Frequently Asked Questions 
                                  Version 1.2


     Frequently asked questions and answers come from a variety of sources,
     including the Boston gay lesbian bisexual Speaker`s Bureau manual, and
     Pink Triangle Services Ottawa gayline and speaker`s bureau kit.

		     What is homosexuality and bisexuality?
              A "homosexual" is someone who is emotionally and sexually
     attracted or committed to a member of the same sex.  A "bisexual" is
     someone who feels attractions for members of both sexes, not
     necessarily at the same time.

              Feelings define a person's sexual identity, not behaviour. 
     For example, same-sex behaviour in prison might not necessarily
     indicate that the people involved are "gay' or "lesbian.' Nor does the
     fact that a person has never made love with another person of the same
     sex necessarily mean that the person is not lesbian or gay.  Many gay
     and lesbian youth recognize their sexual identity years before they
     ever have sex with anyone.  And some adults, including religious
     clergy, choose to remain celibate, even though they accept a gay or
     lesbian identity.  The same is true in the case of bisexuality: people
     may identify themselves as bi whether or not they have actually had
     sex with persons of both sexes.

              There are also cultures where the definition of what it means
     to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual differs.  In some areas, a man who has
     sex with another man is not considered gay or bisexual simply because
     he has sex with another man, but only when he is the receptive
     (passive) partner.

              Many , fearing their own feelings, past behaviour, or
     tendencies, want a very clear definition of homosexuality and
     bisexuality, preferably one that excludes them.  You might point out
     that you understand that the issues of homosexuality and morality
     cause anxiety.  One of the goals is to voice these anxieties, and to
     point out that being gay, lesbian, or bi is not always frightening or

              It may be helpful to note that we gay, lesbian, and bisexual
     people are like our heterosexual counterparts in more ways than we are
     unlike them.  Some may want to distance themselves from you, viewing
     you as an entirely alien and incomprehensible being.  If you can
     encourage people to appreciate similarities as well as differences,
     you may begin to close this distance.
    		 Where do the words "gay' and "lesbian' come from?

              Many gay men and lesbians reject the label "homosexual"
     because it is a term that was Imposed by clinicians the nineteenth
     century, rather than one of our own choosing.  In addition, the word
     "homosexual" primarily emphasizes sexual activity, encouraging the
     popular belief that this orientation or identity is only about sex. 
     Therefore "gay' (for men) and 'lesbian" (for women) are the terms
     Daily used in preference to 'homosexual "

              The term "gay' has a long history of use, which some scholars
     link to European troubadours in medieval times.  The term "lesbian'
     recalls Sappho, a woman who lived in ancient times on the Greek island
     of Lesbos and wrote poetry addressed to other women.

              Naming ourselves is an essential step toward freedom.  "Gay'"
     "lesbian," and "bisexual" are ways of labelling ourselves as
     multi-dimensional, fully loving human beings.  More recently, the
     historically pejorative term 'queer' has been used by some activists
     as an inclusive term for gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.  Activists
     hope to reclaim this word as a symbol of pride in being different, and
     by doing so to divest the term of its hateful connotations Others in
     our community find the word so full of such connotations that they
     cannot use it without pain.
		     What causes homosexuality and bisexuality?
              This question comes up quite frequently and is probably one
     of the most difficult to answer. Currently, no reasonable and valid
     theory explains the development of sexual orientation.  The theories
     that have been put forth are inconsistent and contradictory.
     Sexuality, broadly speaking is most likely determined through a
     combination of biology and environment.  But the important thing is
     that gay, lesbian, and bi people are here, we have been here for a
     long time, and we are not going away.

              You may want to turn the question back to people and ask,
     "What causes heterosexuality?" This usually gets a nervous laugh.  Our
     culture the belief that heterosexuality is the "normal mode of
     development for everyone, and therefore anyone who is not heterosexual
     must be "abnormal."

              Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of this view of human
     diversity is that it encourages us to try to make the abnormal into
     the normal.  If being gay, lesbian or bisexual is abnormal, then
     surely we ought to try to find ways of preventing such abnormality? 
     This perspective, which views minority sexual orientation as something
     to "cure," is particularly frightening to many gay men, lesbians, and

              Another notable consequence of our society's narrow view of
     human diversity is that difference is posed in terms of hierarchy:
     heterosexuality is seen as 'better' than homosexuality or bisexuality. 
     Minorities in our society are often called upon to defend and explain
     their difference.

              The analogy between being gay, lesbian, or bisexual and being
     lefthanded is a strong one.  One in ten people is thought to be
     left-handed; as recently as fifty years ago, children had their left
     hands tied behind their back to encourage right-handedness; the Bible
     has condemnations against left-handed people, the word 'sinister"
     comes from the Latin for 'left. Nowadays we no longer view
     left-handedness as evil.  We do not ask what causes left-handedness?"
     in an effort to stamp it out.  Instead, we wonder "How should we
     recognize and accommodate this particular minority among us?" Perhaps
     we can begin to ask the same questions about sexual minorities.

              Rather than trying to answer the question 'what causes
     homosexuality and bisexuality, and how can we stop it?' perhaps we
     should ask `what causes homophobia and bi-phobia, and how can we stop
     it?" When we can answer the questions, the other questions may seem
     	Is homosexuality or bisexuality a choice or an orientation?

