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ALLIES = gay, lebian, bisexual, trans and straight alliance

Frequently Asked Questions

"What does it mean to be Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual?"

To be lesbian or gay means that a person's primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender. To be bisexual means that a person's primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward both people of the same gender and people of the opposite gender. For most lesbians, gay men and bisexuals sexual identity includes more than just sexual attraction and behavior. Research points to the importance of additional dimensions, such as emotional preferences, psychological attraction, falling in love, and self-identification (Klein, 1990). There may be men who have sex with men, or women who have sex with women who do not identify as gay or lesbian. Being lesbian or gay is an identity that is accompanied by a rich culture, with traditions, celebrations, and a sense of community.

"Who is Lesbian, Bisexual or Gay?"

Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are represented in every socio-economic class, education level, political affiliation, age group, religion, race and ethnicity. They are our sisters, fathers, aunts, uncles, and friends. Lesbians and gay men are doctors, carpenters, teachers, ministers, factory workers, scientists, psychologists, police officers, military personnel, etc. Although some people argue that lesbians and gay men are not suitable for certain jobs, no research evidence supports this claim.

Additionally, no physical attributes or behavior (such as dress or mannerisms) can identify who is lesbian or gay, though stereotypes of the effeminate male and masculine female are common. Whereas some gay people may display stereotypical characteristics, the vast majority do not. Lesbians and gay men are diverse as a group and unique as individuals.

"Why Bisexual, Gay or Lesbian instead of Homosexual?"

In every society, language is a reflection of accepted and expected cultural values and beliefs. The term "homosexual" was devised to describe "sick", "ill", or "deviant" people who had relationships with the same gender. Today, there is a large body of research that contradicts the assumption that lesbians and gay men are psychologically disturbed due to their sexual orientation. In studies comparing lesbians and gay men to heterosexuals, both groups consistently score in the normal range on psychological tests. Given that research did not support this assumption of deviance, in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. Considering that the term homosexual has this negative historical definition, rejecting it and the deviance implied has been essential for lesbians and gay men. The labels lesbian, gay and bisexual are words that were created within and for the group to name their experience more accurately.

"What causes a person to be Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual?"

No one knows what makes people lesbian or gay, just as no one knows what makes people heterosexual. Two often competing theories focus on environmental versus biological origins. Environmental theories of homosexuality have focused on conflict-ridden experiences causing an otherwise healthy person to "become" gay, such as having a rejecting father, pathological family relationships, or other negative incidents. Biological theories have focused on brain differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals, homosexuality as inherited, and the role of prenatal hormones (Bryne & Parsons, 1993). Although much research has been conducted examining this question no conclusive theory of etiology for sexual orientation exists at this time. Implicit in most of the research is the assumption that homosexuality is a divergence from normal psychological or biological development. Many scientists dispute this assumption. What is considered normal is defined by each society reflecting cultural values and norms. Homosexuality has existed throughout history, in every culture, across all economic and educational levels, and is considered socially acceptable in many societies today.

"How many Lesbians and Gays are there?"

We do not know exactly. Alfred Kinsey interviewed more than 10,000 people about their sexual behaviors across the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. To the public's astonishment Kinsey's results revealed that a substantial number of men (37%) said they had experienced some overt homosexual experience to the point to orgasm between adolescence and old age, and 10 percent were exclusively homosexual (Kinsey, 1948). Research conducted later with women found that 2% to 6% were exclusively homosexual (Kinsey, 1953). This question did not receive further study for at least two decades. In 1970 the Kinsey Institute published another study which maintained between 3.3% and 6.2% of people to be exclusively homosexual.

The focus on numbers submerges the critical issue that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are stigmatized. Would it be any more acceptable to harass, persecute, or perpetrate violence upon gay people if they comprised only 1% of the population? Certainly, all people should live free of harassment and prejudice.

From "Creating Community"
UC Davis Chancellor's Committee on LGBT Issues