When we or someone we love or care for is LGBTQ, why and how did it happen?
- Is it our fault? Did we do something wrong?
- Is it a result of making choices?
- Can we attribute it to poor parenting or childhood trauma?
- Can we simply dismiss it as a stage or form of rebellion?
- Can we change sexual orientation and gender identity through counseling or reparation therapy?
We might believe some or all of those assumptions, but none are true. So how do we understand why someone is LGBTQ?
- The reality is complex and often requires us to think in new and different ways.
- Sexuality and gender resemble inherent traits as opposed to acquired ones.
- Sexuality and gender feel as innate as anything else we are born with and discover at an early age, like our muscle reflexes.
- It is not a choice but just how some of us are.
- There is nothing wrong with these natural variances in sexual orientation and gender identity.
- They have always been with us and our part of our human diversity and history.
How are sexual orientation and gender identity determined?
- No one knows exactly how sexual orientation and gender identity are determined but experts agree that it is a complicated set of genetics, biology, psychological and social factors.
- For most people, sexual orientation and gender identity are shaped at any early age.
- While research has not determined a cause, sexual orientation and gender variance are not the result of any one factor like parenting or past experiences.
- If we are asking ourself why we or our loved one is LGBTQ, we can consider asking another question: Why ask why?
- We don’t really know why people are straight or binary, either. So why ask this question of ourselves or the people we love?
- Regardless of cause, all LGBTQ people are a normal human variance, deserve equal rights, and are worthy of dignity and love.
Is there something wrong with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer?
- There is absolutely nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.
- Historians and scientists have shown that LGBTQ people have existed across cultures and time,.
- LGBTQ exists even where it is highly forbidden and the dominant culture is cisgender and heterosexual.
- Being gay is not an illness or a disorder, a fact that is agreed upon by both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association in 1974.
- Being transgender or gender variant is not a disorder either, (although Gender Identity Dysphoria is still listed in the DSM of the American Psychiatric Association, primarily because transgender people often require medical treatment for it.)
- Being LGBTQ is as much a human variation as being left-handed—less common than the norm and just another piece of who we are.
How common is it to be gay and transgender?
- Being gay is common enough that chances are we are related to someone gay right now or have someone gay in our family tree. Most of us have encountered gay people all our lives, though in some cases, we were not aware of it.
- Right now, estimates range that anywhere from 3% to 10% of the world population is gay, but these numbers are biased by widespread homophobia.
- Being transgender is more rare. Transgender statistics are also difficult to obtain. Right now, 0.3 percent is a current estimate within the US population.
- Estimates of LGBTQ people will become more accurate when more societies, including our own, achieve full equality: that way, people can truthfully answer surveys without fear and stigma.
How does someone know they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?
- Some LGBTQ people say that they have “felt different” from when they were young or even as early as they can remember.
- Some gay people feel attracted to people of the same sex at an early age.
- Some transgender people feel from an early age that their true gender identity did not match the one assigned to them at birth.
- Other LGBTQ people do not figure out their sexual orientation or gender identity until they are adolescents or adults.
- It can take a while for people to put a label to their feelings. Or people’s feelings—and their labels— might change over time.
- Understanding our sexuality and gender can be a lifelong process, so not all of us can label ourselves right away.
- As we provide more open and positive images of LGBTQ people and information is more accessible, it is becoming easier for some people to identify their feelings and come out at earlier ages.
- People don’t have to be sexually active to know their sexual orientation or to be actively transitioning to know their true gender
- Feelings and emotions are as much a part of one’s identity. The short answer is, we know when we know.
Even if being LGBTQ is normal, how do we know it’s not a phase or experiment when it comes to our children and teens? Don’t kids and teens constantly experiment?
- Young children and teens do try all sorts of activities and personas that we might call a phase or experiment, which they leave behind as they grow up.
- Young children and teens often experiment with opposite gender roles and most outgrow it or if not, still feel they are the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Some straight children or teens still might have a mild crush on someone of their own gender and also might experiment with sexual play or activity with the same sex.
So how do we know it’s not a stage or phase for our LGBTQ children? We know because our children tell us.
