Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: Do you think I'm a repressed gay?

Dear Virginia,

I've got a fixation that I might be gay. After a wretched life, and ending up in rehab, I married an amazing man, and we had a son, now four. We had a great sex life – but now he's left me. Then my mother died and my business failed. Now I'm obsessed by my sexuality. I've never had sex with a woman, and don't fancy them, but when I see nudes in photos I shudder, and blush at the word "gay". I don't feel gay or straight, I feel inhuman and isolated. Do you think I'm a repressed gay?

Yours sincerely, Sandra

I have to say that if you've never fancied a woman, never in all your life had a sexual experience with a woman, have had an amazing sex life with a bloke and flinch when you see pictures of nude women, it does seem incredibly unlikely that you are even remotely gay.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking you might be like those men who keep telling everyone how they think gays are the scum of the earth and who are then revealed to have a secret nightlife on Hampstead Heath. But remember these are men who know, au fond, about their own sexuality, and keep up this bluffing front of loathing and intolerance because they actually hate that side of themselves. But as far as I can see, you don't even have that side to repress or deny.

At the risk of being labelled a cheap therapist, I'd say that this fixation is actually a sign of depression rather than gayness. The symptoms of depression are incredibly wide-ranging. When new mothers get depressed, they often think of harming their child. They cannot get this dreadful thought out of their heads. It's as if the depression tries to think of the worst thing in the world, then constantly brings it to their attention to torment them. There's a wonderful engraving by Goya of a despairing man sitting at a desk, his head in his hands, being tormented by demons. I think one of the demons that's tormenting you is the demon that says, "What if I'm gay?" This is not reality talking. It is the demon of depression.

After a separation like yours, and particularly if you've been an addict, you're probably more vulnerable to lows in your life than some, and it's perhaps inevitable that you'll be depressed. After a bereavement, too – which is what separation can feel like – your sex drive can behave in the most peculiar way. Sometimes people feel fantastically sexy and race round having affairs with everyone. Sometimes, like you, they shut down completely, and feel like sexual non-people. Lack of sex drive is also a possible sign of depression.

See your doctor, and don't reject the idea of anti-depressants; yes, some can be rubbish, but others can work miracles. Bringing up a child is always boring and frustrating at some points, but tends to improve as the kids get older. And when these horrible thoughts creep into your mind, tell those pesky demons to buzz off. Lastly, don't let depression tell you that your doctor can't help. It may well be that they can.

Readers say...

You're upset, not gay

Your partner has left, you've lost you mother, your business has failed... Could it simply be that you are distraught and feel betrayed by the man you loved? Perhaps it is your anger at your ex-partner that has made you wonder whether you like men at all. Research has shown that we are all born bisexual but what we consider socially acceptable behaviour inclines us towards heterosexual relationships. You could try out homosexual relationships, but if you have been heterosexual all your life it is unlikely that you are gay. You are probably just confused: you are going through a terrible time, and it can't be easy.


By email

Be strong for your son

Your life has been one of loss and letdown, and just when you thought things were going well, you were abandoned by your mother and partner. No wonder you are so unhappy. Your sexual identity and performance aren't the issues here. I don't know if you were offered therapy in rehab, but please consider it. It may help you understand and appreciate yourself, so you will be comfortable with whoever you are. Your son has lost his dad – he needs you to be there for him, physically and mentally, so don't let him be abandoned, too.

Christina Burton

St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex


Find a friend, not a lover

Building a relationship with another woman is about more than simply sexual attraction. It's about a level of intimacy that, for some of us, goes far deeper than any emotional connection we have ever made with a man. It's about the totality of relating, of understanding and being understood, of seeing at least through similar lenses. If you want to experience a sexual relationship with a woman, it's not that big a deal – just do it. Thousands of women do, and many don't label themselves as either bisexual or lesbian. But being in a genuinely intimate relationship is entirely different. If that's what you want, then it helps to come to it whole, not feeling "inhuman and isolated". Perhaps therapy might help? And then making some meaningful friendships, that don't need to evolve into sexual relationships?

Manda Scott

Clungunford, Shropshire

Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing