Frequently Asked Questions
If you're like many people, your first reaction to learning that your loved one is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is "How will I ever handle this?" Many people aren't prepared for the words, "I'm gay, lesbian bisexual, or transgender."
We have provided a lot of information here for you. We hope to help you understand your loved one's sexual orientation or gender identity, and its meaning to you, and your relationship with them. Many other parents and family members have been through much of what you are now feeling, we understand.
We can tell you with absolute certainty that you're not alone. According to some statistics, one in every ten people in this country and around the world is LGBT.
Approximately one in four families has an immediate family member who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and most people have at least one gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender member in their extended circle of friends and family. This means that there are plenty of people out there you can talk to.
We hope that the information included on these pages will help you and your family on your journey together.
I Might Be Gay
Gay is a term for someone who forms physical and emotional relationships with persons of the same gender. Gay can be used to talk about both men and women or more generally the "gay community", but commonly refers to men.
Why do people have same sex attractions?
Over the years there have been many theories about why some of the worlds population has attractions to the same sex. Basically these theories fall into one of three possibilities: nature, nurture, or a combination of the two.
Nature means you were born gay your nature. There seems to be some evidence from scientific research to support this theory that sexual orientation may be biologically determined. Interestingly, although there is quite a lot of talk about why gay people are gay, no one has done much research on why straight people are straight. In fact, homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality are all simply variations of human sexuality.
Nurture refers to your life experience and how it has affected your development. In the past it was assumed that if you were gay, something damaging must have happened to make you that way. Now it's widely accepted that this is not true. Our experiences both positive and negative may play a part in determining our romantic and sexual attractions, but no one is gay, lesbian, or bisexual solely because of a harmful or beneficial experience.
While some people have favored the nature theory and some the nurture, others have proposed that a combination of both the nature and the nurture are involved in determining sexual orientation. At this point no one is totally sure, though scientists are continuing to study these questions.
How do I know if I am gay?
You may not know what to call your feelings. You don't have to rush to decide how to label yourself right now. Sexual identity develops over time.
Many young people question or know their sexual orientation before they have any sexual experiences at all. Others may have had sexual experiences with the opposite sex but still feel that they are gay. Or they may have had sexual experiences with the same sex but still feel they are heterosexual(straight).
There is an important difference between attraction and experience. You may have same-sex experiences for any number of reasons besides a genuine attraction because you are curious, because it's convenient, or because you feel pressured. On the other hand, you might have sexual encounters with someone of the opposite sex for reasons other than your own desire because you are trying to fit in with society expectations, because you are lonely, because you don't know how to say no, or because your isn't heeded. Your sexual orientation is more about who you truly are drawn to than about what your experience has been.
If you are a young person questioning your sexual orientation, you may find it useful to ask yourself who your mostly deeply felt attractions are for. Who do get crushes on most often? Who do you usually have romantic fantasies about? Who do you really wish you could spend the rest of your life or just next weekend with the answers to these questions are often helpful in the beginning to sort out your feelings. If your answers to these questions are not clear, don't worry. You will be more certain in time of your sexual identity.
Should I try to change my sexual orientation or gender identity?
No. Efforts to do so are not only unnecessary, they are damaging. No studies have proven long-term changes in gay or transgender people. In fact, every reputable professional organization ranging from doctors, psychologists and other therapists have published statements saying that this sort of reparative therapy does not work. The fact is, most reported changes are based only on behavior and not a personals actual self-identity.
I think I may be gay, but my religion says it is immoral.
There are faith communities that are welcoming and supportive of their LGBT members. If faith is an important part of your life, look for positive congregations to support you. Give Kaleidoscope a call and we can help you find one.
Should I come out?
You should come out only if you want to and only when you are ready. Don't come out just because someone else thinks you should.
Sometimes there are very good reasons not to come out. There are real risks involved. There are people who won't accept you, people who will do and say negative things. They could be people you love or depend on for financial support, companionship, or encouragement.
There are also very good reasons to let some people know that you're gay. Hiding who you are keeps your relationships from being real. Many LGBT individuals find that the loneliness and isolation of keeping a secret is worse than any fear of coming out.
You have to come out to yourself before you come out to others. This means not only knowing you're gay, but being comfortable with being gay and being sure of who you are as a person. Knowing you're gay is just being aware of one more piece of who you are. You are the same person you were before; you just know more about yourself.
Who should I tell?
Tell only those people who you want to know. The people you tell first should be the ones you trust the most. You need to be able to trust them not to hurt you, to accept you as you are, and to respect your privacy and not tell anyone you don't want told.
Think about what you could lose by telling a particular person. Might your family kick you out of the house? Would they cut you off from your friends? Would a friend withdraw from you? Would they tell other kids at school?
Also think about what you could lose by not telling a particular person. Is the secret putting a strain on your relationship with parents or friends? Would you be closer with them and be able to get support from them if they understood why you were acting withdrawn?
If there is someone you would like to come out to but are not sure how they will react, try to feel them out first. Get them talking about a book or a movie about gays to see where they stand. A person might joke about a gay character in a movie without thinking but show far more thoughtfulness when responding to your coming out.
How do I tell my family?
Before coming out to your family, think about their general reaction to gays. Do they have gay friends? Is their religion accepting? Have you heard them say there's anything wrong with being gay?
Think also about your relationship with your family. In the past, have they shown that they love you even when they're upset with you? Have they stuck by you even when you've done something they didn't like?
Think about what might happen after you've told them. Do you have a place to stay if you had to leave home? Do you have someone else you could turn to if your family cut you off financially?
