where that leads you.
All the best, Angelo.