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Frequently Asked Questions about LGBTQ People

If you are just starting to learn about LGBTQ people (or if you are one) there are hundreds of questions you may have. Below are just a few of the most frequently asked questions that people ask as they start on their journey of acceptance.

If you want to get more answers, please feel free to Contact Us.

How can I get support after a LGBTQ loved one has come out to me?

PFLAG offers local support and education all across the country. Members in PFLAG chapters know what you’re going through and can help. You may be experiencing an array of emotions such as grief, guilt, and denial, and you could be facing new questions about your relationship with your LGBTQ loved one. Whatever your reaction, remember that your loved one is sharing one part of his/her identity with you and is ultimately the same person as yesterday.

How are sexual orientation and gender identity determined?
Research on how sexual orientation and gender identity determined is uncovering a lot. Sexual orientation and gender identity are shaped at any early age. Homosexuality and gender variance are not the result of any one factor like parenting or past experiences. It is never anyone’s “fault” if they or their loved one is LGBTQ.

If you are asking yourself why you or your loved one is LGBTQ, consider asking yourself another question: Why ask why? Does your response to a LGBTQ person depend on knowing why they are LGBTQ? Regardless of cause, LGBTQ people deserve equal rights and to be treated fairly.

Is there something wrong with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer?

There have been people in all cultures and times throughout human history who have identified themselves as LGBTQ. 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. 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 – in fact, there’s a lot to celebrate.

Discriminatory laws, policies and attitudes that persist in our schools, workplaces, places of worship and larger communities, however, are wrong 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 violence.Learn more about how PFLAG works on legislative issues and education issues on behalf of LGBTQ people and their families.


How does someone know they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer?
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. The short answer is that you’ll know when you know.

Ho do I get someone to come out to me?
It’s seldom appropriate to ask a person, “Are you gay?” Your perception of another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not necessarily what it appears.

Don’t assume!  Be open and non judgmental. PFLAG recommends creating a safe space by showing your support of LGBTQ issues on a non-personal level.  For example, take an interest in openly discussing and learning about topics such as LGBTQ rights in the workplace. Learn about LGBTQ communities and culture.  Come out as an ally, regardless of if your friend or loved one is LGBTQ.

Read PFLAG’s Dos and Don’ts 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 homosexuality and gender variance?  Make sure you have thought your decision through, have a plan and supportive people you can turn to.  Just as you needed to experience different stages of acceptance for yourself, family and loved ones will need to go through a similar process.

PFLAG was founded because of the unconditional love of parents for their children.  Your loved ones will 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.

HRC’s Resource Guide To Coming Out will offer some more things to think about. Also consider talking to us for more personalized tips and support.


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 homosexuality and gender variance. For some this means working for change within their faith community, and for others it means leaving it.

PFLAG offers a number of resources in this area, including our publication, Faith in Our Families.

Why should I support LGBTQ equality?
LGBTQ rights are not special rights.  PFLAG works to achieve equal civil rights for all people, including our LGBTQ loved ones.  Everyone deserves the same rights! 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 face constant harassment and abuse in schools across the country, and it is clear that  the road to full equality and acceptance is a long one.

Because of all 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.