I think I might be an Ally!

Congratulations!

For many youth who feel they might be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), it can seem like the end of the world. Thankfully, there are people like you to help them realize it's not the end of the world!

What does it mean to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender?

Gay people are persons who are emotionally and physically attracted to the same sex, and who develop romantic emotions and love for, persons of the same sex the same way heterosexuals do for the opposite sex. Theses feelings are completely natural for a gay person. It “just feels right." Gay men might have girlfriends and even have had sex with girls and feelings for them. That’s not unusual. However, gay men who have had previous relationships with women often say they felt as if something was missing; they say their feelings for men became stronger and more important. The same is true for lesbians (gay women).

Bisexual people are emotionally and physically attracted to, and may develop romantic emotions and love for, both sexes. It does not mean they are going through a phase, or that they will some day choose to be straight or gay. They may have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and that would seem perfectly natural for them.

Transgender is a tricky term because the meaning has changed over time. What we are going to talk about here are people born in a boy’s body who are sure they are girls and people born into a girl’s body who are sure they are boys. They might have known they were born into the wrong body for as long as they can remember. Maybe they're just realizing that now. Gender and sex are not the same thing. Sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears. So, this can get very confusing very quickly. They may be really a girl, but born into a boy’s body and like boys. This means you might look gay to the rest of the world when actually you are heterosexual. The important thing is to not get hung up on labels, and let people be as true to themselves as they can be.

A big concern for nearly every young LGBT person is that he or she feels alone. A famous study called the Kinsey Report was done in 1948. It found that approximately 10% of the adult male population was homosexual. A more recent study estimates that LGBT people comprise about 3.8% of the U.S. population.

As an ally it's important to let your LGBT friends know that they are definitely not alone. LGBT people are in every walk of life, and many are famous! Today, we are professional athletes, scientists, artists, lawyers, teachers, doctors, movie stars, mechanics, fast food workers, store clerks, judges and engineers. We are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Catholic, Baptist, rich, poor and well…you get the picture! We are everywhere you look.

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How do I know if someone is gay or bi?

When they tell you. Otherwise, it's not that important, is it? The important thing, if you think someone is struggling with their sexual orientation, is to be a friend. Let that person know you care and back it up with your actions. Are you a solid friend? Trustworthy? Do you keep your word? The best thing is to not make assumptions and avoid gossiping with other friends about it.

When to "come out" is a personal choice, and people will do it when they are ready. Also, depending on the environment in which we are raised, some of us may feel pressured to suppress or deny that we have gay feelings. If a friend does "come out" to you that he or she might be gay or bi, consider it an honor and keep it in confidence. Understand that they are the same person as they were before they shared the news. Let them know you support them, and don't treat them differently.

Here's some good advice about how to respond when someone picks you to come out to:  http://www.gaymanners.com/straight-talk/qhow-should-i-respond-if-a-friend-comes-out-to-meq

If you know someone who is being bullied or harassed for any reason, it's important to report it, either to a school official (or to a responsible adult if off-campus). 6 out of 10 of school bullying victims are GLBT. Some are bullied simply because the bully thinks they act or look "gay" even if they're not.

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Are LGBT people normal?

Yes, LGBT persons are normal. Despite what you may have heard, it is perfectly natural for some people to be attracted to members of their same sex, or to question the gender that society has assigned them. Because of prejudice, many people push away these feelings, but they seldom go away.

It’s normal and healthy to be yourself, whether you’re gay or straight. What’s really important is that we learn to like ourselves.

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How can I be a better ally?

Respect! Don't use words like "gay" to describe something you think is stupid or negative. When you hear others say things like "that's so gay," or names like "fag," "lezzie," and "tranny" (there's more to that list), let them know how those words make you feel. Even when that kind of name-calling is meant to be friendly, or not as a put-down, it can still be hurtful and insulting. You just never know.

Learn about the LGBT community. This site is a great start, but keep reading up on it. Attend gay pride events with your friends. Let people know where you stand on GLBT issues. Are you against GLBT discrimination? Are you for marriage equality? These signals are important for LGBT youth who may be looking for friends and allies. You may also get a chance to educate others, or at least get them to think twice about their views. If you really want to help create change, consider starting or joining a Gay-Straight Alliance in your school or community.

The main thing is, be yourself and be the best friend you know how to be.

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The Montrose Center