A common question that gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered people are asked is “When did you know?” It’s a tricky question in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. People who have not struggled with these issues sometimes operate under the assumption that a switch was flipped and all became clear, but that is often not the case.
Discovering one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity can be a short or long process, depending on many things like environment, self-awareness, and exposure to different ideas. But one thing is for sure: Once people discover they are queer, it is significantly easier to come out if they are in a loving and supportive environment.
Please read this touching essay written by a mom of a six-year-old about how she is creating an environment where it is okay for her son to be whoever he is.
Want to talk about this or other issues? Give us a call, start a chat or send us an email.
Every holiday season, the hotline sees a jump in calls dealing with the anxiety of seeing relatives who are non-accepting or non-tolerant of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender. It is often depressing for those in the queer community to think about interacting with groups of people who do not respect or acknowledge who they are or whom they love. There’s a reason that those in the queer community refer to each other as “family,” even if they’ve just met — historically, they’ve chosen their own families for support.
Many callers find solace in the idea of holding several celebrations, making sure to include time with people who are supportive — chosen family. It can offset a difficult gathering of blood relatives if they have recently had affirmation that their accepting friends love them regardless of their orientations or gender identifications.
Still other callers benefit from being reminded that they can make choices about who they choose to see around the holidays (and any time of year). If people are not respectful of who they are, they can choose to limit interactions with them.
Are you just now getting over a family get-together? Give us a call, send an email or start a chat. We’re here for you!
It is not unusual for people to reach out to us with anxiety of having contracted an STD because they had unprotected sex with a stranger of the same sex. Unprotected sex is a dangerous activity. Callers are frequently aware of the risks and are often mortified at their own behavior, as well as being sick with fear of the potential consequences.
A common link for the people who make these calls is that they are attempting to hide their sexual orientation from others (and often themselves). This denial then leads to risky behavior, regret, and further denial.
One of our primary goals at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center is to help people identify their own sexual orientations. We believe that when a person is honest with herself, she is more likely to make informed and healthy decisions. That is one aspect of diminishing risky behavior. The second is support from one’s friends and family,* which of course an individual who is coming out does not have control over. However, this further suggests to all of us that acceptance of differing sexual orientations leads to happier and healthier individuals.
Did you recently have a risky same-sex encounter that you want to talk about? Give us a call, send us an email or start an online chat with a volunteer peer-counselor.
*From a study by Vincke, Bolton, Mak, and Blank at the University Hospital in Belgium, 1993:
Individuals who recognize and freely admit that they are either homosexual or bisexual may be rejected by their peers, families, and others. Adequate social support, however, has been shown to lead to a heightened sense of well-being and health. It has also been shown to encourage individuals to adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles. There are important correlations between social support and self-esteem, control/mastery, and stress management. The withdrawal of social support following the coming out of gay people can have serious detrimental effects on their social and emotional well-being.
This Australian commercial perfectly captures the acceptance that we at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center strive to achieve for everyone in the queer community.
While the majority of our calls, chats and emails deal with coming-out and the related feelings that arise from this process, we also receive a large number of contacts from people who want to talk about problems they are having in romantic relationships. These callers often are not out to their friends and families or have been rejected by their families for being gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgendered, and so they can feel extremely isolated.
These callers want to talk about issues that can arise in any romantic relationship: In-laws, household chores, miscommunications, etc. But because of the pronouns (he/she/his/her), they are unable to share these otherwise run-of-the-mill discussions with anyone in their lives. It is a true reflection of how alone individual members of the queer community can feel when they cannot share with others such a fundamental aspect of themselves like sexual orientation or gender identity. It results in not being able to discuss one’s partner, spouse, date or boyfriend/girlfriend.
Do you need to talk about a problem you’re having with a significant other or romantic interest? Please get in touch with us. Our volunteer peer-counselors can help.
In many places, job discrimination remains a big issue for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Many people are afraid to be out for fear that they will be fired and/or subjected to a hostile work environment. According to our callers, bullying for being different doesn’t necessarily end at high-school graduation. No one deserves to lose his/her job or have an uncomfortable workplace because of sexual orientation or gender identification. As incredible as it seems in 2011, the majority of states have NO state-wide law the prohibits discrimination in the work place because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Nor does the U.S. have a federal law the provides equal protection. In some places, individual cities have provided protection, but if you travel outside of that city, you might just have lost your ability to work.
That’s why it is so critical for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that will protect all members of our GLBT community.
For legal advice, the following organizations can be helpful:
- Lambda Legal
- The American Civil Liberties Union
- In the Washington D.C. area, GAYLAW
- In the San Francisco area, The Legal Aid Society
For more links, please also see the Out & Equal website.
Although they cannot dispense legal advice, our peer-counselor volunteers are happy to listen and discuss the feelings surrounding a discriminatory work environment. Please let us know if we can help.
The next Presidential election is now one year away, but already things seem to be in full swing. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues (including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Defense of Marriage Act, marriage equality in general, etc.) remain hot-button topics for political campaigns, and that can be emotionally troubling for members of the queer community.
Many GLBT people intellectually recognize the importance of having discussions about inequality and acceptance on a national scale. But intellectually knowing this doesn’t stop them from experiencing hurt, anger, and sadness when politicians openly discuss their equality rights and whether or not their sexual orientations or gender identifications are choices.
In one study, University of Kentucky psychologist Sharon Scales Rostosky, PhD, surveyed more than 1,500 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults across the nation and found that respondents from the 25 states that have outlawed same-sex marriage had the highest reports of “minority stress”—the chronic social stress that results from minority-group stigmatization—as well as general psychological distress. The negative campaigning that comes with a ban is directly responsible for the increased stress, says Rostosky. Past research has shown that minority stress is linked to health risks such as risky sexual behavior and substance abuse.
See the American Psychological Association site for the full article.
If political events are making you feel anxious, or if you just need to talk about what you’re feeling, please call us, start a chat, or send us an email.