TYA Rainbow

Advice and information

Whether you are Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, part of the vast range of the queer community or considering your options, TYARainbow aims to have something for you. Unfortunately we can never be experts on every issue so we include links to other organisations' websites where more detailed information can be found and we list the contact details for help lines and specialist and local support groups.

Although we have done our best to verify the information posted on this site, telephone numbers do change, groups start up and close down and medical and technological research thankfully make leap forwards on regular basis, we cannot therefore make any guarantees. We just do our best.

All about coming out

Definitions

Why am I gay?

When you first come out to yourself it's common to ask, 'Why me? What made me gay?' Academics and scientists make whole careers of searching for an answer. And it is an interesting question.

Some people know from age 5 or 6 that they're different, some understand that they are attracted to the same sex way before they first hear the word 'gay'. This would suggest that we are born gay, that it is a matter of nature. This theory of sexuality is called 'essentialism'.

Scientists often claim to have made break throughs linking a particular gene, a hormone or a miniscule part of the brain to 'being gay'. As yet none of this research has been proven. Still, many people quite like this theory. If the people around you are homophobic or even just 'a little small town' it can feel easier to explain that 'gay people are born this way'.

As you will be aware there is a certain amount of justification going on here. What you might be saying is 'I was born this way' but what you might also be telling them is, 'I can't help it, it's the way I was made'. If you feel that you need to explain yourself in this way then there's absolutely nothing wrong with this.

Another theory of sexuality is 'social constructionism' which basically means that as human beings we don't just live in an unchangeable, physical environment but we also create our environment by talking to people, by how we think about things, by how the TV we watch influences us, the books we read, the tunes we listen to.

Other theories fall between the extremes of essentialism and social constructionism. Some people say that we become gay as we grow up or that we can learn to be gay, that a particular experience can turn you gay, that it's something to do with parenting, others that it's a bit of nature and a bit of nurture. There are really as many explanations as there are gay people!

Why does it matter? Why all this scientific endeavour? The awful truth is that it only matters if 'being gay' is not considered as good as 'being straight'. Much of the science comes from trying to find a way to prevent or cure gayness. In 2009 heterosexuality (being straight) is still privileged, revered, is still considered by many as the centre of the ideal family, in other words, 'normal'. Heterosexuality is not normal…. it's just common! (Remember that for when a homophobe next gives you hassle.)

So, why I am a gay? It would be great if we could give you an answer but there just isn't any 'right' answer there's only the 'right' answer for you. So it's something which you will indubitably spend time thinking about and talking to friends about. Whether you find your answer or not, the more confident you become in your sexuality, the less importance this question will be to you. After all, we are whoever we are, however we got here.

Myths about LGBT people.

  1. All Gay Men have overbearing mothers, want to be a woman, are feminine in outlook.

    Rubbish

  2. All Lesbians overly identify with their fathers, are masculine, can't get a man.

    Rubbish

  3. We all get on.

    Unfortunately also rubbish

  4. Bisexuals can't make them minds up, are greedy sex addicts or are either a Lesbian or a Gay Man in denial.

    Someone's watched too much straight porn!

  5. You can catch 'being gay', be brought up gay so LGBT people shouldn't have kids.

    As most of our parents were straight, this isn't logical. We're gay despite the significant influence of heterosexual mass media, culture, religion etc.

  6. Gay people spend all of their time partying, drinking and taking drugs.

    Gay bars have been the only safe place we could be 'out' in, it's not surprising that we are most visible when we are out partying. Mostly its just CSI Vegas, easy wash slacks, cats and homework.

  7. Transpeople always have surgery.

    Some do, some don't, some have some surgery but all the procedures available.

  8. Gay men can't commit, Lesbians can't stop committing.

    This is based on gender stereotypes and we know how this is based on gender stereotypes and we know how accurate they are! Also, historically it was always easier for two women to live together, than two men. The assumption would be that women, being the weaker sex needed a 'friend' to lean on while two men living together must be queer.

  9. There's no queers in the countryside! 'They all move away, to Newcastle', I was told confidently by a colleague.

    With attitudes like that we'd have good cause. But no its just that we're more visible in the city as there are more opportunities for us to come together. Market town and rural idylls are awash with Friends of Dorothy and the buoyancy of the pink pound can buy a very chi chi par de terre a la Costa del Tynemouth.

  10. All gay men are hairdressers, DJs or fashion designers and lesbians are builders mates, gym instructors or work the door at 'The Plough and Parrot'.

    Yawn! Wouldn't that be boring! We are every where, in every profession, trade and reality TV show.

Transpeople

If you feel confused about your gender, you're not alone. Like adults, teenagers can experience a range of feelings about being male or female. 'Some people may feel that they're both male and female. Others may have a strong sense of being the opposite gender' Most young people grow up thinking of themselves as either a boy or a girl, and they don’t question which they are (their gender). But for some people, this is more complicated. According to Ady Davis, who works as a psychosexual therapist with the North-East Gender Dysphoria Service, people can experience a whole range of feelings about their gender.

"Sometimes your feelings about your gender aren't clear, and you can’t identify with either sex. Sometimes people question their gender if their interests and socialising don’t fit with their birth gender. For example, if you're a boy who prefers the company of girls." "Some people feel that they're both male and female. Others have a strong sense of being the opposite gender. Perhaps they've felt trapped in the wrong body since early childhood. "For young people who feel uncomfortable about their gender, puberty can be a very difficult time,” says Davis. “Your biological gender is physically marked by body changes, such as the growth of breasts or facial hair." Does it make me gay, lesbian or bisexual? Gender identity (how you feel about your gender) and sexuality (your sexual preferences) aren't the same thing, but they're both linked. "Sometimes, a young person comes out as lesbian or gay, but when they start forming relationships they don’t feel like it’s a same-sex relationship," says Davis. "Equally, there are other people who can’t figure out who they’re attracted to because they’re uncomfortable with their own gender identity." "There are also people who know who they’re attracted to, but they hate their body so much that they avoid relationships because they can’t stand the thought of being touched." According to Davis, some teenagers gravitate towards a scene or a community that gives them a chance to explore their sexuality and gender identity in a safe way. "For example, in the goth scene gender and sexuality aren't so clearly defined.

Responding to homophobia

Understanding homophobia is one thing, knowing what to do about it is much more difficult. What responses are open to you will depend on the actual situation you find yourself in, as well as how confident and safe you are feeling. However knowing what options are open to you and having a few cheeky responses up your sleeve for when they are called for can help with the confidence level.

  1. Ignore it

    If you’re out in town and on your own taking on a gang of the Geordie answer to the missing link, is a sure way to jump the queue at A and E. If you do walk on you can always report them later.

  2. Educating Rita

    If it’s someone in your class, sports club or at home that’s being a space cadet, try to look at the matter calmly. Are they being aggressive, are they trying to get a rise out of you, do they have no idea they’re being offensive? They might be driving you mad with frustration but if their homophobia comes from ignorance rather than spite or hatred you might want to consider talking them through how they’re making you feel and fill in their schooling.

  3. Humour

    When shouted at in the street, usually by 14 year olds from the safety of a good 100 metres away, I generally proceed as follows,
    "Dyke"
    "Yes?"
    "Dyke"
    "Yes. Are we playing an observation game? Is it my go? Spotty Virgin! Your turn."

  4. Speaking up and challenging homophobia

    If it's safe to do so, speaking up and challenging homophobia can make you feel really good about yourself and can get things changed. Being assertive shows others you won't be bullied and it tackles the problem head on.

    If it's an ongoing problem, talk to friends about the issue and discuss ways they might support you when you do speak up. Having back up could make all the difference to you being able to express yourself loudly and proudly!

  5. Get active

    Start a campaign. Join a group. Get political. Get training from Stonewall on how to make a difference. Make them eat their words!

  6. Report it and complain.

    If you’ve been harassed this is illegal and you can report it to the police or ARCH. You could also seek the support of your trade union or staff association, pastoral worker or school governor or your Union Representative if you're at college. Citizen's Advice are also well versed in advocating on homophobic issues, as are most solicitors. Choose whatever's right for you.

Reporting homophobia

If you are having problems with others because of your sexuality, this is homophobia. It can take many forms, verbal abuse, assaults, graffiti, destruction of property, spreading rumours, persistently undermining you.. Homophobic harassment is illegal, even if the incident itself is not a crime.

If you're being harassed, don’t let them get away with it. Report it.

You can report it to the police. (Try to remember to tell them you are reporting the case as a 'homophobic incident' to make sure they understand what your complaint is about.) You can report it at your local police station or in an emergency by calling 999 or you could call the Community Liaison Officer.

If you'd prefer not to speak to the police, you can report through ARCH. ARCH is an independent organisation which records racist and homophobic incidents and can put you in touch with agencies which can help sort your problem out or support you.

Call ARCH directly on 0800 323238.

Do I need proof?
No you don’t need proof – this is a job for the police.

I can't prove it was homophobic.
This doesn't matter. If you feel that it was homophobic then the incident will be dealt with as a homophobic incident.

I didn't get a good look at him/her so what's the point?
You are unlikely to be the only person harassed by this person. If there are a number of reports, information will be put together an appropriate action taken. For example, there might be a number of incidents in a particular street on a particular day. This could be a good lead.

Homophobia is not acceptable. Do NOT put up with it!

Updates

We will try to expand the issues (serious and fun) that TYARainbow covers as often as possible so if you want to see something on these pages or want to add information from your organisation, group or indeed if you want to write for TyaRainbow (4 glory only, I'm afraid) get in touch.