              The issue of whether sexual identity is a chosen or a fixed
     aspect of our lives underlies many people`s questions and assumptions. 
     At its most blunt, this issue may surface in the form of a question
     like this:
     		Was it your biology or your upbringing?'

     The 'nature versus nurture dichotomy ('I was born that way" versus "I
     was made that way) is a problematic one, and each interpretation alone
     has failings.  The "nature' theory implies that there is some defect
     in one's hormonal or genetic constitution, which might someday be
     cured.  The 'nurture' theory implies that something went wrong in the
     family, an interpretation that has caused many parents of gay men,
     lesbians, and bisexuals untold amounts of anxiety and guilt.

              For some, sexual identity is arrived at after a conscious and
     careful decision, a choice.  They may prefer the term 'sexual
     preference.' For others, sexual identity is something they have felt
     strongly ever since they can remember, and the only choice involved is
     the choice to openly acknowledge that identity.  Such people may
     prefer the term "sexual orientation." 

              Bisexual people interpret their sexual identities in
     different ways as well.  For some, bisexuality can be a stage of
     transition from exclusive heterosexuality to homosexuality (or vice
     versa) as newly uncovered feelings begin to emerge.  For others,
     bisexuality represents a genuinely equal attraction to both sexes or
     attraction to both with a preference of one over the other.

              Whether differences in sexual identity are innate (like
     racial differences) or chosen (like religious differences), we should
     respect and value them just as we try to respect and value other forms
     of difference in our society.
     		How prevalent is homosexuality and bisexuality?

              There is a high probability that people already knows or will
     encounter gay, lesbian, and bisexual people either in their own
     families or among friends. About ten percent of the population.  There
     is no way for you to know who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual by looking.
     In the 1940s and 1950s, however, Dr. Kinsey and his associates
     conducted two studies on the sexual attitudes and behaviours of
     people in the United States, the first about men and the second about
     women. These studies revealed a much greater incidence of homosexual
     behaviour than had been previously acknowledged.

              Kinsey developed a seven-point scale based on the degree of
     sexual responsiveness people have to members of the same and the other
     sex.  These categories are based on both biological reactions and
     overt experience, not on sexual identity:
     exclusively heterosexual

     predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual

     predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual

     equally heterosexual and homosexual

     predominantly homosexual but more than incidentally heterosexual

     predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual

     exclusively homosexual
     The Kinsey reports indicated that it is necessary to consider a
     variety of activities in assessing an individuals ranking on the
     scale, including fantasies, dreams, thoughts, frequency of sexual
     activity, and emotional feelings.

              Of the over 12,000 men interviewed, 37 percent had some overt
     homosexual experience to orgasm between adolescence and old age, 25
     percent had more than incidental homosexual experiences for at
     least three years, while 4 percent were exclusively homo in sexual
     behaviour throughout adulthood.  Of the 8,000 women interviewed, 28
     percent acknowledged having had erotic responses to other women, 13
     percent had experienced orgasm with another woman, and 19 percent had
     some sexual contact with other women by the age of forty.

              Kinsey countered the myth that homosexual behaviour was an
     unusual and isolated phenomenon.  He reported that the incidence of
     persons with homosexual histories was virtually identical in every
     geographic region of the country: large cities, rural communities, and
     farms.  People with these histories were found among every occupation,
     socio-economic class, racial and age group.
	     Is homosexuality and bisexuality natural?  Is it normal?

              Statistically speaking same-sex behaviour is indeed not the
     'norm," but this is rarely the sense in which 'normal' is employed. 
     In asking these questions, people are really wondering if
     homosexuality and bisexuality is moral.  "Morality and "wrongness" are
     often the issues being raised here, not the nature or normalcy of
     homosexuality and bisexuality. 

              It is important to consider the value judgements that society
     attaches to concepts such as "natural' and 'normal." Each culture or
     society throughout the world defines what is 'natural' or 'normal' to
     fit its own context, and these definitions differ.  In many
     contemporary Western cultures, many people do not consider
     homosexuality and bisexuality to be normal.

              Historically, however, homosexuality and bisexual behaviour
     has existed since the earliest of human societies, throughout the ages
     to the present day.  It has been part of every culture, socio-economic
     class, educational level, and race.  Anthropologists Ford and Beach
     surveyed 76 societies outside of the West and found that in 64
     percent, "homosexual activity is considered normal and socially
     acceptable. Critics of homosexuality and bisexuality maintain that
     same sex sexual behaviour is "unnatural," that such behaviour is
     absent in non-human animal species. Defenders of homosexuality, on the
     other hand, argue that such behaviour has been observed in the wild in
     higher mammal species and other animal species, so it is in fact
     'natural.' Others maintain that what non-human animals do is
     irrelevant when evaluating human behaviour.

              Often it is said that homosexual behaviour is not "natural"
     because the purpose of sex is reproduction. However, most heterosexual
     encounters are not intended to produce children.  Non-procreative
     sexual behaviour also occurs widely among nonhuman species.  Should we
     say then that nonprocreative sexual behaviour is unnatural?

              For many people, whether a sexual relationship is moral may
     be considered an independent question from the sex of the partners
     that make up the couple.  Gay or straight relationships may be
     responsible or irresponsible, moral or immoral.

              For the millions of lesbians and gay men and more millions of
     bisexuals homosexuality and bisexuality is a normal, natural, and
     moral way of life.

              As we see from the example of left-handedness, what may be
     normal or natural for one person may not be normal or natural for
     another.  For a person who is homosexually oriented, it would be
     abnormal and unnatural to engage in heterosexual behaviour.
			     Can you change?
              Often implicit in this question is the notion that being
     lesbian, gay, or bisexual is second best, and that, given the choice
     to become heterosexual, we would. The question also indicates a
     simplistic view of the development of sexual identity.  Changing one's
     sexuality is not a matter of waking up one morning and resolving to
     change.  You can change your sexual behaviour (sometimes), but usually
     not your sexual orientation.  Since feelings ultimately define us as
     gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual, asking us to change implies
     that we are right to hate our feelings and to hate ourselves.  This is
     a refined form of oppression. 

              Many people assume that being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is a
     choice.  These people might think it is just a 'stage or a 'vice or a
     'sin' and want us to 'switch back.' In response, it is so helpful to
     ask why someone would choose to be gay, lesbian, and bisexual in our
     oppressive culture.  Many gay, lesbian, and bisexual people don't see
     their identity as a choice at all, but as an orientation which is
     simply different, and not bad.
	     Have you ever been attracted to a member of the other sex?

              Sometimes people pose this question because they are simply
     curious to know if you 'flirt' with the idea of having a different
     sexual orientation, in much the same way that they might 'flirt" with
     a homosexual fantasy.  Other times, though, people pose this question
     because they hope that one day you might grow out of your current
     'fascination' with people of the same sex.

              When answering this, it is generally a good idea to
     distinguish the different types of 'attraction' one person might feel
     toward another.  Some people might presume that because you are
     lesbian or gay, you hate members of the other sex.  Point out that
     most lesbian and gay people have friends of the other sex.

              Many lesbian and gay people have had sexual relationships
     with members of the other sex.  Some were satisfying some were not. 
     If you are bisexual, you may wish to discuss the nature of your
     attractions for each sex.

              There might be a myth lurking beneath this question, that a
     gay or lesbian person is a failed heterosexual:
     "A person who has never had a relationship with someone of the other
     sex will naturally turn to others of the same sex as love partners.'
     You might suggest that one reason someone might not have a
     relationship with someone of the other sex is that he or she has
     stronger feelings for someone of the same sex.

              It is important to emphasize that gays and lesbians are
     attracted to members of their own sex, not repulsed from members of
     the other sex.  This is a positive attraction, not a negative
     reaction.  We are lesbian and gay because our strongest sexual,
     emotional, and love bonds are with members of our own sex.
		     Is everyone basically bisexual?
              For some people, bisexuality represents a varying or equal
     attraction to members of both sexes.  For others, bisexuality defines
     a period of transition-those who have seen themselves as heterosexual
     and are newly discovering gay or lesbian feelings (or vice versa). 
     Bisexual people have formed support groups and political organizations
     and are a vital part of a larger movement for progressive social

              The Kinsey scale posits that sexual behaviour and attraction
     fit somewhere along a continuum from exclusive heterosexuality to
     exclusive homosexuality, and that sexual behaviour can change. Some
     people are comfortable with the assertion that everyone is basically
     bisexual, that everyone 'fits' somewhere on the continuum.  Others,
     especially those at the ends of the continuum, may feel that their
     feelings and experiences (of "exclusive' heterosexuality or
     homosexuality) are not recognized by such an assertion.

              Perhaps we must be flexible in our statements.  Establishing
     a new criterion or standard, such as 'all people are bisexual,' might
     be just as oppressive as the old standard that 'all people are
     heterosexual ." For us all to be liberated, we must get away from the
     notion that we must all fit into a single standard form of sexual
     I've never met a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person before.
     You might not have met a person who told you directly that he or she
     is gay, lesbian, or bisexual.  It is helpful to point out that many of
     us can "pass" as heterosexual, that many of us are "invisible and that
     is a problem because it strengthens the already prevalent heterosexual
     bias in the culture. 

              Many people do not consider the possibility that someone      
     they love is gay, lesbian, or bisexual because they presume everyone
     is heterosexual.
		     You don`t fit the stereotype.
              Sometimes this is intended as a compliment, but usually it
     comes from someone uncomfortable in general with gay, lesbian, and
     bisexual people, someone who is surprised and confused by seeing a
     person is not as previously imagined.

              The statement has the effect of setting up a "good queer-bad
     queer' dichotomy that pits segments of our community against each
     other.  It may be an on of approval that you do not "flaunt' your

             The more easily recognizable "queens" were the first to fight 
     back in our liberation movement, at the 1969 riots at the Stonewall 
     Inn in New York City.  

     	Why do you need to tell people you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual?
     Unlike some minorities, gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals can be 
     inviable if they choose to.  This invisibility reinforces the 
     assumption that everyone is heterosexual.  In order to fight this 
     invisible, many people feel it is important to be openly gay, lesbian, 
     or bisexual, even to people outside the circle of fancily and friends. 
     If we remain silent about our sexual orientation, or lie about it, 
     then people may continue in heterosexist assumptions. Other members of 
     invisible minorities also strive to increase their visibility.  
     Religious minorities, for example, may render others of their 
     religious difference, especially at holidays, when Christian beliefs 
     seem privileged.  Disabled people often have to assert their existence 
     in order for others to accommodate their special needs, which may
     not be immediately apparent. Being openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual 
     reminds people about human diversity, and challenges all of us to 
     respond to that diversity with respect.
     Why do you have to "flaunt' your homosexuality or bisexuality?
     Some people believe that any public expression of same sex affection 
     is a way of "flaunting' our sexuality.  You may want to ask what the 
     questioner means by 'flaunting.' Whatever the response, ask the 
     audience if heterosexual couples have ever been observed -doing these 
     things in public.  The answer is usually 'yes." However, when 
     heterosexual couples do so, it is not usually considered
     "flaunting heterosexuality.' How would they feel if they could never 
     hold hands or kiss in public, never acknowledge being involved in a 
     relationship, or never have the legal right to marry.  Would they be 
     willing to give up these ways of expressing their happiness? 
     Most heterosexuals take these rights for granted.  They do not see it 
     as 'flaunting' their heterosexuality.  Many gay men, lesbians, and 
     bisexual resent the fact that they are not afforded equity in all 
     	How can you tell if someone's gay, lesbian, or bisexual?

              Gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals are as varied in their style 
     of dress, mannerisms, and interests as their heterosexual 
     counterparts.  You usually cannot tell if someone is gay, lesbian, or 
     bisexual just by looking. (Sometimes this question is an expression of 
     curiosity about what gay people find attractive. More often, though, 
     it is about physical stereotypes.)  Some gay men, lesbians, or 
     bisexuals dress or act in stereotypical ways on purpose.  They may do 
     this so that others will recognize their sexual orientation.  Thus, 
     stereotypes can be exploited knowingly to communicate nonverbally to 

              At the same time, there are many people who define themselves 
     as heterosexual but who are viewed by others as gay or lesbian, simply 
     because of their dress or mannerisms.  This is particularly true with 
     respect to transvestites.  The vast majority of men who wear "women's" 
     clothes define themselves as heterosexual.  It is perhaps more obvious 
     that the vast majority of women who wear "men`s' clothes are not 
     making a statement about their sexual orientation.

              The stereotype of the "swishy faggot" and the 'motorcycle 
     dyke' are just stereotypes.  This means that there are some lesbians 
     who dress in clothes considered "masculine and appear to be
     very tough and threatening to the heterosexual community, and there 
     are some gay men with very effeminate" mannerisms who appear to be 
     mimicking women.  Society seems to focus on these aspects of the gay 
     and lesbian community as representative of all members of these 

        Most gay, lesbian, and bisexual people do not fit these 
     stereotypes.  Those who do exploit stereotypes should be recognized 
     and supported for their courage in challenging the rigid sex
     roles and definitions of masculinity and feminity, which constrict 
     everyone. In many ways, life would be a lot easier for them if they 
     chose to 'pass' as straight.

              We are all given the message that we are not supposed to act 
     counter to our assigned gender role.  Anyone who strays from assigned 
     gender roles may be herded back into conformity by the fact of being 
     labeled "queer,' 'faggot,' "lesbo" and so forth.  Gay, lesbian, and 
     bisexual people are often embarrassed by the extremes in our own 
     communities and some try to disassociate themselves from the "queens' 
     and the "bull dykes.' In reality, none of us will truly attain 
     liberation and freedom of expression unless we all do.
	     Do homosexuals and bisexuals molest children?

              One fear that many people express is that homosexuals molest 
     young children.  The singer Anita Bryant, in her Florida campaign in 
     the late 1970s to prevent gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from 
     teaching in the schools, exploited this fear to win voters over to her 

              We so read reports of "homosexual child molesting." We never 
     read reports labeling `homosexual child molesting' as such, although 
     studies consistently show that most child sexual abuse is by older 
     heterosexual relatives and most often involves men who abuse young girls. 
      One study, for example, reported that 88 % of the victims were women, 
     while the vast majority of the abusers are male. Other evidence supports 
     the conclusion that 92 percent of all child abuse cases
     are heterosexual.  Further, another study notes that a review of 
     available evidence 'provides no basis for associating child 
     molestation with homosexual behavior."

              According to the Gay Teacher's Caucus of New York, while 
     there are many complaints on file about male teachers making sexual 
     -advances to female students, there have been very few complaints 
     about teachers making advances to students of the same sex.  And 
     women, including lesbians, almost never sexually molest children.

              This stereotype reflects the unfounded attitude that gay, 
     lesbian, and bisexual people have uncontrollable sexual drives.  
     Homosexuality and bisexuality are not synonymous with sexual 
     obsession or lack of control, and most gay, lesbian, and bisexual 
     people prefer to seek sexual connections that bring equality and 
     mutual support.

              Some men do have sex with minors.  'the topic of 
     "intergenerational sex" is highly controversial, and it is an issue 
     that is not exclusive to gay, lesbian, and communities. Controversy 
     arises because of differences of opinion on whether a minor can 
     meaningfully be considered mature enough to consent to sex.

              The media have in the past given a lot of publicity to the 
     North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and almost always 
     describes that group's function as encouraging child molestation. 
     NAMBLA's main purpose is support and to raise the issue for public 
     debate, not sex, and most certainly not rape.

              Although the data are sparse, the evidence suggests that many 
     of the men who victimize young boys do not identify themselves as gay. 
      In fact, many abusers of boys appear to be heterosexual and to have 
     had lengthy heterosexual histories. Others are exclusive pedophiles 
     who have no interest at all in adult partners and do not consider 
     themselves gay. 
     	Don't lesbians hate men?  Don`t gay men hate women?

     This question is loaded with powerful stereotypes about lesbians and 
     gay men: that we have chosen homosexuality in rejection of 
     heterosexuality; that being gay or lesbian necessarily means 
     withdrawal from half of the population, that the lesbian and gay 
     experience is so alien to the rest of society that there is no point 
     of connection between lesbian and gay people and anyone else.

              Many people assume that we are gay or lesbian because of a 
     bad experience with a member of the other sex, or that we are bisexual 
     because we are simply confused, and with a little bit of
     counseling or if we meet the right person of the other sex, we can 
     'straighten" out once and for all. If every person became lesbian, 
     gay, or bisexual simply because of a bad or sad heterosexual 
     experience, there would be many more of us.

              There are gay and lesbian people who choose to direct their 
     energies to and focus on gay or lesbian members of their own sex.  But 
     it is also common for gay men and heterosexual women to form very 
     close emotional ties, free of sexual tension. However, the main point 
     here again is that gay men and lesbians are attracted to members of 
     their own sex, not repulsed from members of the other sex.
	     Do gay men want to be women?  Do lesbians want to be men?

	     Some people confuse transsexualism and homosexuality or bisexuality.  
     A transsexual  is a person who has undergone or hopes to undergo an 
     operation to become the other sex. Transsexuals (very few of whom are 
     gay, lesbian, or bisexual) feel very deeply that they were born into 
     the wrong body and should be the other sex.  For them, the physical 
     operation brings their bodies into harmony with their internal 
     identities and sexual orientation. Most gay men, lesbians, and 
     bisexuals enjoy being the sex they are and have no desire to be the 
     other sex. While a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person growing up n-might 
     feel different and even uncomfortable, this has to do with
     cultural constraints, parental expectations, and homophobia, not a 
     desire to change sexes.
      Because our society encourages distinct roles for women and 
     men, we all are raised with ideas and images of what is 'feminine" and 
     what is "masculine.' Men are expected to be strong & athletic, and 
     emotionally reserved; whereas, women are expected to be fragile, 
     nurturing, emotional, and passive. Many people within the lesbian, gay, 
     bisexual  communities have challenged and tried to discard these 
     stereotypes.  Some gay and bisexual men (along with heterosexual men 
     involved in the 'new men's movement") have tried to develop their ' e 
     side by becoming more gentle and rejecting some of the restrictive 
     tenets of masculinity.  Many lesbians and bisexual women (along with 
     heterosexual feminists) have abandoned the passivity associated with 
     traditional female roles.  By challenging stereotypes, people are not 
     trying to be the other sex.  When men and women incorporate aspects of 
     what has traditionally been associated with the other sex, they affirm 
     their whole selves.

              The color lavender has been used by the gay, lesbian, and 
     bisexual community for some time.  Part of its appeal lies in the fact 
     that lavender is a mixture of pink and blue, the traditional
     colors supposedly associated with girls and boys, and thus expresses 
     our integration of attributes that have traditionally been masculine 
     and feminine.
	     Are all lesbians feminists?  Are all feminists lesbians?
              A person`s sexual orientation does not inherently predict her 
     political outlook.  Before the women's movement of the 1970s, many 
     lesbians came out and loved women without attributing any political 
     significance to that fact.  Still today many lesbians do not actively 
     identify with feminism.  And certainly many feminists do not identify 
     themselves as lesbians.  Indeed, there has been a certain amount of 
     antilesbian activity in the women's movement, in which heterosexual 
     feminists have sought to disassociate and even purge lesbians from the 
     movement, in an effort to appear more palatable to mainstream society.

              At the same time, many women also "acknowledge' or "discover" 
     lesbianism through their participation in feminist activity.  Many 
     read about lesbianism for the first time in a political context and 
     receive support from feminist friends who see lesbianism as a positive 
     identity.  And there are many women who discover feminism through 
     their interaction with other lesbians.

             Sometimes heterosexual feminists have felt judged by lesbian 
     friends for not being a lesbian.  Some feminists feel pressured to 
     "explore" lesbianism. (T. Grace Atidnson once said, "Feminism is the 
     theory; lesbianism is the practice.")
     I have a friend I think is a lesbian.  How should I act around her?

              Assuming she is a lesbian, there may be several reasons why 
     your friend has not told you so.  Perhaps she is not ready.  Perhaps 
     she is unsure of your reaction and does not want to risk getting 
     hurt, or losing your friendship.  Perhaps she feels awkward in making 
     an "announcement." Some gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are relieved 
     to have someone ask them directly about their sexual orientation. 
     Others prefer to choose the  when they tell their friends.  You may 
     help them to tell you by making it clear that you would be supportive.

              Telling a friend about one's sexual orientation takes an 
     enormous amount of courage, because losing a friend is a possible 
     outcome.  If a friend comes out to you, you should recognize that this 
     is an indication that he or she values your friendship.  It is 
     unlikely that he or she is making a "pass" at you, although this is a 
     common fear.

              When a friend comes out to you, it may take a while for you 
     to adjust to the information. You may fear that others will think you 
     are gay, lesbian, or bisexual too, since you are a friend of
     this person.  Such assumptions are unwarranted, but they sometimes 
     cause friends to avoid spending time with an "out" individual.  You 
     should behave in ways that are supportive of your friend, who is 
     really no different than before.  The only difference is that you may 
     now have a greater level of honesty in your friendship.
		     Are you out at work?
     The risks of coming out at work are job discrimination, firing, 
     demotions, and the like. Some provinces have enacted legislation that 
     makes workplace discrimination based on orientation illegal.  Several 
     cities have developed similar legislation. Subtle ways in which gay, 
     lesbian, or bisexual people are ignored in the work environment. As in 
     many other arenas, at the workplace most people presume everyone is 
     heterosexual.  Jokes about fags and dykes may circulate without 
     workers realizing that they hurt people within earshot. Some of us 
     must pretend to be single heterosexuals and play the 'Monday morning 
     pronoun' game in which we change the pronoun representing the sex of 
     the person with whom we spent the weekend.
     			Family and Friends

     			Don't you want to have children?

     This question assumes that gays & lesbians do not have children.  Many 
     people assume that since gay men and lesbians have sexual 
     relationships with people of the same sex, they can't and don`t have 
     children. Many gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals do have children.  
     Some do not, but wish to, and some do not wish to.  Many gay, lesbian, 
     and bisexual people already have children from previous or existing 
     heterosexual relationships.  Some seek to have children after they 
     have "come out," through alternative insemination (by a known or 
     unknown donor), or adoption.  Some have sex with a member of the other 
     sex, who is then not further involved in parenting. There are some 
     difficulties in being a gay, lesbian, or bisexual parent.
          Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may have to fight ex-spouses 
     for custody of their biological children.  Many placement agencies are 
     reluctant to place children with adults known to be gay, lesbian, or 
     bisexual.  Some places that provide alternative insemination services 
     insist that eligible candidates show evidence of a long-term 
     heterosexual relationship.  These difficulties of being a gay, lesbian, 
     or bisexual parent come from societal homophobia, not from the gay, 
     lesbian, or bisexual parent.  Some people use 'the best interests of 
     the child' as a excuse for their own homophobic attitudes. Other 
     problem that gay, lesbian, and bisexual parents face are similar to 
     those that single heterosexual parents face.  For lesbians, and 
     especially lesbians of color, who as women
     still earn on average significantly less than men, economic survival 
     can be a major struggle. Some gay, lesbian, and bisexual people seek 
     to approximate traditional family arrangements.  They may find a 
     partner to whom they consider themselves "married" even though such 
     lifelong bonds are not legally recognized.  Others may live singly or 
     in groups.  A family need not be narrowly defined; many varieties of 
     support networks can function as families.
	     Should gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have children?
     This questioner probably does not support gay, lesbian, or bisexual 
     parenting.  You may want to ask why such parents might be bad for 
     their children.  The response might reveal some of these assumptions 
     underlying the questioner's concern:
     1 .     Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people sexually molest their 
     2.      Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people encourage or force their 
             children to be homosexual or bisexual.
     3.      Children need both male and female role models in their lives 
             to grow up healthy, and a same-sex environment does not provide
     4.      Because of all the prejudice around, it is unfair to the 
               children to have gay, lesbian, or bisexual parents, and
            therefore, it is selfish for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to
have children.

     Morality and Religion
     Isn't homosexuality and bisexuality Immoral?  God created Adam
     and Eve, not Adam and Steve or Amy and Marge.
            Several texts are frequently cited from the Bible and
     Koran as religious condemnations of homosexuality and
     bisexuality. It is important to ask if these passages are divine
     laws or reflections of the societal context in which the Bible
     and the Koran were created.
            The Greek Bible (commonly known as the New Testament)
     condones slavery and states that women are inferior to men (for
     example, I Timothy 2:9-15; I Corinthians 14:34-35).  The Hebrew
     Bible (commonly known as the Old Testament) forbids people to eat
     pork and shellfish (for example, Leviticus 11), prohibits the use
     of face paint, and establishes many outdated dress and dining
     codes.  There are many rules within the Bible that are no longer
     taken literally except by orthodox segments of religious

            Many of the Biblical texts that have been used to bolster
     homophobia are misreadings or mistranslations of the Bible.  In
     fact, homosexuality is treated less seriously than the seven
     deadly sins, but greed, and gluttony have not been grounds for
     castration, burning, or drowning.  Some commonly cited texts used
     to support homophobic attitudes were actually intended to condemn
     sex outside of marriage, male prostitution, and marrying or
     loving someone from a different race or country, and not
     homosexuality per se.

            Theologians spurred on by extra-religious concerns and
     cultural prejudices sought to make much of the relatively little
     homophobic sentiment in fundamental jewish, Christian and Moslem
     texts.  The transition from tolerance to hostility was almost
     wholly the consequence of the rise of corporate states and
     institutions with the power and desire to regulate increasingly
     personal aspects of human life.
            Unless you are well versed in Scripture, do not engage in
     a religious debate.  The purpose is not to convince people that
     their religious beliefs are wrong or that their religious
     training was misguided.  To do that would only make them more
     closed-minded.  We can, however, talk about our own personal
     relationship with God (or a higher power) if such a relationship
     exists for us.
     Are you religious?  Do you believe in God?
            Many people feel that there is a tension, if not a
     contradiction, between being religious and being gay, lesbian, or
     bisexual, This stems partly from the rejection of sexual
     minorities by many organized religions.  You will have to answer
     for yourself. 

