Click below for frequently asked questions from LGBTQA individuals, friends, and family members.
What does it mean to be lesbian, gay bisexual, or transgender?
Males that identify as gay are sexually attracted to and fall in love with other men. Females that identify as lesbian are women who are attracted to other women. Bisexuals are individuals that have feelings of attraction for both men and women. Transgender people were born either male or female and identify with the “other gender”. You can find more detailed terms listed on the “LGBTQA A-Z” page here at the WebCenter.
Some experts estimate that about one in 10 people in the world may identify as LGBT. This means that in any large group of people, there are usually several LGBT people present. However, often no one can tell whether someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender unless he or she wants it known.
How do I know if I’m lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender?
While you may not know what to call your sexual feelings, there is no reason for you to feel as though you must rush to decide how to label yourself. Sexual identity is a very personal matter that is different for every individual. Your sexual feelings may be so strong that they are not directed toward particular people or situations but seem to emerge without cause. You can become more comfortable with your sexual identity over time. Only you will know how to label yourself correctly, and that label can change over time.
Is being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender normal?
Identifying as something other than heterosexual is absolutely normal. Many individuals are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Some may feel abnormal because of the lack of LGBT representation found throughout society. Take time to read more about LGBT identities. The LGBTQA WebCenter is a great place to start finding information. Check out the “Get Connected”, “Illinois Resources”, and “National Resources” pages for even more locations to find further information.
What is “coming out?”
As individuals feel more comfortable with their identities, some feel the desire to tell others about their orientation. This is known as “coming out”. Coming out is a process that happens again and again over the course of a lifetime. Because LGBTQ identities are not the norm in society, many individuals automatically assume others are heterosexual, forcing an LGBTQ person to feel the need to come out over and over again. You can find a more detailed information about coming out, Cass’ Model for identity development, and questions to consider before coming out on the “Coming Out” section of the LGBTQA WebCenter.
How can I reconcile my sexual orientation with my faith?
The navigation of a LGBTQ sexual orientation and faith is a difficult question for many people. It is important to understand that being LGBTQ does not impact a person's ability to be moral and spiritual. There are many LGBT individuals who are active within their religious communities. It is up to you to explore, question and make choices in order to reconcile religion with homosexuality and gender variance. Faith is a very personal matter, just as sexuality, and is experienced in many different ways by different people.
What should I do if I feel I have been harassed as an LGBTQ individual?
It is the policy of Eastern Illinois University that sexual harassment of one member of the campus community by another will not be tolerated. Harassment and discrimination should not be something you should deal with alone. There are three offices that faculty, staff, or students can contact to report harassment or discrimination Office of Civil Rights and Diversity at 217-581-5020; University Police Department at 217-581-3213 or Office of Student Standards at 217-581-3827.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reports annually on the national climate for LGBTQ individuals. In 2008, NCAVP found that the total number of victims reporting anti-LGBT violence to NCAVP in 2008 was 2,424 which represents a 2% increase over the total number of victims reported in 2007 and a 26% increase over a two year period. Known anti-LGBT murders rose 28% from 2007 to 2008 and are at the highest level since 1999. For more information about national statistics and to read the full report, visit the NCAVP webpage at http://www.ncavp.org/.
Can gay people have families?
Many LGBTQ individuals do have families. LGBTQ couples form committed and loving relationships just as their heterosexual counterparts. In the United States, many LGBTQ couples choose to celebrate their love with commitment ceremonies or civil unions, even though in some places these couples are not offered the same rights and benefits of marriage. Adoption laws vary from state to state, but a growing number of LGBTQ couples are also raising children and forming families. For more information about LGBTQ families, check out the “National Resources” page of the LGBTQA WebCenter.
In what ways can I reach out to my friend about his or her sexual orientation?
The best way to reach out to any friend in need is to make sure they are aware of your support for them. Frequently, the topic of sexual orientation can be hard for a friend to talk about until they are very comfortable with themselves and positive that revealing the information will not harm the friendship you share. The best way to reach out to a friend is to be ready for them to reach out to you.
How can I help my friend be more open about this?
It is common to want to be able to assist a friend in their development of a positive identity. It is important to understand that it may take some LGBT individuals a long time to become personally accepting of themselves. Letting your friend know that your personal views of them have not altered is the best way to show support. Some individuals may not choose to disclose their sexual orientation to many people. It may also be helpful to aid your friend in finding more information about the LGBTQ community. Directing them to the LGBTQA WebCenter will provide them with a good resource to start exploring a LGBTQ identity.
What if I don't feel comfortable when I find out?
It is very important to be able to assess and address personal feelings and biases when learning about other sexual orientations than our own. It is natural to feel at odds with a topic that is foreign to us. Becoming more informed about LGBT individuals will allow you to form a well rounded, personal opinion on non-heterosexual attraction. Being open and honest with yourself will allow you to do the same for your friend.
To better understand the experiences of your friend, explore the “Coming Out” page in the LGBTQA WebCenter. This will allow you to better understand the struggle that you friend maybe facing during their coming out process.
How do I defend my friend to other friends who are homophobic?
Many people struggle with their own perceptions of LGBT individuals. Not being comfortable with a topic that is foreign to us is natural. If you have friends showing signs of homophobia, it will be more beneficial if you try to inform them about non-heterosexual orientations. When taking time to understand LGBT individuals and the struggles they must face, hopefully a friend will be able to see the harm that negative viewpoints inflict on others.
Can I still talk to my friend about my dating life?
Your friend is still a person that you can confide in just as you did prior to knowing about their sexual orientation. Their personal feelings towards you are no different, and they will want to be a part of your life just as you will want to be a part of theirs.
In what circumstances is it alright to "out" a gay friend?
“Outing,” or disclosing a person’s sexual orientation to others without permission, is rarely ever acceptable in any situation. An LGBTQ individual should be the person that is allowed to make the choice as to who they wish to disclose their personal life to. As a friend, it can be easy to believe we are helping a LGBT friend by disclosing their orientation to others. It is important to understand that sexual orientation is a very private matter that LGBT individuals should have the choice to disclose to the people of their choosing, when and where they are most comfortable.
Should I feel guilty about the privileges I have because I'm straight?
You should not feel discouraged at the privilege you are personally awarded in life. However, it is important to take time to understand the experience of people that do not gain those same privileges do to uncontrollable factors in their lives. Many find ways to turn their privilege into an advantage for those not awarded it. A good way to do this is to take time to discover different ways to become an active ally.
I'm getting married next year; should I still ask my gay friend to be in the wedding?
Try not to push away your friend because of joy you have been able to achieve in life. Inviting them to share the experience with you lets them know that they are still a valued and loved friend in your life. However, it is important to be understanding if your LGBT friend decides not to be in attendance. Some LGBT individuals may struggle in celebration of marriage due to restrictions on marriage in some places.
What is the best way to approach the conversation? Should I talk to a loved one about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity before the person talks to me?
If you are questioning a friend and their sexual orientation, it is very important for you to be able to recognize that your friend may be personally struggling, or your perception of an individual may be completely different from what is reality. Sexual orientation is a deeply personal issue that one has to accept before they can move to telling people close to them.
However, it is acceptable to let your friend or loved one know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk. They may be looking for someone who is caring, open, and accepting of who they are.
How does someone know they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?
Some people say that they have "felt different" or knew they were attracted to people of the same sex from the time they were very young. Some transgender individuals talk about feeling from an early age that their gender identity did not match parental and social expectations. Others do not figure out their sexual orientation or gender identity until they are adolescents or adults. Often it can take time for a person to put a label to their feelings, or people's feelings may change over time.
Understanding our sexuality and gender can be a lifelong process, and many argue that people shouldn't worry about labeling themselves right away. People don't have to be sexually active to know their sexual orientation as feelings and emotions are as much a part of one's identity.
What do I do if someone comes out to me?
If someone feels comfortable with you and feels open enough to tell you about their sexual orientation, hopefully you are able to take a moment to reflect on the level of trust they feel in your friendship. It is often very hard for some individuals to talk about their orientation as this is a very private detail about themselves. The best thing you can do for an individual that comes out to you is be there for them and let them understand that you are supportive of them no matter what their sexual orientation is. It is important that the individual know that you still share your love with them.
My friend has been suicidal due to his/her guilt associated with his/her sexual orientation; how should I support this friend without violating his/her trust?
Suicidal thoughts can be very dangerous for anyone regardless of sexual orientation. It is important for an individual to find aid and have support from loved ones during this time. Encourage a friend to seek out someone to talk to about their thoughts where they will be able to express themselves openly without the threat of judgment or misunderstanding. The Counseling Center at Eastern Illinois University is a valuable place to turn to for assistance in this area. Contact a center employee at 217-581-3413. Suicidal thoughts are a very important matter that your friend may need assistance with; do not feel as though you are breaking their trust by telling a professional. Their safety should be your first priority.
What causes homosexuality?
Sexuality is something that can be expressed in a wide range of ways. There is not a set kind of sexuality that all people adhere to because human beings are all very diverse.
Is there something wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?
Homosexuality 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.
Historians have determined that homosexuality has existed since the beginning of humanity and anthropologists report that LGBTQ people have been part of every culture. LGBTQ people are represented in every socioeconomic class, educational level, and race.
Can you tell if people are LGBTQ by their appearance?
All lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals are different and diverse mannerisms, style choices, lifestyles. Many stereotypes exist revolving around the LGBTQ community and their appearances. While some individuals may be viewed as acting or dressing from within this stereotypical realm, all LGBTQ individuals are different. Many people do not fit into stereotypical understandings of the LGBT community and are invisible to the general public.
Do lesbians or gay men hate the opposite sex?
Lesbians and gay men identity as lesbian or gay because of the emotional and sexual attraction they have to members of the same sex. Dislike members of the opposite sex is a common stereotype and misconception of lesbian and gay men.
What about HIV/AIDS?
The despite overwhelming statistics documenting the spread of HIV/AIDS in other communities, many people still choose to view the disease as an issue restricted to the LGBTQ community.
HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk. This transmission can involve anal, vaginal or oralsex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids. These interactions can occur within the heterosexual community as well as LGBTQ communities.
Why did our son or daughter have to tell us?
When a child decides to come out to their family members, they are expressing a desire to be open with their loved ones. They may feel the need to be honest and open to the people they love, are close to, and care about.
It can be a very difficult admission for a son or daughter to make and support is needed as well as understanding from the people that mean the most to them. Some parents may initially feel it would be better if they did not know about their son or daughter.
To understand more about what your son or daughter is going through, feel free to explore the “Coming Out” section of the LGBTQA WebCenter for more information about the coming out process and what your child may be experiencing.
Is this just a phase?
Homosexuality is not a phase or something a person chooses to be. Hopefully you are able to take time and be thankful that your son or daughter feels close enough to you that they know your love for them will not fade. It is important to remember that nothing about your son or daughter is different after they tell you about their sexuality. They are still the same person whom you have known for their whole lives.
It is true some people do experiment with their sexuality, but someone who has reached the point to come out to you has thought for a long time about their sexuality. This is something that your son or daughter has take time to think about, and they are now ready to include you in this significant part of their life.
Why did he or she take so long to tell us?
It is normal for parents to feel guilty or worried because their child has gone through so much on their own before sharing information about their sexuality. Sometimes it can take and individual years to come to the realization that they may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
Parents may interpret this as being a lack of trust, lack of love or perhaps bad parenting. It can also be painful to realize that you didn’t know your child as well as you thought. Remember how hard it may have been for your child to come to terms with his or her sexuality.
It is common to feel disappointed because your daughter or son did not tell you this information sooner, but remember what picture our society paints. Your child may have not known your feelings on sexuality or maybe they knew too well your feelings on this subject.
Why is our child gay?
It is common for parents feel that their child’s sexuality is somehow their own fault. However, this is not true. While it is not really known for what makes and individual homosexual, bisexual or transgender, it is known is sexual identity has nothing to do with the way and individual has been brought up.
Homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender individuals come from all forms of backgrounds. There are instances where there is one gay twin and the other is straight. Both brought up exactly the same way. Sometimes there is more than one gay child in the family that identifies as LGBT.
Some LGBT people are brought up in single parent homes just like a lot of children these days but not all turn out to be GLBT. Some children also are brought up with LGBT parents and do not identify as LGBT themselves. It is important to accept that it is not anyone’s fault and another individual identifies as LGBT.
Why am I uncomfortable with my child’s sexuality or gender?
It is common to be uncomfortable with anything that is different from the norm and different from what may have been planned. It can sometimes be easy to map out a child’s future unknowingly. When a child comes out, it is easy to believe that their future is drastically going to be changed.
It is also common to believe that now a child will have to live a life of secrecy and not get married and not produce grandchildren. Some parents may believe that their child can not possibly be happy not being heterosexual. Or, some may feel that others will think you that they have failed as parents.
All of these struggles are common and are not necessarily true. All LGBT individuals have the potential to find happiness just as heterosexuals do. They can still be happy, successful, have a lifetime partner and even have children.
To become more comfortable with LGBT identities, take time to read more information about being LGBT. The LGBTQA WebCenter has a lot of information that will prove valuable in your exploration.
Why must our child flaunt their sexuality?
They are being themselves. Showing and receiving affection from someone you love is very important for a person’s well being.
In fact many LGBT people are more likely not to show affection in public because of the negativity that it may bring. Sometimes when our son or daughter comes out they may change the way they dress or cut their hair and this may be a shock to you. They are just feeling free to be who they are now they have come out. This may look like flaunting but again it’s just being who they truly are.
Should we tell extended family and friends?
Coming out for a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person can be very difficult and coming out for a parent can be very difficult as well. Before you telling family or friends please ask your child’s permission. Because you will be discussing their personal sexuality, it is important to keep in mind how private this matter can be to some individuals.
Will my child be ostracized, have trouble keeping a job, or even be physically attacked?
Unfortunately, because of the society we live in, there is no clear answer. This can happen to some people, but not everybody and not all the time. There are some individuals that these issues may arise with and others are lucky to never experience these items. While overall society has still got a long way to go, you may be surprised that people in general are far more accepting of LGBT people.
Gay rights groups are working all the time to help to fight discrimination in schools and work places. They also have fought to change laws against homosexuals and their rights.
To find out more about these groups, check out the “National Resources” page of the LGBTQA WebCenter.
Will my child get AIDS?
It is important to share safe sex practices with your child regardless of sexual orientation. If he or she practices safe sex by always using a condom, water based lubricant and also does not share needles, they greatly minimize any risk associated with contracting HIV/AIDS.
It is also valuable to remember that HIV is not a gay disease, everyone is at risk. All individuals gay or straight, male or female should be educated in how to prevent being infected with HIV. Prevention is the best solution as there is no cure.
Will my child become a pedophile?
It is a common serotype the pedophilia is synonymous with the LGBTQ community. Pedophilia and other forms of child abuse mainly happen in the child’s home environment and are most often perpetrated by a family member or close friend of the family. The majority of child abuse carried out is by people identifying as heterosexual.