Perhaps you or someone you know has read or been talking about gender and/or sexual identity. Or maybe you would like to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community! This article will help to answer some of the most common questions about sexual/gender orientation.
While language is changing and evolving constantly, it is always a good idea to start by understanding what these terms are and their definition. Terms and language is also a way for a community to take back power, identity and respect for themselves.
What does LGBTQ+ stand for?
LGBT stands for:
- Lesbian: A woman who is sexually attracted to women.
- Gay: Men who are sexually attracted to men.
- Bisexual: A person who experiences sexual attraction towards men and women.
- Transgender: At birth, children are assigned a sex (male/female) by a doctor based on their anatomy. Transgender people are those whose gender identity does not match the biological sex they were born as. For example, someone born male but identifies as female may be transgender.
- Queer/questioning: Queer is an umbrella term that can be used to define any orientation, including the terms mentioned above.
It is a term that has been reclaimed by the LGBT community to mean something positive, rather than in a derogatory way in which it is often used.
- Questioning can be used to define an individual who is exploring one’s gender expression/identity or sexual orientation.
Some other terms used:
- Intersex: A person who is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male.
- Asexual: A term to define individuals feeling little to no sexual attraction/desire for their preferred gender.
What causes sexual or gender identity?
While scientists do not yet fully understand exactly how one's sexual identity is developed; studies do suggest that sexual orientation has a biological and genetic influence.
What is important to remember is that just like heterosexual individuals, homosexual people do not choose but rather, will discover their preferences and orientation through age and maturity.
What does the Indian Law say?
In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India ruled in that the rights and freedoms of transgender people in India were protected under the Constitution. More recently, in September 2018, under Section 377, the Supreme Court also decriminalized adult consensual same-sex relationships.
While these are important landmarks in India, it is still a long road ahead to tackle equal rights for the LBGTQ+ community, and curtailing discrimination.
Is homosexuality a mental illness?
The American Psychological Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO) agree that homosexuality (or related orientations) are not a mental disorder. It was earlier wrongly believed that homosexuality was a mental illness, but was removed from the official list of mental disorders in 1973.
Studies have also shown that queer individuals will face the same mental health concerns as someone who is heterosexual. However, queer people do face their own unique challenges such as stress arising from discrimination, isolation and social stigma.
I am confused/curious about my gender/sexual orientation - what can I do?
It is absolutely natural to be confused and have conflicting feelings about your sexual and/or gender orientation. It can become quite stressful when going through these thoughts and feelings. Here are some things that you can do:
1. Learn as much as you can by reading. This article is a good place to start!
2. Writing about your thoughts can help you to gain clarity
3. Be patient with yourself. There are no right or wrong feelings. It can be upsetting to feel and think differently from people around you, but it is also important to love yourself and take care of yourself as well.
4. Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Or speak to a counsellor! Take a look at our ThinkTab section at the end of this article to help you get started!