            When questions of religion enter you may find it helpful
     to turn the discussion from one of religion to one centred around
     the topic of human and civil rights.  No matter what one's
     religious convictions, all religion is based on the pretence that
     we are all God's children and therefore deserving of basic human
     dignity and basic human rights.  For Christian audiences, you
     might note that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality or
     bisexuality.  But he did say a lot about love.

            Whether you are religious or not, you might mention the
     variety of ways that gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals incorporate
     spirituality in their lives.  Dignity, Integrity, Am Tikva, and
     the Metropolitan Community Church, are examples of Catholic,
     Episcopal, Jewish, and non-denominational groups that serve our

            Some denominations are more accepting of homosexuality and
     bisexuality than others.  For example, Reform Jews, Unitarian
     Universalists, Quakers, the United Church of Christ and others
     ordain gay, lesbian, and bisexual people into the ministry, and
     are welcoming of people of all sexual identities in all segments
     of religious life.

     What does the pink triangle mean?
            In the Nazi concentration camps, prisoners were classified by
     patches of different colors corresponding to their "crime.' Jews were
     forced to wear a yellow star (two yellow triangles sewn together);
     political prisoners (liberals, socialists, communists) a red triangle;
     anti- or asocials (alcoholics, vagrants, prostitutes, and others) a
     black triangle; hard-core criminals a green triangle; and jehovah's
     Witnesses a purple one.

            Gay men were forced to wear pink triangles placed point down on 
     both the left shirt sleeve and right pant leg.  These men were sent to 
     the camps under German law, Paragraph 175, which made illegal not only 
     same-sex sexual acts, but also embraces, and even male homosexual

            The law did not cover homosexuality in women.  Authorities
     responded to this 'oversight" by sending supposed lesbians to the 
     concentration camps wearing black triangles, under the charge of being 
     asocials. Some witnesses have reported that in the concentration 
     camps, gay prisoners were treated so horrendously that people wanted 
     yellow stars rather than pink triangles.

            We don't know for sure how many people were put to death under
     the sign of the pink and black triangles, but they number in the 
     thousands. (The most common estimate for men wearing the pink triangle 
     in the camps is about 15,000.)

            After the liberation, homosexuality remained against the law in
     virtually every allied country.  When the troops learned the meaning 
     of the pink triangles, they threw many gay men in jail, rather than 
     free them.

            Though the pink and black triangles represent the highest form 
     of oppression that our communitities have endured, the pink triangle 
     (and to a lesser degree the black one) has been transformed into an 
     empowering symbol of strength and resistance to bigotry.  Today in 
     Amsterdam, the "Homomonument," a large stone plaza that includes
     three pink triangles in its design, stands as a tribute people 
     everywhere who have suffered the indignities of homophobia.

            Prior to this symbolic representation of the pink and black
     triangles, the Greek letter Lambda (a symbol for wavelength in quantum 
     physics suggesting dynamism, and an abbreviation for Lesbian) was used 
     to identify the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movements.  In 
     recent years, bisexual people have adopted their own symbol: two
     triangles, one pink and one blue, overlapping to create a lavender 
     triangle in the center.
     Is gay-bashing really very common?
            Direct violence against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people is a
     nationwide phenomenon many have experienced some form of victimization 
     on account of sexual orientation: 'punched, hit, kicked, or
     beaten,' and police abuse, assaults with weapons, harassment or 
     assault. Victimization was reported to have occurred at home, at 
     school, and at other community locales including assaulted verbally, 
     or physically abused by members of their own family. Attacks include
     verbal harassment, intimidation, physical assault, vandalism, arson,
     rape, murder, and police abuse.  The majority of bias-related assaults 
     in which sexual orientation is a factor are never reported due to the 
     vicd&s concern of "coming out" publicly, or lack of trust in the 
     judicial system.

            Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, especially the more "out"
     members of these communities, are frequently targets of physical 
     attacks by individuals and gangs.  "Queer-bashing has become a 
     recognized sport for groups of male teenagers, who believe that they 
     can prove their manhood by assaulting queers.  At one college, part of 
     What Is homophobia?
            Homophobia refers to a prejudicial belief system that maintains
     that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are threatening; that they are 
     sick, unnatural, immoral, or disgusting; that they are inferior to 
     heterosexuals, and that they deserve to be hated.  Homophobia operates 
     on four distinct but interrelated levels, personal, interpersonal,
     institutional, and cultural (A related term, bi-phobia, refers to a 
     fear or hatred of bisexuals.  Bi-phobia may operate in slightly 
     different ways, since it includes not only heterosexuals'
     but also homosexual anxieties about bisexuality.)

