Coming Out: Sexuality
In its broadest sense 'sexuality' describes the way a person goes about expressing themselves as a sexual being. It describes how important sexual expression is in a person's life, how they choose to express that sexuality and any preference they may have towards the type of sexual partner they choose.
Like many other personality traits, our sexuality seems to be formed by the time we reach our teenage years - although it may be many years later before we each understand and accept our sexuality. Our sexuality seems resistant to attempts to radically change it.
It's estimated that about 10% of the population are gay. This means that if you are in a group of 30 people, at least two others will be gay (as well as yourself)! It is unlikely, however, that they will have told anyone.
Coming out (to yourself)
It can be very scary when you first realise you may be gay. You may be having feelings for members of the same sex but at the same time may not want to be seen as different or may be worried some people might not accept you. Some people are made to feel guilty about their sexuality, as if it is 'wrong' to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. So your emotions are in turmoil. The important thing to remember is that it is okay!
Often people begin to accept their own sexuality before they come out to others. Some people are certain of their sexuality from a very young age; for others it can happen much later in life. Accepting that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual hopefully is easier nowadays than it has been in the past. Attitudes are more accepting than they used to be and there are now more people living openly gay and lesbian lives than there have been in the recent past. However understanding and coming to terms with your own sexuality can involve a period of upheaval and uncertainty. If you want someone to talk to during this time, the Counselling Service will be happy to help you.
Coming out (to others)
People can be worried they will upset other's expectations, particularly family or friends. Other people may have their own very definite opinions or prejudices. It is important that you come out to people who will validate and celebrate your new found sexuality as well as to people who may question it. You may also want to talk over the situation in detail first. (See contacts below which include supportive University networks).
- Look for sympathetic people to come out to first.
- Do things at your own pace - it's your life and your sexuality. Don't feel you have to tell people until you are ready.
- Don't assume people are homophobic just because they make anti-gay jokes. Often people haven't really thought it through, and don't do so until someone close to them comes out.
- Sadly the opposite can also be true. Just because people claim to be open minded and accepting of others doesn't mean that they cannot be quite fixed and judgemental in their view of gays and lesbians.
- Everyone doesn't have to know. Many people - such as Department Staff - will consider your sexuality is your own business. You don't have to share it with them unless you particularly want to.
- Don't be too put off by an initial bad reaction. Many people react badly when they are faced with something that has shocked them.
- Choose your medium. If you are worried that someone will be very hostile, writing might give them time to assimilate the news better.
- Don't feel guilty! Easier said than done - but you don't have to blame yourself if someone reacts badly.
It is important that anyone who is sexually active takes care of their health. The HIV virus now affects all groups of people and not just the gay community as used to be the case; however, gay men must make sure they have a good knowledge of safer sex practices. Gay men should also ensure they are vaccinated against hepatitis B. Remember that you do not need to go to your GP for advice if you are concerned about them knowing about your sexuality.
- Respect Sexual Orientation Group - a network for both staff and students across the University, the group raises the profile of issues to do with sexual orientation in work and study. The group also meets informally and socially. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- Bradford University Students Union LGBT society - a social, support and campaigning society specifically for University students. 'Coming Out' stories on the website under 'Support' Email : firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dignity and Respect Contact Person Network - for information regarding your options if you are being bullied or harassed.
- Samaritans (tel: 01274 547547)
- Bradford Lesbian and Gay Youth (BLAGY) (email: email@example.com, tel: 01274 744224)
- Youth Fax (tel: 01274 432431/2)
- Trinity Centre, Sexual Health Dept (GU clinic) (tel: 01274 365 035 - advice, tel: 01274 365 232 - testing / appointments
- Off The Record (Counselling for young people) (tel: 01274 733080)
- Gay and Lesbian Youth in Calderdale
- Lesbian Information Service
- Muslim Youth Website