If you answered no to these questions, it might be best to wait until you have a safe place to go and a way to support yourself before coming out to your family. If you answered yes to all of the questions, then it's probably safe to tell them. Weigh the yes and the no and trust your gut. If you are terrified about coming out to your guardians, parents or family as a whole, pay attention to that. Not everyone will be accepting.
It will be easier to talk to your family when you are feeling good about yourself. If you're feeling confused, it could increase your family's confusion and give them less confidence in your judgment. Be ready with answers to their questions. Remember that many family members are from an older generation, one that in some ways was more homophobic than yours. They may need some time to accept your being gay, just as you probably needed some time yourself. Even if they are accepting of gays in general, they may be shocked to learn that you are gay. They may worry about what your being gay says about them or that they have failed you in some way. That worry can come out as anger and defensiveness.
Will I lose my straight friends?
Most teens say that they have more straight friends now that they're Not only that, but their confidence increased and they felt happier since coming out. Being close to people is easier when there is nothing to hide and you're comfortable with yourself.
Coming out at school does have its problems, especially if your school is in a small town or rural area. Kids can be very cruel, particularly when they are unsure of themselves and are looking for ways to build themselves up. The harassment can make life miserable. When making the decision to come out to friends, be careful to trust only those who will respect your privacy. Friends who gossip can cause problems, even if they don't mean to hurt you.
Some of your friends might be supportive right away. One or two might have already guessed that you're gay. Both guys and girls say it is generally easier to come out to girls. Some friends may wonder if your coming out to them is a way of coming on to them, which might make them feel uncomfortable. Some may wonder if they are gay since you're a close friend and you're gay.
Just as with your family, your friends may need time to adjust to the idea of your being gay. Try to think about how each friend is likely to feel and how you can let them know that you have not changed.
Where do I find gay friends?
Finding friends who know exactly what you are going through because they've been through it or are in the process of coming out themselves is really important. An LGBT youth organization, like All Under One Roof LGBT, is a good place to start. You won't have to worry about trying to figure out whether another teen is gay or not. You will find new friends to share experiences with and draw support from and learn more about yourself in the process.
It may seem to you that you're the only gay person at your school. You're not. There are other gay students whom you might already know but not know that they're gay. It is sometimes difficult to figure out if someone is gay if they are not completely out.
Will I be accepted?
There's prejudice and discrimination everywhere; against blacks, against women, against older people, against almost any group you can think of. It takes time to overcome prejudice and change attitudes.
Our society has a heterosexual assumption. We are taught by our families, schools, religions, and the media to assume that everyone is straight. Based on this assumption, we are influenced to discriminate against those who are not heterosexual. Only recently has this assumption begun to change. The prejudice you face can range from something minor, like someone assuming you are straight, to something much worse. Gays are at risk for being beaten up, evicted from their homes, and fired from their jobs just for being gay. People tend to fear what they don't understand and hate what they fear. This is the basis of prejudice. When it is aimed at gays, it's called homophobia.
Homophobia is being challenged more and more as people are learning that being gay is normal and healthy. Attitudes are changing partly because gay individuals are standing up and saying, gay and I'm proud. Attitudes are also changing because straight allies are standing up with gays to declare pride in their gay children, friends, or siblings.
A friend told me she/he was gay. What should I say?
A friend that comes out to you is sending you a message that they trust you and value your friendship enough to be honest. Remember that sexual orientation is just one part of ourselves. She or he is still the same person.
Show your support by listening and educating yourself about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues. Do not break their confidence unless she or he is struggling with suicidal feelings.
How do I get beyond the stereotypes?
Should I try to fit stereotypes so others know I am gay? Ignore stereotypes! Be yourself. Gay people, like straights, act all kinds of ways.
You might think that all gay men are feminine. To show how ridiculous and untrue that statement is, here are just a few recent examples: Chris Kanyon“ professional wrestler; John Amaechi professional basketball player; Esera Tuaolo “ professional football player; and Derrick Peterson “ Olympic runner.
Some people try to act the opposite of stereotypes. Some straight males who aren't sure of their sexuality may act super macho, as do some gay men who are afraid of being 'outed.'? Some lesbians act very feminine for the same reason.
Of course, some gay people DO fit some of the stereotypes we have all heard. This is okay too! Just remember that you do not need to prove anything to anybody. Just be yourself.
Do I need to worry about HIV and AIDS?
Everyone needs to be informed about HIV and AIDS. It's not who you are gay or straight, male or female, black or white but what you do that puts you at risk for infection.
There are three main ways you can become infected with HIV: (1) by having unprotected sex with someone who is infected; (2) by sharing drug needles or syringes with an infected person; or (3) an infected woman can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or birth.
You cannot tell if someone has HIV by looking at them. The virus can be inactive for as long as ten years. Someone who looks healthy could still be infected.
Here's how you can protect yourself. Don't share needles or syringes. Seek help from a local clinic if you are shooting or using street drugs. Learn about to protect yourself if you are sexually active. Safer sex practices include using latex condoms or dental dams to stop the transmission of the virus.
Do I need to see a therapist?
Being gay is not a mental disorder, but for a variety of reasons, a therapist may be helpful for both you and your family. Therapy cannot change sexual orientation but it can ease the confusion and promote positive coping skills.
With support and accurate information, confusion about sexual orientation will resolve. However, you may still have feelings of isolation, no matter how comfortable you are with your sexuality. Seeking out people to talk to is a healthy response to many and may allow you to cope more effectively.