Community member Kristin Beasley answers commonly asked questions about the LGBT+ community.
What does LGBT+ stand for?
L=Lesbian, G=Gay, B=Bisexual and T=Transgender and the PLUS includes EVERYONE else - even Straight Allies. You do not have to be gay to support the LGBT+ Community. In fact, we love our straight allies and we need them!
The Plus also includes Pangendered, Intersexed, Transexual, or Two-Spirited and the many new ways people are self identifying.
What is Sexual Orientation?
Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from only attraction to the opposite sex, to only attraction to same sex.
Sexual Orientation describes who you are sexually attracted to, someone of the same sex or someone of the opposite sex or both. However, sexual orientation is more than just physical attraction to another person. It is also about those feelings of intimacy that are shared between two people. We all have the need to feel love, attachment, and connection with others. Sexual orientation can also be explained by who meets those needs for you within a romantic relationship.
Male/Female Attraction = Heterosexual Orientation
Female/Female Attraction= Lesbian Orientation
Male/Male Attraction=Gay Orientation
Attracted to BOTH Male/Female= Bisexual Orientation
(University of Illinois at Springfield, Student Affairs Office. (2009). Continuum of Human Sexuality.)
What is Gender Identity?
Gender Identity describes what gender you feel like inside, regardless of the genitalia you are born with. If you “feel like a girl” but have male genitalia (penis/testicles), then your gender identity is FEMALE even though you are “considered” MALE by physical standards.
The opposite is also true, if you “feel like a boy” but you were born with female genitalia (vagina/uterus/ovaries), then your gender identity is MALE even though you are “considered” FEMALE by physical standards.
There are new laws in California and other states that allow an individual who goes through the transitioning process to change their birth certificate to reflect a new name and gender. See Link below for more information.
How do I know if I am gay (LGBT+)?
The same way straight people know they are straight. Sexual Orientation is defined by who you are physically and emotionally attracted to within a romantic relationship.
When does someone know if they are gay (LGBTQ+)?
Each generation is exposed to more information and more openly “out” members of the LGBTQ+ Community, so for younger generations it may become easier to recognize and acknowledge one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity sooner than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers because there are more role models to identify with now than there were in the past. Here is how the research breaks down now.
10% have always known
26% knew by age ten
60% knew before age thirteen
85% knew by the age of fifteen
There are some people, mostly women, who are so strongly socialized into believing they are straight/heterosexual that they do not realize their true sexual orientation until later in life. Also, women’s sexual fluidity is less rigid than men’s so men often know earlier in life but they still have to come to grips with the process of “coming out” to themselves. This takes time regardless of gender and is an on-going process.
(Hillier,L., Jones, T., Monagle, M., Overton, N., Gahan, L., Blackman, J., Mitchell, A. (2010), Writing Themselves In 3: The Third national report on the sexuality, health and well-being of same sex attracted young people. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Victoria.)
Can Reparative Therapy change my sexual orientation or gender identity?
NO! The American Psychiatric Association (APA) “opposes therapeutic techniques some psychiatrists and mental health professionals claim can shift an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.” They go on to say, “There is no evidence that these so-called 'reparative therapies' have any efficacy in converting someone from one sexual orientation to another."
National Association of Social Workers (NASW), state, “the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men often are pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation.”
Reparative Therapy is NOT considered by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychological Association (APA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) to be an effective form of treatment for “changing” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Can Reparative Therapy be harmful?
The American Psychiatric Association makes this statement,
“The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by a patient."
Can I have a “normal” family?
Of course, there are many same-sex couples raising children who have “normal” families. In fact, PARENTING Magazine in March, 2011 ran an article titled, “We’re the New Normal: Life as a same-sex parent.”
If you want to see a young man, Zach Wahls, who was raised by lesbians, speak about his family click this link below:
Do children of lesbian and gay parents have more problems with sexual identity than do children of heterosexual parents?
The answer from research is clear: sexual and gender identities (including gender identity, gender-role behavior, and sexual orientation) develop in much the same way among children of lesbian mothers as they do among children of heterosexual parents. Few studies are available regarding children of gay fathers.
Do children raised by lesbian or gay parents have problems in personal development in areas other than sexual identity?
Again, studies of personality, self-concept, and behavior problems show few differences between children of lesbian mothers and children of heterosexual parents. Few studies are available regarding children of gay fathers.
Are children of lesbian and gay parents likely to have problems with social relationships? Will they be teased by their peers?
The evidence indicates that children of lesbian and gay parents have normal social relationships with their peers and adults. The picture that emerges from this research shows that children of gay and lesbian parents enjoy a social life that is typical of their age group in terms of involvement with peers, parents, family members, and friends.
Are children raised by gay or lesbian couples more likely to be sexually abused by a parent or by a parent's friends or acquaintances?
There is no scientific support for fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by their parents or their parents' gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered friends or acquaintances.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) just reported December, 2011 the results of the largest study done on sexual violence. The study revealed that one in two women (44.6%) REPORT experiencing sexual violence at some point in their lives. And, one in five men (22.2%) REPORT experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime. These are alarming statistics and they ONLY account for the sexual assaults that actually get reported. Many victims never tell.
Since the majority of children are being raised by heterosexual parents it can be assumed that the majority of sexual abuse is occurring within heterosexual homes.
According to the APA, the concerns that are often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents' are generally unfounded and grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community.
Overall, the research indicates that the children of lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from the children of heterosexual parents in their development, adjustment, or overall well-being.
I am all alone and have nowhere to turn, what do I do?
You are not all alone. It might feel like that right now, but there are a millions of people that make up the LGBT+ community and even more people who call themselves straight allies. We all feel lost and alone sometimes it comes with the territory of being part of a “minority group.”
If you are feeling lost and alone, please reach out to MY LGBT PLUS or to other support groups like The Trevor Project, or PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays). If you are a High School Student see if your school has a GSA Club (Gay Straight Alliance), each club has a Teacher/Advisor who can be a support person on campus for you.
How do I know if it is safe to “come out” to someone?
This is a difficult question. The truth about “coming out” is that we have to do it over and over and over and over again. It can be exhausting, scary and stressful. I was given excellent advice once. My dear friend told me to tell the people that cared about “coming out” to personally, then let the grapevine do the rest.
There are no guarantees about “coming out” because it is such a personal experience for each person and it is difficult to predict how someone will react to this information. I have been amazed at the genuine love and support I have been given by people that I did not expect and I have been rejected and disappointed by people I expected to be supportive. It can sometimes feel like all the puzzle pieces in your life get mixed up, then they DO eventually come back together again, but it takes time.
“Coming out” is process. The first step is being able to “come out” to yourself. When you are comfortable with your sexual orientation and gender identity then it is easier to find people who you will recognize as supportive.
Unfortunately, sometimes we “come out” to people we think are safe or will be supportive and they are not. This can feel like a devastating betrayal.
Practice can make it easier. You can try “coming out” in a safe support group such as PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) or in an LGBTQ+ Support Group held at a local community center.
Know that there is an entire community waiting to embrace you.
What do I do if someone “outs” me?
It depends. Again, the most important thing is to find support. If someone “outs” you without your permission or in a way that is mean spirited then you know that person may not be a real friend. If someone tells someone else that you are in a new relationship with a person of the same sex and they are just sharing news that maybe they did not realize you were not ready to share, then you can forgive them. And, if you are ready to “come out” you can let the grapevine work for you. Think of it as one less person you have to tell.
If you are “outed” at work, you have rights because you do belong to protected class and it is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity in California. Check other state laws on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website www.hrc.org