            Personal or internalized homophobia includes an individual's 
     negative beliefs, opinions, about gay, lesbian, or bisexual people.
     Interpersonal homophobia is manifested when a personal bias or
     prejudice is acted out by one individual upon another, thus 
     transforming prejudice into its active component-discriminatiom 
     Examples of interpersonal homophobia are namecalling or 'joke' verbal 
     verbal and physical harassment, as well as more extreme forms of 
     violence, rejection of children by parents, isolation from coworkers 
     and peers, and so on.
            Institutional homophobia refers to the ways in which 
     governments, schools, businesses, religious, and professional 
     organizations discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or 
     identity.  Sometimes laws, codes, or policies actually enforce such 
     discrimination.  Few contemporary institutions have policies 
     supportive of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, and many actively 
     work against not only those groups, but also heterosexuals who are
     supportive of the rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

            Cultural homophobia, so called "societal' or "collective,"
     refers to the unwritten social norms or codes of behavior that work 
     within a society to legilize oppression.  Examples of cultural 
     homophobia are the exclusion of images of gay, lesbian, and bisexual 
     people from the media or from history, or their inclusion in purely 
     negative stereotypical terms.
     Steps for the Future
     Why are people homophobic?
           Many prejudices against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are
     based on inaccurate stereotypes and lack of information.  Society 
     portrays sexual minorities as sick, perverted, or nonexistent.  Many 
     people are not aware that they know healthy gay, lesbian, and bisexual 
     individuals.  Many people, fearing they might be gay, lesbian, and
     bisexual, prefer to attack us as a way of avoiding self 

            Many people also link homosexuality and bisexuality only with
     sexual behavior.  In a culture that is reluctant to acknowledge 
     sexuality of any kind, homosexuality and bisexuality become
     problematic.  Our society supports one way of being: the traditional 
     male or female role within a nuclear family setting.  The reality of 
     same sex relationships challenges this model's claim to be the only 
     legitimate one, and suggests that people can lead successful and 
     creative lives without having to fit a set pattern.  For people who 
     feel uncomfortable with or uncertain about their sexual orientation or 
     relationships, this can be very unsettling and threatening. The 
     presence of groups of people apparently different from the "norm" can 
     be very threatening particularly when a society experiences a
     state of flux or crisis, we find that racial, ethnic, and political
     minorities become targets of scapegoating and attack. Rather than 
     admit confusion, acknowledge systematic problems, or make necessary 
     changes, a society often chooses to try to shift the focus of its own 
     failings upon these targeted groups.
     How is the struggle for gay rights related to other civil rights
          Noting the connections between the treatment of gay, lesbian, and
     bisexual people and other oppressed groups offers the possibility for 
     a shared movement challenging all forms of oppressions a step in 
     advancing progressive social change.  It is important to view 
     discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people as stenuning 
     from many of the same sources as the victimization of transgender 
     people, people of colour, Latinos and Latinas, Asians, Jews, women, 
     people with disabilities, older and younger people, and others.  For 
     example, homophobia may be viewed as an extension of sexism, in which 
     gay men are oppressed and devalued as 'women."
         It must also be acknowledged that though there are many 
     similarities, there are significant differences in the ways in which 
     particular target groups experience oppression. By connecting our 
     experience of oppression with other forms of oppression, we suggest 
     that part of the solution to homophobia lies in our ability to link up 
     with other groups targeted for victimization.
     How does homophobia hurt heterosexuals?
          We feel that homophobia touches everyone.  You do not have to be 
     gay, lesbian, or bisexual, or know someone who is, to be negatively 
     affected.  In reality, though homophobia actively oppresses gay men, 
     lesbians, and bisexuals, it also hurts heterosexuals.  In the larger 
     perspective, everyone loses.
     *  Homophobia inhibits the ability of heterosexuals to form dose,      
        intimate relationships with members of their own sex, for fear of   
        being perceived as gay, lesbian, or bi
     *  Homophobia restricts communication with a significant percentage
        of the population.
     *  Homophobia locks people into rigid gender-based roles that
        inhibit creativity and self expression.
     *  Homophobia is often used to stigmatize heterosexuals: those
        perceived or labeled by others to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual;     
        children of gay, lesbian, or bisexual parents, parents of gay,      
        lesbian, or bisexual children; and friends of gay men, lesbians,    
        and bisexuals.
     *  Homophobic conditioning compromises the integrity of heterosexual
        people by pressuring them to treat others badly, actions that are   
        contrary to their basic humanity.
     *  Homophobia, combined with sex-phobia, results in the invisibility
        or erasure of gay, lesbian, and bi lives and sexuality in
        school-based sex education discussions, keeping vital information   
        from students.  Such erasures can kill people in the age of AIDS.
     *  Homophobia is one cause of premature sexual involvement, which
        increases the chances of teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually  
        transmitted diseases.  Young people, of all sexual identities, are
        often pressured to become heterosexually active to prove to         
        themselves and others that they are "normal."
     *  Homophobia prevents some gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from
        developing an authentic self identity and adds to the pressure to   
        marry, which in turn places undue stress and often trauma on        
        themselves as well as their heterosexual spouses, and their         
     *  Homophobia (along with racism, sexism, classism, sex-phobia, and
        so forth) discourages a unified and effective governmental and      
        societal response to AIDS, which has far-reaching implications.
     *  Homophobia prevents heterosexuals from accepting the benefits and
        gifts offered by the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities:        
        theoretical insights, social visions and options, contributions in  
        the arts and culture, religion, to family life, and to other        
        sectors of society.
     *  Homophobia inhibits appreciation of diversity, making
        it unsafe for everyone because each person has unique traits not    
        considered mainstream or dominant.  We are all diminished when any  
        one of us is demeaned.
          From this perspective, it becomes clearer that it is in the
     self-interest of heterosexuals to support the liberation efforts of 
     gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. By challenging homophobia, people 
     are not only fighting oppression for specific groups of people, but 
     are also striving for a society that accepts celebrates the 
     differences in all of us.