- I am in danger, and sometimes think of harming myself. I need help!
- You are a unique person, worthy of love, friendship, and support. Regardless of how you identify or whom you love, you have the right to feel safe and secure. If you feel unsafe, if you feel unsure, if you feel like you have nowhere to turn,
there are people who can help.
- I think I might be lesbian, gay, or bisexual. How do I know for sure?
- You’ll know when you know. It could take a while, and it’s OK to remain unsure. There’s no need to rush.
There are hundreds of different ways to realize you are not straight. Some LGB people say that from the time they were very young they
just “felt different” or “just knew” they weren’t like their friends. Some didn’t share the same opposite-sex grade-school crushes and some were more interested in their same-sex classmates.
People who are LGB often say it took a while to put a name to their feelings. Once they learned what being LGB was, it started to make sense to think about their own sexual orientation in those terms. It fit with the feelings they’d
had while growing up. Many don’t begin to think about their sexual orientation until they’re teenagers or adults. This is completely normal. We figure out our identities in our own time—sometimes it takes months, other times it takes decades.
you think you’re LGB, try not to hide your feelings from yourself. Yes, figuring out who you are can be stressful, emotional, and a little scary—you may not want to deal with it—but taking some time alone to think about how you feel is
the first step toward accepting yourself. Give yourself permission to explore your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Remember, everyone is unique and wonderful in their own way.
- How can I be sure of my sexual orientation if I’m not sexually active?
- You don’t need to have sex to discover who you are. It is the attraction that helps determine sexual orientation.
It’s important to know that you don’t have to have had a sexual experience to know that you’re lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Most people experience crushes when they are quite young, before they become sexually active. Think about your own past crushes: Your feelings and your emotional and physical attractions will help tell you who you are.
- I thought LGB people act a certain way. If I don’t fit the stereotype, am I still LGB?
- Ignore the stereotypes. Some
people fit them, some people
People who are LGB, like people who are straight, can act in many different ways, and might or might not fit stereotypes. If you don’t fit a common stereotype for an LGB person, it doesn’t mean you’re not really LGB—there is
a wide range of diversity within that community, just as there is throughout every part of society. People use stereotypes to help them understand what to expect from certain groups of people. However, some stereotypes stem from a lack
of experience with the type of person in question or from ignorance or prejudice, and are simply incorrect. For example, you might hear that gay men aren’t strong or athletic. Or that lesbians appear or act more masculine. But these are
stereotypes, and aren’t onesize- fits-all. Visit lgbthistorymonth. com for a searchable database of LGB icons and note the diversity of the people listed there.
- I have a crush on my samesex best friend. Does this mean I’m LGB?
- Not necessarilyEnjoying intimate experiences—like cuddling, kissing, or holding hands— with someone of the same sex doesn’t automatically mean you’re lesbian, gay, or bisexual, just as enjoying intimate experiences with someone of the
opposite sex doesn’t automatically mean you’re straight.
Many people develop crushes on someone of the same sex at some point in their lives, and we often explore or identify with different gender roles and expectations throughout
our lives. Many LGB people have some sexual experiences with someone of the opposite sex, and many non-LGB people have some same-sex sexual experiences. Those who enjoy such experiences with both sexes often identify as bisexual. However,
sometimes it takes some trial and error to determine what we like and what we don’t like.
Think of sexuality as a range, or “sexual continuum.” At one end of the range are many people who are attracted only to the same sex. At the other
end of the range are many people who are attracted only to the opposite sex. And in between are people who are attracted to both sexes in varying degrees.
Again, remember that our sexuality develops over time. Don’t worry if you aren’t
sure. Your early years are a time of learning, bit by bit, what works for you, and crushes and experimentation are often part of that process. Over time, you’ll find that you’re drawn mostly to men, women, or both—or neither!—and then
you’ll know. You don’t have to label yourself.
- I have a crush on someone at my school. How can I tell if they’re LGB too?
- You can’t definitely, without
asking—which presents its
own unique challenges.It’s impossible to know for sure whether someone identifies as LGB just by looking at them. We shouldn’t assume people are LGB because of the way they look, dress, or act. Doing so would mean making assumptions about
the unsupported stereotypes (see our answer to “I thought LGB people act certain ways. If I don’t fit a stereotype, am I still LGB?”).