- If our teenager tells us that they only have strong feelings for the same sex and have felt that way as long as they can remember, we know they are not just telling us they idolize a peer or tried something sexually just to see what it was like.
- If our child/teenager persistently, consistently, and insistently tells us they feel the opposite gender from the one they were assigned at birth and that they feel consumed by this feeling, we know they are not just telling us they feel like a “tom boy” or have non-traditional gender interest.
- If our teenager comes out to us in person or via a letter, and tells us it’s important that we see their truth, we know it took them a long and extensive process to determine their sexuality and gender, even if they kept it private from us.
What if our children themsevles tell us they are not sure?
- Our children can be questioning, which is perfectly okay.
- People, including our children, operate on different schedules. Some gay or transgender people will say: “I always knew from the minute I can remember.” For others, figuring out their sexual orientation and gender identity is a longer process.
- Giving our children freedom to explore is not going to make our kids one way or another. That is, refusing to give a child space to explore if he is gay will not make him straight. Similarly, letting a young child explore cross-gender behavior and activities will not make our child transgender.
- Questioning and trying things on is not causal. Our children do not develop a sexual orientation or gender identity because we give them permission to explore or experiment.
What does a questioning child need from us?
- Acknowledgement that some people do question sexual orientation and gender identity and that there is nothing wrong with it.
- Access to the accurate, age-appropriate information about sexual orientation and gender identity. Keep in mind that their school’s sexual education program might not cover these areas at all, which means exploring other resources.
- Respect for their self-identification. Some children might not be ready to apply labels to themselves while others might find it extremely important for us to acknowledge their identity (even if that identity might change in the next few years).
- Assurance that wherever they land at the end of their journey, that we will love them, support them, and be proud of them.
What is reparative therapy and why is it wrong?
- Reparative therapy is a set of practices conducted to “cure” sexual orientation and gender identity through conversion therapy.
- This therapy is also called “ex-gay” or “pray the gay away” therapy as well as “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE).
- Reparative therapy has been repudiated as a pseudo-science by virtually every major medical or mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association and the American Medical Association.
Is reparative therapy ever dangerous or even fatal?
- Yes. It is not only a pseudo-treatment but a life-threatening one.
- Reparative therapy is harmful at the very least, and potentially dangerous or lethal, especially to minors, where it can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.
- Multiple states and counties in the US have passed laws banning licensed providers from offering “conversion therapy” to minors, and similar bills are being considered in other states.
What is PFLAG National’s policy regarding reparation therapy?
PFLAG National takes a strong position against reparation therapy and states on record:
- We believe such efforts are harmful to the emotional and mental health of the targeted individuals.
- These attempts originate from cultural bias based on myth, misperception and misunderstanding.
- We encourage all professional, educational and religious organizations to work toward changing these cultural biases rather than embarking on futile and damaging efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Even if people don’t choose to be LGBTQ, why do they make it a big deal or flaunt it?
- Actually LGBTQ people don’t choose to flaunt sexual orientation and gender identity any more than straight and cisgender people do.
- We’re all conditioned to perform and accept public demonstrations of our sexual orientation, from social rituals like proms and weddings to family photos in our office.
- We’re all conditioned to express our gender identity, from our innate traits to culturally-influenced aspects, like fashion and style.
- So when we tell LGBTQ people to not “flaunt” their sexual orientation and gender identity, we are telling them to embrace closet behavior—to hide or lie about the who they are and the people they love.
- Imagine if we had to conceal being straight or cis gender—the planning, deception, and repression it would entail and the impact on our relationships with colleagues, friends, and family.
- Living out loud and being true to ourselves is normal, human, and healthy—and driven by an innate sense of self that we all have.
- LGBTQ people hold Pride parades and events to celebrate how far we’ve come and reinforce our commitment to keep pushing. That’s because we face discrimination, adversity and repression, yet we remain resilient.
- Some of us feel part of queer culture and enjoy its special symbols of expression. That’s because all sorts of people form communities based on commonalities.
- Like everyone else, we want the freedom to just be ourselves.