Let’s be clear: There is no checklist or timeline when it comes to putting a name on your sexual identity. Each individual is different, both with how they identify and how they may became aware of that identity.
To identify as gay, it means that you may feel sexual and/or romantic attraction to someone of the same gender identity, says LGBTQ+ expert Kryss Shane. “Sometimes it’s a general awareness; other times it’s self-recognition from a same-sex friendship that begins to feel like something more, and sometimes it's through sexual exploration,” Shane explains.
And just because you may not fit into the stereotypes of what it may mean to be gay in queer media, psychologist Liz Powell, PsyD says you should understand that watching these characters in movies or television “may be more of a reflection of the limitations we place on folks based on their genders and identities,” rather than an accurate depiction.
Remember, your sex and dating life can look however you want it to—whether you want to identify as anything or nothing at all. But if you find yourself questioning if you are gay, here are 12 women on the moment that they knew they were.
- “I went into foster care at age 16 without knowing what being gay meant. In my first group home, a girl kept flirting with me and I didn't even know how to interact with the opposite sex, let alone the same sex. So a few months later, I was on Facebook finding out more about what it meant to be LGBTQ+. By the time I finished reading a few articles, I just knew this is who I was.” —Chaya, 24
- “I first realized that I was gay when I was 10. I was handed me a big box of Star Wars action figures and being the marriage-obsessed child I was, I began to pair them off into couples (one male doll with one female doll). By the time I was at the bottom of the box, I ran out of male action figures and was left with two beautiful blue female aliens. I picked them up, stood them side-by-side on the windowsill, and something just clicked. It was the very first time I ever even considered the possibility of two girls being together, but it made perfect sense to me sitting there looking at these action figures side by side!” —Stacy, 27
- “One night, I had been out late with work friends and three of us ended up in a guy friend’s bed. We were all spooning when he passed out, and the girl in front of me turned around to face me. As soon as we kissed, I knew there was no going back.” —Beck, 35
- “I was 31 and a single mother of a one-year-old the day I realized I was in love with my coworker. She and I had been inseparable for more than two years. When she left for a week-long solo retreat, I missed her terribly, and when it ended, I was the first person she called. I found myself bouncing around the room, overjoyed to hear from her. When I hung up, I stopped dead in my tracks. I could see that I was in that moment, the very embodiment of every chick flick heroine who’d ever been in love. I was in love...with a woman.” —Kristen, 35
- “At 16, I kissed a girl at a party for the very first time and it was magical. Everything flowed so naturally, my body just knew what to do. I reacted to her in a way that felt right—the way I had always envisioned a first kiss to be. I tried saying I was bisexual for a quick minute, but I could feel myself gravitating toward girls in ways that I didn’t with boys.” —Natasha, 27
- “While in college, I started developing a deep friendship with a woman and we were best friends for years. I always had feelings for her and little did I know, she had those same feelings. We both pushed these feelings down because both of us identified as straight. I was happy living in denial until we kissed for the first time when I was 23. At that moment, the denial lifted. I knew I was gay without a doubt.” —Allison, 33
- “When I was 22, I got hit by a car. I was barely injured fortunately, but the car that I’d been driving since high school was totaled. Even though I wasn’t injured, the impact from the hit felt like it had rattled me to my very core. I woke up the next day, looked in the mirror and thought, 'Holy shit. I’m gay.' In retrospect, my epiphany was probably aided by my post-accident ER experience. I sat in the ER for eight hours waiting for treatment and none of my family showed up to hold my hand. I realized I had been living an elaborate lie for people who didn’t care as much about me as I did about them.” —Kaiti, 24
- “I knew something was different and I had a connection toward females from a young age, but I didn’t know what gay or lesbian really was at that time. I messed around with another woman at 13, and put the words together around 14.” —Shari, 34
- “I spent the night at my friend's house and when she tucked me in, she kissed me
good night. I swear I heard angels! The clouds parted, a light came through and a weight I didn’t even know I was carrying was suddenly lifted. I kissed a girl and I liked it, haha!” —Robyn, 52
- “At 16, I couldn't understand why, despite dating really amazing guys, I never really was that interested in them. I had never considered that I could be a lesbian, until the very moment I realized I was. One night as I was lying in bed, I had an epiphany. The night before, a straight couple walked into the room at a party I was at. All my friends were talking about how hot the guy was, and I realized that I thought that about the girl. All of a sudden, all these moments in my life that before didn't make sense became clear.” —Lana, 30
- “I remember Google searching, 'how to know if you’re bisexual,' when I was in my early 20s. Truthfully, the only article that should pop up when someone searches that phrase is, 'You know you’re bisexual if you’re Google searching whether or not you’re bisexual,' haha. But after I started openly dating women, I realized I was a lesbian and came out again.” —Veronica, 31
- “I knew for sure that I was gay at 10. I had my first innocent kiss with a girl and it was a feeling, knowing, and clarity, even at that age, that immediately verified that I liked girls more than boys. ” —Stephanie, 41
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.