People sometimes joke about having “gaydar,” a “radar” that senses who is LGB. Figuring out if someone
is LGB if they’re not completely out is like figuring out if someone is interested in you: Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can’t. It can be an extremely frustrating and stressful process, but it is part of getting to know the people
around you. It takes time and sometimes more patience than you think you might have!
Asking your friends or theirs won’t guarantee an accurate answer. And while you can casually observe them to try to find some clues—do they have pro-LGBTQ+
stickers on their backpack or locker? Are they a member of the Gay-Straight or Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at your school?—these things mean that they may be LGB, or they may be a supportive ally. The only way to find out someone’s
sexual orientation is to talk to them about it directly. However, it’s extremely important to respect another person’s privacy. They may not want to talk about it, could be upset that you asked them, or may not want to be recognized as
LGB. As a general rule, be very careful when asking someone such a personal question unless you know them very well, and even then, be sensitive to the other person’s privacy. Approach them the way you would want to be approached about
Remember, you can’t expect someone else to come to terms with their sexual orientation any more quickly than you are coming to terms with your own. But be patient. One day (if it hasn’t happened already), someone will have
a crush on you and they will be wondering whether you’re LGB or straight (or neither!) too.
- What’s the difference between being transgender and being transsexual?
- Transsexual people often, but
not always, use medicine and
surgery to help their bodies
match their gender identity,
while many transgender
people do not.The term ‘transgender’ describes a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. This word is also sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe groups of people who transcend conventional
expectations of gender identity or expression. ‘Transsexual’ is a lesserused term (considered by some to now be outdated) which refers to people who are transgender who use (or consider using) medical interventions such as hormone therapy
and/or surgery as part of the process of expressing their gender. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/ or surgically to match their gender identity. For full definitions of both terms, visit the
glossary at the back of this publication.
The words ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ do have one thing in common: they are both adjectives (used to describe something) not nouns (used to identify something). Just as you wouldn’t say someone is “gayed” or “straightened,” so
too you wouldn’t say someone is, or has been, “transgendered.” Saying “Alice is a person who is transgender” is correct—just like saying “Alice is blonde”—but saying “Alice is a transgender” or “Alice is transgendered” is not. Using these
adjectives as nouns or verbs is considered offensive, so avoid using them in those ways.
- When do transgender people know that they are differently gendered?
- One’s sense of gender
happens at different times for
different people.Many transgender people remember “feeling different” from their earliest childhood memories. But because of stigma and lack of information, they can struggle for many years to accept this difference. As more information
for transgender people becomes available, we are seeing transgender people openly expressing their true gender identity at younger ages.
- What is the typical transition process for transgender people?
- There is no “typical”
transition process, because
there are many different ways
to transition.For transgender people, transitioning means different things. For some, it means medical treatments, including use of hormones and gender-affirming surgeries. For others, it means social transition, which might include things
such as choosing a new name or altering outward appearance with clothing or hairstyles. There is also legal transition, which is the process of changing names and gender markers on important legal documents such as a birth certificate,
passport, or social security card. And for still others, it means a combination of some or all of the above.
- What does it mean to be gender expansive or nonbinary, and how is that different from identifying as transgender?
- Identifying as transgender versus
identifying as gender expansive,
genderqueer, or other terms (see
the glossary at the back of this
book) are different things. The
first relates to gender identity;
the latter more usually relates to
gender expression.Gender-expansive individuals are generally those whose gender expression is different from the societal expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Just as with transgender people, genderexpansive people may or
may not identify as transgender, male, female, both, or neither.
Nonbinary people (sometimes called ‘enby’ or ‘genderqueer’) identify outside of the gender binary of being either a man or a woman. They may think of themselves as both
man and woman, neither man nor woman, moving between two genders, or as a third gender altogether. Refer to the glossary at the back of this book for more terminology.
- Aren’t there only two genders?
While we used to think of
gender as binary—masculine/
man/male and feminine/
woman/female—we have come
to learn that gender exists more on a spectrum. This is a new
concept in the United States, but
many cultures recognize more
than two genders and have for a
long time.In American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) communities, there are Two Spirit individuals who identify as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. In India and Bangladesh there is a third gender called “Hijra” that
is neither male nor female. The Fa’afafine are a third gender in Samoa. Learn more about how other cultures perceive gender from this interactive map—and supplementary materials—from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/ content/two-spirits_map-html/.
