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What Is Sexual Orientation?
Sexual orientation/identity refers to individual's physical, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual orientations.
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Questioning/Queer (hereafter LGBTQ or GLBTQQA) people are often grouped together because these groups are all considered sexual minorities (2).
Being Honest With Yourself
From birth, most people are raised to think of themselves as heterosexual and as the gender that corresponds with thier biological sex. One's parents, families, teachers, friends - and seemingly the entire culture - promote the idea that a day would arrive when we would meet someone of the opposite sex and get married. Very few individuals are told that they might fall in love with someone of the same sex. And virtually all individuals are strongly discouraged from identifying more with another gender. That's why so many LGBTQs are shocked or confused when it happens to them (1).
The coming out process is very personal. This process happens in different ways and occurs at different ages for different people. Some people are aware of their sexual identity at an early age; others arrive at this awareness only after many years. Coming out is a continuing, sometimes lifelong, process. While some anxiety related to sexuality is common among college students, the problems facing LGBTQ students are often more difficult. Because positive role models are often difficult to identify, LGBTQ people may feel alone and unsure of their own sexual identities. Fear of rejection is greater among LGBTQ people due to the prejudices in society against them (3).
Being Honest With Others: Coming Out
In your coming out process, it can be very helpful to focus on the many aspects of LGBTQ culture. For example, its music, art, theatre, literature, events, history, and community groups. Santa Clara University offers several courses that discuss LGBTQ issues, history, culture, literature, film, theatre, etc. (see LGBTQ Course Listing and Program for the Study of Women and Gender). It is also very helpful to seek out positive, well-adjusted and comfortable role models among LGBTQ people (3). At Santa Clara, this can be accomplished by attending a GALA meeting. If you are not yet comfortable identifying yourself as LGBTQ, you may consider attending a GASPED event or meeting, which includes both gay and straight students. You can also contact out faculty and staff members who make their contact information available for students.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are any age, gender or racial/ethnic group. Of course, cultural and social differences may alter the way a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person manages her/his feelings and identity because these dictate the way others will perceive and react to them (2). For specific resources on coming out for individuals of color, click here.
Some helpful reading on coming out include:
On Campus Resources: