Many people who identify as LGBTQ (the acronym stands for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer / Questioning) feel they cannot reveal or talk about their sexual identity to their friends, families and community.
There are a range of reasons why LGBTQ people feel they cannot be their true selves. Usually, it’s because they fear they will be unfairly judged by their family, friends and peers. Common concerns include a fear (real and perceived) that:
- They will be told that being gay is ‘unnatural’ or not normal.
- They will be accused of going through a ‘phase’.
- It goes against family expectations that that they will carry on the family line.
- It is ‘against’ religious or cultural beliefs.
Some same-sex attracted people may feel they risk being discriminated against or bullied if they reveal their true identity, and that they will be excluded, harassed or even have to fear for their safety.
If you are in this situation, remember that it gets better with time. You will find your sexual place in the world and find people around you who support and accept you for who you are.
So am I normal if I feel same-sex attraction?
Same-sex attraction is in no way unusual, immoral, abnormal or sick. It does not need to be cured or fixed. There are thousands of people going through the same situation at this moment. In fact, one in four families will have a family member who is gay or lesbian. There are an estimated 2 million same-sex attracted people in Australia.
Will I know if I’m gay or bisexual?
Some same-sex attracted people know who they are from a very young age. However, for others, there is a period of uncertainty or questioning. Even so, not everyone who questions their sexuality ends up identifying as gay or bi. Many young people have sexual experiences with their own sex or ‘feelings’ towards someone of the same gender at some point; this is a normal part of exploring your sexuality. You may come to realise that this is your preferred form of sexual expression.
Labels such as ‘gay’, ‘bi’, ‘queer’ or ‘straight’ are just that: labels. They help place ourselves and others into easily understood categories. But you are a person, not a label or a pigeon-hole. Getting hung up on defining your sexuality before you are ready can cause a lot of unnecessary grief. If you are unsure what to call yourself at this point, a better approach might be just to think of yourself as a sexual being. Eventually, you may find a label that feels right – but this is best in your own time, when you’re comfortable with it.
How will I feel after I come out?
Coming out is the process of telling friends, family members, or others about your same-sex attraction. Many people fear negative reactions when they disclose their sexuality. Sometimes this fear is justified, as some people may respond badly, despite the fact that modern attitudes are much more accepting than they once were.
A bad response can be very disappointing and hurtful, especially if it comes from someone close like your own family. On the other hand, many young people are often surprised by how supportive and accepting the response is.
Coming out can be a huge relief. It may ease the feelings of isolation. You may feel like you can finally be yourself, and not have to lie anymore. However, it is extremely important that you do this only when you feel comfortable with the situation.
What is homophobia?
Homophobia is an attitude of irrational fear or hostility towards gays and lesbians. It can take a subtle form, such as put-downs or ‘jokes’, or be expressed in overt discrimination, harassment or violence.
Most gays and lesbians experience homophobic attitudes at some point, and it is often very distressing. It is important to remember that just because you are attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean you lose any of your rights as a human being. Harassment and violence are unacceptable regardless of whom they are directed at.
Need to talk to someone or got questions about same-sex attraction? You can talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.