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Understanding LGBTQ

Regardless of your upbringing and personal beliefs, you can’t ignore that there’s a whole group of people that are still misunderstood at this day in age.

Once upon a time, being gay was considered a mental health disorder. It wasn’t until 1973 that “homosexuality” was removed from the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual (DSM)

All though we have grown and come a long way, there is still a lot of ignorance and judgements towards these individuals.

Here are some common questions I get from people who want to better understand LGBTQ individuals.

What is LGBTQ?

The letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning or Queer

Are Transgender people gay?

Being gay, lesbian and bisexual have to do with the sex someone is attracted to. Just like you have a preference of the people you find attractive; body build, height, color hair, etc., some people are attracted emotionally, romantically and/or sexually to men, women or both sexes.

Transgender has to do with the gender someone feels that they are. A male who feels trapped in a male’s body but feels like a female, is a transgender female. A woman who feels trapped inside a female body, but feels like a man, is a transgender male. Transgender individuals struggle with feeling comfortable in their own skin because psychologically they feel the opposite sex they were born as.

Someone may be transgender and still be attracted to the opposite or same sex. Gender is how the person feels, sexuality is who they are attracted to.

Is being LGBTQ a choice?

There are some people that  discovered that they were attracted to a person who happened to be the same sex or became clear with how uncomfortable they feel in their body, later in life. But for most people, from a young age, they already felt “different”.

Think about the ignorance and discrimination that LGBTQ individuals have to endure. Everything from workplace and housing discrimination, judgements from family and strangers, having to defend who they love, and dealing with actual assaults or threats. Do you think that they choose to put up with these things?

How do people know what they identify as?

Usually during the middle school years, it’s very common for teens to question their sexuality and their identity as they are trying to figure out who they are, separate from family norms. Some people even report feeling different as early as pre-school, they just didn’t know what to label it as. Some people know that they are lesbian, gay transgender or bisexual for a long time before they actually pursue relationships with other people or begin wanting to live as the different gender.

A person can begin to have emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to different types of people and be afraid of speaking up for different reasons, such as religion, facing prejudice and for safety reasons.

Through pursuing different relationships, as well as life experience, it becomes more and more clear of how they identify as.

At what age should people “come out”?

There is no simple answer to this question. The risks and benefits of coming out are different for young people for several reasons. For some young people, they have families that are supportive and accepting no matter what. For these youths, the risk of developing depression and anxiety are decreased just because they have that buffer of a supportive family.

However, for young people who live in a less supportive family, they may face more risks in coming out. Out of fear of not being accepted for who they are, they may come out later in life, or not at all. Everyone who comes out may experience bias, discrimination, or even violence in their schools, work places and faith communities. But when a person has supportive families, friends and schools, it’s so much easier to deal with the negative impacts of these experiences.

What causes someone to be gay or transgender?

There is no scientific evidence that says that sexual and gender orientation is genetic or some form of “defect” For most people, there’s little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

I have had clients that say that they chose to be gay. However, I believe that that attraction to the same sex had to already be there because it’s very hard to force yourself to be with someone you are not attracted to.

And all of the Transgender clients I’ve had, all state always feeling different and uncomfortable in their body. Not due to weight or size, but either hating their penis or breasts.

Is it a sin to be LGBTQ?

Looking at it as a sin has to do with people’s personal beliefs and teachings, not facts. Looking at it as a sin is another way that contributes to hate and discrimination. Religion is supposed to preach love and unity, not hate and separation of one another.

 

It’s important to remember that  who someone is attracted to or how they feel about their own gender is only a part of who they are. Just as you  may be attracted to the opposite sex, thats not the only thing that defines you. You might also be a parent, a brother, a student, a dancer, a teacher, etc. Our sexuality is only one part of who we are, not wholly who we are.

Next time you notice your own prejudices towards someone because of who they love or how they feel, question where that comes from. Is this way of thinking something you were taught?  Are you against something you don’t understand? It’s important to recognize your own limitations in order to contribute to a more accepting, connected human race.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking individuals in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.

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