PFLAG has publications that you can read online or download for free, or obtain from our chapter that cover topics from coming out, to how to be a supportive parent or ally, to how to resolve questions of faith. A number are available in both English and Spanish. You can find them at www.pflag.org/publications.
A list of Terminology can be found at www.pflag.org/glossary.
What should I do when someone comes out to me?
While you may be feeling a mixture of emotions, the most important thing you can do for your child or relative or friend or co-worker is to reassure them that your caring, your love for them continues, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity. Though it may take you some time to understand, they need your support most of all. Keep in mind that this new part of their identity is only one part – ultimately, they are the same person they were yesterday. Appreciate their courage in coming forward, and let them know.
How can I get support after a LGBTQ loved one has come out to me?
Members of PFLAG chapters know what you’re going through and can help. You may be experiencing an array of challenging emotions – shock, grief, guilt, confusion or denial, and you could be facing new questions about your relationship with your LGBTQ loved one or acquaintance. It is helpful to hear from others what their challenges have been like and what they have learned. Your loved one or friend should not have to be responsible for educating you if you need to learn more. PFLAG is glad to help you with information, and help you get more comfortable.
How are sexual orientation and gender identity determined?
There is more and more evidence that biological factors play a major role. Some parents wonder if it is their “fault.” It is more important to remember that there is nothing wrong with your child, thus blame is inappropriate. Regardless of the various factors we may come to understand as part of LGBTQ identities, LGBTQ people deserve equal rights, treatment and the opportunity to live authentic, fulfilling lives.
What do the initials LGBTQQIAA stand for?
These initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and ally. Over time, these labels and acronyms change, as well as the language used. “Queer” was at one time an insult, but now has been adopted as a general term by people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectations. “They” has emerged as a pronoun for individuals who identify as neither gender or as gender fluid. The best way to know what language to use is to ask the person how they identify or what language or pronouns they prefer.
Isn’t it wrong, unnatural or unhealthy to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?
No. There have been people in all cultures and times throughout human history who have identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Same sex attraction is not an illness or a disorder, a fact that is agreed upon by both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Same sex attraction 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 (GID) is still listed in the DSM of the American Psychiatric Association. Being LGBTQ is as much a human variation as being left-handed – a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity are just another piece of who they are. There is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ. There is a lot to celebrate when those you care about are able to bravely come out and be themselves, be able to love and be loved. Discriminatory laws, policies and attitudes that persist in some of our schools, places of work, places of worship and larger communities, however, are misguided and hurt LGBTQ people and their loved ones. PFLAG works to make sure that LGBTQ people have full civil rights and can live openly, free from discrimination and threat. We also seek to eliminate the myth that being LGBTQ is somehow wrong or unnatural.
Can gay people change their sexual orientation or gender identity?
No. And efforts to do so aren’t just unnecessary – they’re damaging. While there are some religious and secular organizations claiming that people can “repair” their sexual orientation or gender identity, these claims stem from ideological biases, not solid science. As stated by The American Psychological Association, scientific evidence shows that reparative therapy (therapy which claims to change LGBTQ
people) does not work long-term and that it can do a great deal of harm. Making people hide their true selves is not an answer. PFLAG believes that it is society’s attitudes, laws and policies that need to change, not our LGBTQ loved ones.
How does someone know they are lesbian, gay, bisexual
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 people 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 a while for people 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 people shouldn’t worry about labeling themselves right away. However, with positive images of LGBTQ people more readily available, it is becoming easier for people to identify their feelings and come out at earlier ages. People don’t have to be sexually active to know their sexual orientation – feelings and emotions are as much a part of one’s identity as actions.
SHOULD I TALK TO A LOVED ONE ABOUT HIS OR HER SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY BEFORE THE PERSON TALKS TO ME?
It’s seldom appropriate to ask a person, “Are you gay?” Your perception of another person’s sexual orientation – gay or straight or gender identity is not necessarily what it appears. However, it is appropriate to create an environment or cultivate a relationship where the loved one feels safe and secure discussing private matters with you.
No one can know for sure unless the person has actually declared that they are gay, straight, bisexual or transgender. PFLAG recommends creating a safe space by showing your overall support of LGBTQ issues not specific to a particular person. For example, take an interest in openly discussing and learning about topics such as same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights in the workplace. Learn about LGBTQ communities and culture. Come out as an ally, regardless of whether your friend or loved one is LGBTQ.
Read PFLAG’s "Dos and Dont's" for Friends and Families to get some tips should the “coming out day” happen. Your ultimate goal is to provide a safe space for your loved one to approach you when they are ready without fear of negative consequences.
HOW DO I COME OUT TO MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
There are many questions to consider before coming out. Are you comfortable with your sexuality and gender identity/expression? Do you have support? Can you be patient? What kind of views do your friends and family have about same-sex attraction and gender variance? Are you financially dependent on your family? Make sure you have thought your decision through, have a plan and supportive people you can turn to.
PFLAG was founded because of the unconditional love of parents for their gay children. Your loved ones may need time to adjust to your news, the same way you may have needed time to come to terms with yourself. However, true acceptance is possible and happens every day, especially with education and support.
Today’s youth face more social pressures than ever, especially since young people are coming out at increasingly younger ages. That’s why PFLAG created "Be Yourself: Questions and Answers for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth," a coming-out guide which provides a supportive approach to common questions asked by teens who may be questioning their sexual orientation. It also provides hotline numbers for teens and a list of resources. Also consider talking to someone from your local PFLAG chapter for more personalized tips and support.
CAN GAY PEOPLE HAVE FAMILIES?
Yes! LGBTQ people can and do have families. Same-sex couples have always formed committed and loving relationships, while fighting for marriage equality. In 2015, the US Supreme Court declared that all states must issue licenses to same sex couples who wish to marry. More and more LGBTQ couples are also raising children together, and since 2016, all states allow same-sex adoption and foster parenting. As for extended families, many LGBTQ people have the support of the loving families they were born into, while others have created their own supportive families made up of friends and those family members who are affirming of their identity.
HOW CAN I RECONCILE MY OR MY LOVED ONE’S SEXUAL ORIENTATION WITH MY FAITH?
This is a difficult question for many people. Learning that a loved one is LGBTQ can be a challenge if you feel it is at odds with your faith tradition. However, being LGBTQ does not impact a person’s ability to be moral and spiritual any more than being heterosexual does. Many LGBTQ people are religious and active in their own faith communities. It is up to you to explore, question and make choices in order to reconcile religion with sexual orientation and gender variance. For some this means working for change within their faith community, and for others it means leaving it. There exist specific denominations, traditions, and congregations within all major religions that are LGBTQ-accepting.
PFLAG offers a number of resources in this area, including our Welcoming Faith Communities project and our publication, "Faith in Our Families."
WHY SHOULD I SUPPORT LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER EQUALITY?
LGBTQ rights are not special rights. PFLAG works to achieve equal civil rights for all people, including our LGBTQ loved ones. Our LGBTQ children, friends and family members deserve the same rights as our gender-conforming and straight ones. However, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is still legal in many states – a LGBTQ person can be fired from their job simply because of who they love or how they express their gender – LGBTQ youth continue to face harassment and bullying in schools across the country. It is clear that the road to full equality and acceptance is a long one.
Because of these realities, PFLAG needs you to stand up and join us in our work to move equality forward.
Your loved one needs you to take a stand for fairness. By being open about yourself, and your family you are already helping to dispel misinformation and fear. You can take the next step by joining PFLAG as we support, educate and advocate for a better world.
More resources and answers are available for download at PFLAG National.