- Gay men are attracted to other men
- Lesbians or ‘gay women’ are attracted to other women
Society seems to expect people to be heterosexual despite the fact that statistically 5-10 people in 100 will be gay, lesbian or bisexual. That means there are possibly half a million gay, lesbian and bisexual people living in Scotland.
Despite this, there are strong messages of disapproval that we pick up about being gay or lesbian from a very young age. This means that for most gay and lesbian people there may be a long time between realising you are gay, to actually telling anyone else about it or doing anything about it.
When someone who is gay tells another person their sexuality it is known as “coming out”. Many people don’t come out because they are scared that they will be rejected by friends and family or even lose their job. Sadly for some people this can actually be true. For others, this fear is so intense that they pretend to lead heterosexual lives well into adulthood and might even get married and have children to cover up that they are gay.
Gay people can grow up with a sense of low self esteem and low expectations of what they are entitled to. The good news is that society is starting to change and be more welcoming of people who are gay and lesbian. For example, gay couples can enter into a civil partnership, which entitles them to almost the same rights as a married couple.
Many people who do come out report a great sense of relief and a feeling of how great it is to be honest about who they are.
People who have come out often find it much easier to meet partners and enter into relationships. They might start to use the gay scene which is usually made up of pubs and clubs as a place to meet other gay people. There are also support groups available to help people come to terms with their identity or with coming out.
If you are not gay the important thing is to remember not to assume that everyone you know is heterosexual and to think about how you might support a friend or family member if they told you they were gay.
Parents Enquiry Scotland is a voluntary organisation offering helplines run by a group of parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. They provide help, information and support for parents and families of LGBT children.
Lothian: Anne 0131 556 6047
Strathclyde: Pat 0141 427 3897
If you’d like support around coming out or to talk to someone about your sexuality you can call Terrence Higgins Trust – Lanarkshire Gay Men’s worker on 0141 332 3838 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The LGBT Centre for Health and Wellbeing have launched a helpline which will provide information and emotional support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, friends and supporters across Scotland. The helpline is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 noon to 9.00 p.m., please call: 0300 123 2523. You can also visit their website: www.lgbthealth.org.uk