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Info For Teens

All About LGBTQ

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. Let's take a closer look at what each of these letters mean.

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    What’s a sexual orientation?

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight are sexual orientations. All these sexual orientations are perfectly normal. Scientists are not yet sure exactly what causes someone to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight, but recent research shows that there are biological factors in place before birth that influence people's sexual orientation.

    Our sexual orientation is about who we’re attracted to sexually. A woman who is sexually attracted to other women often calls herself a lesbian. A man who is sexually attracted to other men often calls himself gay. People who are attracted to both women and men often called themselves bisexual. And people who are attracted to people of the other sex often call themselves straight.

    Why do we say "often"? Because some people don't think these labels describe them accurately. Some people don't like the idea of labels at all.

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    How do I know if I’m gay?

    It can take many years for people to figure out their sexual orientation. "Questioning" means people are not sure of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is normal, and it's very common — especially for teenagers.

    It can take years to understand your sexual orientation. Often, people may find that they are "questioning" for quite a while, or that none of the labels seem to apply. Each of us has to answer these questions for ourselves, but it may take time before we can answer. Many teens (and adults too!) are still figuring out their sexuality.

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    What does “transgender” mean?

    The "T" in LGBTQ stands for transgender. Transgender is not a sexual orientation — it's a gender identity. Before we define transgender, let's take a step back and look at some other terms.

    • Sex is biological. It includes our genetic makeup, our hormones, and our physical parts (like our sex and reproductive organs).
    • Gender refers to society's expectations about how we should look, think, and act as girls and boys, women and men.
    • Gender identity is how we feel about our gender and how we convey those feelings in the way we dress, behave, speak, and other ways we express ourselves.

    Most people who have female parts, hormones, and genetic makeup feel like girls or women, and most people who have male parts, hormones, and genetic makeup feel like boys or men. These people are often called cisgender.

    But some people find that their gender identity is not in sync with their sex — for example, someone with a penis might be declared a boy at birth, but grow up feeling, thinking, and acting more like a girl. Many people who feel this way call themselves transgender — also known as trans, TG, or genderqueer.

    Transgender can include people who are simply not satisfied with the strict gender roles society dictates, those who enjoy "playing" the other gender. The term transgender also includes those who take hormones and/or have surgery to alter their physical bodies to match their gender identity, also known as transexual.

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    What does “queer” mean?

    Queer is often used to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (people wth sex organs that are not easily distinguished as female or male). 

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    Do I have to tell my doctor that I’m LGBTQ?

    It’s always best to be as honest as possible with your doctor or nurse.  The better information you give your provider — especially when it comes to sensitive subjects like sex — the better care you will receive.

    However, you may not feel comfortable coming out to your health care provider. If that’s the case, you may want to seek out a doctor or nurse who is LGBTQ-friendly. 

    Planned Parenthood health centers are dedicated to giving women, men, and teens of all sexual orientations and identities high quality, affordable, and sensitive health care. If you have more questions about the LGBTQ-friendly services in your area, your local Planned Parenthood health center may be able to help. You may also find a LGBTQ-friendly health care provider through the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

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    Is it true that it’s easier to get a sexually transmitted infection if you’re LGBTQ?

    No. Anyone who has sex with another person is at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. A gay person's chance of infection is no different from a straight person's. Gay, straight, or somewhere in between, it's important to practice safer sex.

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    Where can I get more information about LGBTQ issues?

    If you'd like more information about LGBTQ issues, GLSEN and Advocates for Youth are two good places to start.

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