There is a whole range of identities to be found on the gender spectrum. Throughout our lives, we can experience and express our gender in a variety of ways. Our gender expression can change over time as we have new experiences and
become aware of new ideas.
Remember, gender is a label created by people. Labels like gender are used to help us figure out what to expect from one another. They aren’t set in stone, and there is no right or wrong gender to have or
- I think I might be transgender or gender expansive. How do I know for sure?
- You’ll know when you know.
It could take a while, and it
is okay to remain unsure.
There’s no need to rush. There are hundreds of different ways to discover your internal sense of gender and how you want to express your gender. Some people say that from the time they were very young they “felt different” or “just knew”
they weren’t like their friends, rejecting the stereotypical gender characteristics they were “supposed” to display.
Some transgender or gender-expansive people say it took a while to put a name to their feelings—it wasn’t until they learned what the terms meant that it made sense to think about their gender identity and/or expression in those terms;
it fit with the feelings they’d had while growing up.
Many other people don’t begin to figure out their gender identity until they’re teenagers or adults. This is completely normal. We figure out our identities in our own time—sometimes
it takes months, other times it takes decades.
As with sexuality, some people know their gender identity from an early age, and know that it doesn’t match the “boy” or “girl” label they were assigned at birth. For others, gender identity
develops and changes over time. If you feel that your gender identity does not match up with the “boy” or “girl” label others assume you to have, it is completely normal to explore and learn about other ways to express yourself.
not to hide your feelings from yourself. Yes, figuring out who you are can be stressful, emotional, and a little scary—you may not want to deal with it—but taking some time alone to think about how you feel is the first step toward accepting
yourself. Give yourself permission to explore your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Remember, everyone is unique and perfect in their own way.
- Is being lesbian, gay, or bisexual a mental disorder?
- Absolutelu Not!Association declared in 1973 that homosexuality is not a mental disorder or disease, and the American Psychological Association says that it would be unethical to try to change a person’s sexual orientation. Often referred
to as “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy,” it is a harmful practice that has been banned in numerous states, with even more states looking at bans. See the next page for more information.
- Is being transgender a mental disorder?
- Being transgender or gender expansive is not a disorder. It is important to know, though, that in July 2012, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed the diagnostic term ‘gender identity disorder’ from the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and replaced it with ‘gender dysphoria,’ in the new edition, published in May 2013. The DSM says that gender dysphoria can be diagnosed when a person’s gender identity/expression is different from their
assigned gender at birth and at the same time associated with “clinically significant distress or impairment” in their social life, career, or other important areas of life. As a result of such distress, those with untreated gender dysphoria
have a “significantly increased risk of suffering.” However, gender dysphoria narrows treatment to those who experience distress over their gender incongruity. Therefore, gender dysphoria isn’t about simply being gender expansive. It has
to do with the absence or presence of suffering and discomfort a person might feel if they are unhappy or uncomfortable with their gender identity or incongruity. As documented by empirical and clinical data, there are many transgender
and gender-expansive people who are very happy and comfortable with their gender identity and don’t need or seek treatment.
- I can accept that my child is gay, but why does s/he have to flaunt it?
- Gay people are often accused of “flaunting” their homosexuality (or bisexuality, or transgender identity) when they come out. In our world, we tend to make assumptions that everyone we see is heterosexual. As a result, we tend to not be surprised
or uncomfortable when people express their attraction to the opposite sex or talk matterof- factly about their straight partners, lovers, families, and friends. Yet gay people are made to feel they must hide these aspects of themselves.
For them, coming out is a positive way to challenge our assumptions and to help affirm their self-esteem.
- Will my child be discriminated against? Is s/he in danger?
- Unfortunately, both of these things are possible. On the brighter side, attitudes about differences in sexual orientation have begun to change as society becomes better informed. There are many places where your child will be accepted for
who s/he is and will be able to live in relative safety. However, until homophobia no longer exists in our society, your child may encounter some significant obstacles. It is even more unfortunate when this discrimination exists within
a child’s own family.