Sexual identity is at the core of your sexuality. Just as with other aspects of your identity (female, male, young, old, and so on), your sexual identity is how you see your sexual self and how you express that part of yourself to others.
Sexual orientation. An enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectionate attraction that one person feels towards another person. Sexual orientation falls along a continuum. Your sexual orientation may be marked by sexual attraction towards people of the opposite sex or towards people of the same sex. For some people, sexual orientation may be towards people of both sexes. Sexual practices are what you do when you have sex, as in the sexual activity itself. All of these aspects of sexuality are fluid and may change over time (www.yoursexhealth.org).
What is LGBT? LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender.
- Lesbian – a woman with emotional and sexual attraction to other women
- Gay – a man with emotional and sexual attraction to other women
- Bi-sexual – a man or a woman with emotional and sexual attraction to both men and women
- Transgender – an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. For example: a man who has male sex organs but who has a female gender identity (internal sense of being male or female) or something in between male and female.
What is an Ally?
An ally is a person who supports and honors sexual and gender diversity, challenges biased remarks and behaviors, and who openly explores one's own biases. To be an ally does not necessarily mean that you identify as an LGBT individual. Many allies are heterosexual individuals who support and honor sexual and gender diversity.
Coming Out. Coming out refers to no longer hiding and/or openly sharing your sexual orientation with those around you. This can include family, friends, co-workers, and so on. Whether you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, confused or undecided, coming out allows you to be more honest about yourself and proud of who you are with those around you. Those closest to you may already sense that you're not heterosexual and welcome the chance to be supportive, once you tell them.
It takes courage to come out. Not everyone supports or believes in LGBT identities. When coming out, it is a good idea to be ready in case other people don't respond well. For more information, we encourage you to visit www.yoursexhealth.org
Coping with Challenges
Social expectations to 'be' heterosexual can be intense: from your family, at school or work, your friends or even from yourself. There are many ways to cope with these challenges- some are healthy and some are not.
A positive way to work through it is by talking to people you trust and seeking out others who feel the same way – at support groups, clubs, phone helplines and on the internet. The University Counseling Center (701-777-2127) is a welcoming, safe environment to all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, and is here to help.