Safe Zone - Frequently Asked Questions

I think someone is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning but they haven't told me, how should I ask them?

Remember that assumptions on your part may be inaccurate. The best approach is to create an atmosphere where that individual can feel comfortable coming to you. You can do this by making sure you are open and approachable, by giving them indications that you are comfortable with this topic, and that you are supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual concerns. Make yourself available to the person if they need to talk. When they're ready to talk about it with you, they will. It is not recommended to ask them.

Someone wants advice on what to tell his/her roommate, friends, or family about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning, how can I help?

Remember that it must be the individual's decision when and to whom to come out. Don't tell the person to do one thing or another; he/she could hold you responsible if it doesn't go well. Do listen carefully, reflect back the concerns and feelings you hear expressed, and suggest available resources for support.

A lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning or intersex person wants to come out in my office, or within the context of any other group or community with which I associate. How do I handle this?

Consider helping the individual think through the possible outcomes. Discuss how others might react and how he/she might handle those reactions. Mention the option of coming out to a few people at a time as opposed to the entire group. If someone has decided to come out, let him or her know you will be supportive.

A heterosexual friend or coworker expresses negative feelings/views about a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, or intersex person in our office, or in any group with which I associate. How do I handle this?

When such problems arise, it is most useful to discuss this with the people involved. Help them to see past the issue of "gayness" to the reality that they are talking about a person, not just a sexual orientation. Make sure that you have accurate information so that you may appropriately discuss stereotypes and misinformation that often underlies such negative reactions. Be clear with others that while they have a right to their own beliefs and opinions, you do not appreciate anti-gay comments or discrimination.

What if someone expresses fear of contracting AIDS from an LGBTQI individual?

It is necessary for everyone to be knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS. If a friend or coworker is afraid and uninformed, use this as an educational opportunity. Consider contacting the Student Health Services office for pamphlets and other resources.

How can I support the LGBTQI community without my own sexual orientation becoming an issue?

Be aware that if you speak out about issues related to sexual orientation, some people may take this as an indication of your own sexual orientation. Take time in advance to think through how you feel about this. How do you feel about your own sexual identity? Are you comfortable with yourself? Regardless of your sexual orientation, a confidence in your own self-image will translate into a comfort that leaves you less vulnerable.

I hear rumors that someone is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or intersex. What do I do?

Tell the person that sexual orientation, expression, and identity are a personal matter and should not be the topic of rumors. If you can, address any myths or stereotypes that may be fueling such speculation. If a particular person continues to spread rumors, confront that person individually. Also, be careful about answering questions about someone else. You can say that it is not your place to comment on another individual's personal life.

How can I get others to think more open-mindedly about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or intersex?

Be a role model for others by being open and visible in your support. Share your beliefs with others when appropriate. When lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex topics come up, talk about them comfortably and confidently, do not just avoid them. Part of your goal as an ally is to create bridges across difference, and to increase understanding.

How can I respond when someone tells a homophobic joke?

It is important to remember that young people, particularly those questioning their own sexual identity, will watch to see who laughs at such jokes, and will internalize some of the messages. Responding assertively in these situations is difficult, but not responding at all sends a silent message of agreement. In some instances, the inappropriateness of the joke could be mentioned at the time. In other situations, the person could be taken aside at a later time. Try to communicate your concerns about the joke with respect.

How can I respond to homophobic attitudes?

Remember what your goal is in responding: not to start an argument or foster hostility, but to attempt to increase understanding. Disagreement can be civil and respectful. Share your views without accusing or criticizing.

How can I respond to people who object to homosexuality for religious reasons?

Usually, it is extremely difficult to change the minds of people who base their negative beliefs about homosexuality on religious convictions. However, while respecting their right to believe as they wish, you can share some information with them. Consider the sections of this handbook on religion and homosexuality as one possible resource. Remind people that regardless of religious convictions, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex must be afforded equal treatment under the law.

What causes homosexuality?

No one knows for sure what determines a person's sexual orientation. There is no known cause for homosexuality, just as there is no known cause for heterosexuality. The most recent research indicates that sexual orientation is in place very early in life, and possibly even before birth, indicating that there may be a genetic and/or hormonal component. Cognitive and environmental factors likely also play a role.

Are people born LGBTQI, or is it a choice?

Most persons who are LGBTQI view their sexuality as a natural part of themselves, just as heterosexuals do. They view it not as choosing to be LGBTQI, but as choosing to acknowledge and accept their own feelings and behaviors. It is not a preference, which implies a choice, but an orientation

At what age do most people become lesbian, gay, or bisexual?

What this question is really asking is, "At what age do most people recognize that they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual?" People "come out," meaning that they self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, at all ages. Some people know about their sexual orientation at a very early age. As part of the normal developmental process, most people awaken to their sexuality in early adolescence. For others, it may not be until later in life that one comes to terms with their sexual orientation.

What is the gay lifestyle?

There is no definable "gay lifestyle," just as there is no standard heterosexual lifestyle. There is as much diversity of lifestyle among people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual as there is among heterosexuals. The term "gay lifestyle" is misleading because it implies that all persons who are LGBTQI live their lives in the same manner, sharing identical values, beliefs, and behaviors.

Why do homosexuals flaunt their sexuality?

Often people who are LGBTQI are accused of "flaunting" their sexuality just for talking openly about their sexual orientation. In actuality, many heterosexuals do not realize the degree to which they make their heterosexuality known all the time. People who are LGBTQI want the freedom to talk about their daily lives openly without fear of prejudiced and discriminatory reactions, just as heterosexuals do.

Is homosexuality unnatural?

From a scientific point of view, homosexuality is natural, meaning that it occurs in nature. Research suggests that homosexuality exists throughout the animal world. There has been evidence of homosexuality in all human cultures throughout history.

Are homosexuals promiscuous?

Persons who are LGBTQI have the same range of sexual activity (from none to a lot) as heterosexuals. The perception of homosexuals as promiscuous is partially perpetuated by media bias; often we get more information about the sexuality of persons who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual and little information about the diversity and depth of their relationships.

Is homosexuality a mental illness?

Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association consider homosexuality a mental illness. Studies have found no difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals on a variety of criteria, including self-esteem, family relations, and general life satisfaction.

Can homosexuals be cured?

Since homosexuality is not an illness, there is no need to "cure" it. Most psychiatric and psychological attempts to "cure" homosexuality have failed to change the client's sexual orientation; at most they cause clients to harmfully repress their sexual thoughts and feelings, and inhibit expression of sexual behavior

Do homosexuals molest children?

Persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are no more or less likely to molest children than are heterosexuals. A study by the U.S. Department of Public Health showed that over 90 percent of child molestation is committed by heterosexual men against females. Media bias perpetuates the idea that males committing crimes against boys are "homosexual" crimes. Such a practice confuses the issues of sexual abuse and pedophilia with sexual orientation.

How do gay and lesbian couples manage gender roles?

The very nature of relationships with two same-sex partners requires breaking down stereotypical gender roles (i.e. housework is women's work, and yard work is a man's job.) Many couples, both homosexual and heterosexual, are establishing relationships based on equality and shared responsibilities.

Can homosexuals have children?

Many LGBTQI individuals have been or are married, these and other LGBTQI individuals may have children. In addition, many LGBTQI couples are arranging to become parents through adoption or artificial insemination. However, in some states, their parental rights are not always secure.

Can homosexuals be good parents?

There is no evidence that heterosexuals make better parents than homosexuals. It also holds true that the sexual orientation of the parent is not the determining factor in the sexual orientation of the child. Research has shown that children with gay or lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted, and emotionally and psychologically healthy, as children with heterosexual parents.

Are transsexuals and transgendered people also gay or lesbian?

Not necessarily. Remember that gender identity is separate and distinct from sexual orientation. Whether a person identifies as a man or woman does not dictate whether they are sexually attracted to the same, opposite, or both sexes.

Does bisexuality really exist? Aren't people really either heterosexual or homosexual?

Bisexuality is the potential to feel emotionally and/or sexually attracted to members of either sex. In reality, sexual orientation exists on a continuum ranging from completely homosexual to completely heterosexual. Most individuals fall somewhere in between.

Is bisexuality just a phase?

Some people may go through a transitional period of identifying as bisexual as part of their process of coming out as lesbian or gay. But for many others, bisexuality is a stable, long-term orientation.

Are some bisexuals confused about their sexuality?

It is natural for people who are bisexual, just as for people who are lesbian or gay, to go through a period of confusion during the coming out process as they recognize and accept their sexual orientation.

Are bisexuals equally attracted to both sexes?

Most people who are bisexual tend to have a stronger attraction toward one sex or the other, while recognizing their attraction to both sexes. Some bisexuals do feel equally attracted to both sexes

Are bisexuals promiscuous?

People who are bisexual show a range of sexual behaviors, just as do heterosexuals and people who are lesbian or gay. Bisexuals are as capable as anyone of making a long-term monogamous commitment to a partner they love.

Do bisexuals spread AIDS?

AIDS occurs in people of all sexual orientations. Anyone who has unprotected sex, regardless of his or her sexual orientation, can contract or spread AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. It is what a person does (sexual behavior), not who they are (sexual identity) that puts a person at risk for contracting AIDS.

Are bisexuals discriminated against?

Society in general lumps bisexuals into a single category with lesbians and gay men. Therefore, people who are bisexual may encounter the same kinds of harassment and discrimination as people who are lesbian, gay, transgendered, or intersex.




Northern Illinois University Safe Zone Program Ally Handbook

Lesbian, gays, and bisexuals in the residence halls. University of Wisconsin-Madison; Moving beyond tolerance: A new approach to programming about bi/homophobia and heterosexism in the residence halls. University of Iowa; and Kishwaukee College Allies Program Manual; Northern Illinois University Safe Zone Program Ally Handbook.