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Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual Issues
Other Issues >> 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 AND FRIENDS?
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 will offer some more things to think about. Also consider talking to someone from your local PFLAG chapter for more personalized tips and support.

SOURCE: www.plflag.org

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 family
  • Dating and intimacy
  • Building healthy relationships
  • Difficulty with depression, grief, or loss
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • A history of physical or sexual violence
  • Responding to oppression
  • Living with HIV/AIDS







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