What does it mean to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender?
Men who call themselves gay are sexually attracted to and fall in love with other men. Lesbians are women who are attracted to other women. Bisexuals have feelings of attraction for both men and women. Transgender people were born either male or female and identify with the “other gender”. All of these sexual feelings are normal and natural. Some experts estimate that about one in 10 people in the world may be gay or lesbian. This means that in any large group of people, there are usually several LGBT people present. However, no one can tell whether someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender unless he or she wants it known. LGBT people can blend right in with other people, but they often feel different from other people.
How do I know if I’m gay?
You may not know what to call your sexual feelings. You don’t have to rush to decide how to label yourself right now. Sexual identity develops over time. Your sexual feelings may be so strong that they are not directed toward particular people or situations but seem to emerge without cause. If you think you might be gay, here are some questions you might ask yourself: Have I ever had a crush on or been in love with someone of the same sex? Who do I dream or sexually fantasize about? If your answers to these questions are not clear, don’t worry. You will be more comfortable with your sexual identity over time. Only you will know how to label yourself correctly, and that label can change over time.
Am I normal?
Yes, you are absolutely normal. Many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Do you want to learn more? Start by reading. The web is an incredible resource. However, the information can be both overwhelming and inaccurate. Books may be a more reliable resource. The LGBT Programs Center has a large Resource Library. You could look for books in local or university library. Or, you may want to check out the gay, lesbian and gender studies sections of bookstores. Finally, you may want to order books and other materials off the Internet. However, be aware that not all books about LGBT people are supportive. If you want to talk to someone about what’s going on, you can visit the LGBT Programs Center in 354 Baker University Center or call 740-593-0239.
How do I learn to like you?
It may not be easy to discover that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Many people are uncomfortable being around LGBT people-some hate LGBT people. You may worry about people finding out about how you feel. Maybe you avoid other people that may be LGBT because you worry about what other people will think. Working this hard to conceal your thoughts and feelings is called “being in the closet.” It is a painful and lonely place to be, especially if you stay there in order to survive. It takes a lot of energy to deny your feelings, and denial can be costly. You may have tried using alcohol or other drugs to numb yourself against your feelings and your worries. You may have considered suicide. If so, know that this is okay. There are many people at OU who care. If you are in crisis, contact Counseling and Psychological Services for help at 740-593-1616. You and your feelings are valuable, and you have alternatives to denial.
What is “coming out?”
More and more LGBT people are learning to feel better about themselves. As you start to listen to your deepest feelings and learn more about what being LGBT means, you will begin to be comfortable with yourself. This is the process called “coming out.” Coming out is a process that happens again and again; it is not just a one-time deal and does not follow a linear course. It occurs initially when you acknowledge to yourself (the most important and difficult aspect of coming out) and to others that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. You claim that orientation at your own pace and begin to be more or less public with it. Coming out to yourself is one of the most important, and often most difficult, steps in developing a positive self-identity for LGBT individuals. It involves much soul searching, introspection, and a healthy sense of self-appreciation and acceptance.
Whom should I tell?
Tell yourself that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The first step is to say, “That’s Okay. I’m Okay.” Later you may want to tell someone else – someone you trust to be understanding and sympathetic. You might choose a friend, a sibling, a parent, or other adult. Some people are able to come out to their families. Others are not. Start low with someone you trust and the rest will unfold as it should. In the beginning, be cautious about whom you tell, but be honest with yourself. Just as self-denial costs you, coming out will pay off. When LGBT people accept themselves, most say they feel calmer, happier, and more confident.
Why come out?
Coming out allows the person to develop as a whole individual, allows for greater empowerment, and is a necessary part of developing a healthy and positive identity. Once “out”, you are more able to share with others who you are and what is important to you. Additionally, you will better be able to develop close and mutually satisfying relationships. Coming out is honest and real, and ends the stress of hiding or keeping a secret and living a double life. It reduces isolation and alienation, allowing for increased interaction with and support from other LGBT individuals.
Edited from “Aggie Ally” materials, Texas A&M 2004