Questions and Answers
What does sexual orientation mean? What is heterosexuality? Homosexuality? Lesbian/gay/bisexuality?
Sexual orientation means if someone is heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. A heterosexual person, or someone who is "straight," is attracted to people of the opposite sex. A homosexual person, or someone who is "gay or lesbian," is attracted to people of the same sex. A bisexual person is attracted to both men and women.
What makes someone gay?
Some people believe gay people are born gay, while others believe they choose to be gay. Most researchers believe sexual orientation is complex, and that biology plays an important role. This means that many people are born with their sexual orientation, or that it’s established at an early age.
Can parents make a child gay?
You can’t raise a child to be gay. Nor can parents or therapists change a young person’s sexual orientation, just as they can’t change their eye color, race or height.
What about the "cures" for homosexuality I’ve read about?
No research has shown that "reparative therapy" (psychotherapy to eliminate individuals’ sexual desires for their own sex) or "transformational ministry" (the use of religion to eliminate those desires) is successful. In fact, every mainstream mental health and medical organization says these methods may be harmful. They warn that attempts to "cure" lesbians and gay men may help change sexual behavior temporarily but will also create emotional trauma.
What is the difference between homosexual people and transgender people?
Homosexuality (and heterosexuality) refers to a person’s sexual orientation, or to whom a person feels attracted. Transgender refers to a person’s gender identity, or how a person expresses their femininity or masculinity. For people who are transgender, their gender identity is different from the sex they were born. This means that someone may be born a male but feel emotionally like a female or vice versa. Some transgender people use clothes, hormones and/or surgery to fully express their gender in the world.
Is homosexuality unhealthy?
All sexual behaviors have health risks, and it’s important for teens to know this. But being gay does not make someone unhealthy or unhappy. What is unhealthy is prejudice against gays and lesbians. This prejudice can be especially damaging for young gay people who are often harassed and made to feel ashamed of who they are. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association recognized homosexuality as a normal human behavior, and since then all other major health professional organizations have supported this fact.
Is homosexuality immoral?
Some religions continue to teach that homosexuality is immoral, and other spiritual communities and faiths accept people of all ages who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. No matter what your religious beliefs, a key value to share with your child is to treat all people with respect.
If I think my child is gay, what should I do?
Parents are likely to have a range of reactions. Some may hope their child is simply going through a phase, while others may wonder if they did something wrong. And some worry that their children will have harder lives because they are gay. Other parents are supportive and loving of their child’s sexuality. Whatever your reaction, try to provide a supportive, non-judgmental ear. Consider helping your child get more information by talking with other gay teens and contacting your local PFLAG, GLSEN or gay youth center. Above all else, your child needs to feel that you will always love him or her no matter what.
"After my daughter came out, I began attending PFLAG for support. PFLAG stands for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Joining PFLAG was a great, great help. The group support made me a lot more comfortable being open about having a bisexual child. At PFLAG I discovered that this is not such a big deal. This is nothing to be ashamed of. I began to feel that I could be a role model for other people, to protect other kids from hostile environments in our schools and culture. It is my hope that we as parents promote respect for everyone and try to appreciate the richness that diversity offers."
mother of two,
grandmother of one,
Shaker Heights, Ohio