>> Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual Issues
GAY / LESBIAN / BISEXUAL ISSUES
WHAT IS SEXUAL ORIENTATION?
The concept of sexual orientation refers to more than
sexual behavior. It includes feelings as well as identity.
Some individuals may identify themselves as gay, lesbian,
or bisexual without engaging in any sexual activity.
Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate
and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across
a person’s lifetime. Individuals maybe become
aware at different points in their lives that they
are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
No one knows exactly how sexual orientation and gender
identity is determined. However, experts agree that
it is a complicated matter of genetics, biology, psychological
and social factors. For most people, sexual orientation
and gender identity are shaped at any early age. While
research has not determined a cause, homosexuality
and gender variance are not the result of any one
factor like parenting or past experiences. It is never
anyone's "fault" if they or their loved
one grows up to be GLBT (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender).
Regardless of cause, GLBT people deserve equal rights
and to be treated fairly. Homosexuality is not an
illness or a disorder, a fact that is agreed upon
by both the American Psychological Association and
the American Psychiatric Association.
HOW DOES SOMEONE KNOW THEY
ARE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, OR TRANSGENDER?
Some people say that they have "felt different"
or knew they were attracted to people of the same
sex from the time they were very young. Some transgender
people talk about feeling from an early age that their
gender identity did not match parental and social
expectations. Others do not figure out their sexual
orientation or gender identity until they are adolescents
or adults. Often it can take a while for people to
put a label to their feelings, or people's feelings
may change over time.
Understanding our sexuality and gender can be a lifelong
process, and people shouldn't worry about labeling
themselves right away. However, with positive images
of GLBT people more readily available, it is becoming
easier for people to identify their feelings and come
out at earlier ages. People don't have to be sexually
active to know their sexual orientation - feelings
and emotions are as much a part of one's identity.
The short answer is that you'll know when you know.
HOW DO I COME OUT TO FAMILY
There are many questions to consider before coming
out. Are you comfortable with your sexuality and gender
identity/expression? Do you have support? Can you
be patient? What kind of views do your friends and
family have about homosexuality and gender variance?
Are you financially dependent on your family? Make
sure you have thought your decision through, have
a plan and supportive people you can turn to. Just
as you needed to experience different stages of acceptance
for yourself, family and loved ones will need to go
through a similar process.
PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbian and
Gays) was founded because of the unconditional love
of parents for their gay children. Your loved ones
will need time to adjust to your news, the same way
you may have needed time to come to terms with yourself.
However, true acceptance is possible and happens every
day, especially with education and support.
PFLAG Philadelphia's Read
This Before Coming Out to Your Parents
some more things to think about. Also consider talking
to someone from your local PFLAG
for more personalized tips and support.
Many GLBT people find therapy helpful in facing some
of the following challenges:
- Coming out to friends and family
- Gender identity
- Raising children in a GLBT identified
- Dating and intimacy
- Building healthy relationships
- Difficulty with depression, grief, or
- Stress or anxiety
- Sexual dysfunction
- A history of physical or sexual violence
- Responding to oppression
- Living with HIV/AIDS