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Recently, Australia’s Coalition politicians successfully won support for a delay on voting on the bill that might grant religious schools the ability to discriminate against LGBTQIA students. This has caused outrage among the Labor party’s politicians, who say that Coalition stated themselves to be in favour of discrimination protections.
Because of the delay, laws against LGBTQIA discrimination in schools will not be passed this year.
In addition to supporting this bill, Labor will introduce another bill early next year, which would prevent religious schools from discriminating against staff members based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
After centuries of anti-LGBTQ sentiment, arguments like this unfortunately continue. How does all of this politicking affect the students in question? How much does this really matter to the young people of Australia?
Well, homophobia in schools could be a matter of life or death.
What is homophobia?
Discrimination, defined by unjust or prejudicial treatment, is a problem that affects groups of people based on a certain inherent trait. It commonly rears its head as actions and attitudes against the wellbeing of women or people of colour, but affects other groups as well.
Homophobia is the specific type of discrimination that affects LGBTQIA people or people perceived as belonging to this group. While some take issue with the name of the problem (preferring, for example, “heterosexism”) there is no doubt that it is a serious problem affecting large portions of the population—about 10% according to studies.
Let’s be more specific. Homophobia can look like:
Revulsion or disgust aimed at LGBTQIA people
Fear of being associated with LGBTQIA people
Negative beliefs about LGBTQIA people, including that they are sinful, immoral, or inferior
Refusing someone service or employment because they are or seem to be LGBTQIA
The belief that LGBTQIA people are inherently mentally ill or confused
Refusing to acknowledge someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity
The use of language that demeans LGBTQIA people, including slurs
Shunning or ostracising LGBTQIA people socially
The expectation that people are straight and cisgender
Legal punishment for sexual or gender-based behaviour associated with LGBTQIA people
The inability of same-gender couples to get married
Corrective rape — the rape of gay men and lesbians to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.
Violence, abuse, hate crimes, and murder
Why is it important that homophobia is eradicated in schools?
Enduring any type of discrimination, including homophobia, is an experience that can severely affect someone’s mood and overall mental health, including the young and psychologically vulnerable.
Deciding to come out about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be an intensely stressful situation, especially if you’re expecting rejection, ridicule, and/or ignorance in return. This sense of ostracisation can be made even worse by all the social stressors of high school and young adulthood—acceptance and a sense of belonging are tantamount for people in these groups.
Therefore, stress is elevated in LGBTQIA young people. These experiences of discrimination and homophobia can compound existing life problems and amplify mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and self-harm—even suicide. Other impacts can include low self-esteem and confidence, poor concentration and school performance, and social isolation.
What can schools do to reduce homophobia?
Besides supporting these laws that reduce discrimination against LGBTQIA teenagers, what can we do to reduce homophobia in schools?
Educate staff and students about current LGBTQIA issues, including discrimination and homophobia.
Encourage curriculum that includes LGBTQIA people from history. (After California’s adoption of this policy, LGBTQIA students reported feeling safer in their classrooms. This sense of safety is critical to learning and a lack can be an enormous distraction from academic success.)
Allow LGBTQIA teachers and staff to be vocal about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and share their experiences with students and other staff.
Instate a bullying no-tolerance policy and make it clear to students that homophobia will not be ignored
Bring in speakers to talk about LGBTQIA issues and experiences.
Make LGBTQIA role models commonplace.
Publicly voice and display pro-LGBTQIA sentiments.
Offer support and resources to LGBTQIA students who are experiencing bullying or mental health problems.
Address homophobic language, even if it seems to be a minor problem.
Avoid assuming that all students are heterosexual and cisgender.
The government must remove these discriminatory laws from schools to protect the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations of young people and to reduce the rate of both mental disorders and suicide. We can only hope that the Australian government expedites the removal of these discriminatory laws as soon as possible in the New Year.
I recently spoke with Melanie Tait on the ABC Radio Nightlife program about open relationships. This was a fascinating discussion with some interesting callers on the talkback sharing their experiences.
Gay men have been negotiating open relationships for as long as time. Although gay men do tend to be more adept at negotiating and managing open relationships, many couples still end up in my office because of issues caused by opening the relationship.
You can listen to the audio of my interview below or read some of the points I cover below:
Open Relationships - Clinton Power on ABC Radio Nightlife - SoundCloud (2822 secs long, 2 plays)Play in SoundCloud
What is an open relationship?
also called non-monogamy, an open relationship is a form of not being sexually exclusive with your partner
couples in open relationships have sex with other people but are not interested in pursuing dates, romance, or a relationship with their sexual partners.
an open relationship is different from polyamory, which is where you can have love and romantic interests with multiple partners
Pros of open relationship
you can experience more sexual diversity
opening your relationships is sometimes a solution when there is a desire discrepancy (also called mis-matched libidos)
opening your relationship can be work around if one partner is into kink (sexual taste for fetishes, unusual sexual activities =- BDSM, role-playing, dom/sub) and the other is into vanilla sex
opening your relationship can increase erotic charge in the primary relationship for some couples
Cons of open relationship
not for couples who commitment means being sexually exclusive
doesn’t work as a solution to a failing sex life or other relationship problems
some people can’t separate love and sex well, so they tend to find an open relationship difficult
can increase feelings jealousy and insecurity
How to deal with jealousy
develop clear boundaries and ground rules for what’s ok and what’s not okay
communication is paramount in opening your relationship
discuss possible issues in advance rather than after problems start
be mindful of each other’s feelings and always prioritise your partner above any other sexual connection
revisit your ground rules and how it’s working on a regular basis
Questions to ask if you’re negotiating an open relationship
How are we going to deal with the issue of safer sex?
How will we deal with disclosing our sexual activities?
How will we limit (or not) who we can have sex with?
What sexual activities are permitted?
Where can we have sex? (e.g. our home, hotel, or somewhere else?)
Can we have regular sex partners?
Can we sleep with friends or people we socialise with?
Can we spend non-sexual time with our sex partners?
Do we have complete transparency and tell each other everything or don’t ask don’t tell?
If you’re wanting to read more about open relationships, these two books below are a good place to start and if you’re struggling with deciding to open a relationship or dealing with issues related to your current open relationship, seek the support and expertise of a gay-informed couples therapist.
In this interview I ask Dr. Kort the following questions:
What inspired you to write this book?
What are the most common myths you’ve heard about married men who have sex with men?
What are some of the most common reasons a straight man may have sex with another man?
What are some of the predjuces about men who have sex with men but don’t identify as gay?
Why is it so hard for people to believe that a man can have sex with another man and not be gay?
If a straight man watches gay porn does that mean he’s gay? And how can his wife make sense of this if she discovers this?
Can a marriage recover from a discovery that the husband is having sex with men?
What’s a mixed-orientation relationship?
What’s your view on the new terminology like mostly straight or hetero-flexible?
What takeaways do you hope people get from your book?
This is a fascinating interview where Dr. Kort shines a light on a topic that is rarely discussed in the public arena. Watch the video below or listen to the audio.
Watch the video below:
Is My Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi? An Interview with Dr. Joe Kort - Vimeo
Listen to the audio below:
Is My Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi? An Interview With Dr. Joe Kort - SoundCloud (1235 secs long, 4 plays)Play in SoundCloud
About Dr. Joe Kort:
Dr Joe Kort is a Psychotherapist, coach and author based in Detroit, Michigan who has been in practice since 1985. He specialises in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy, as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy. Dr Kort is also a Board Certified Sexologist specialising in sex therapy and sexual identity. He is also a AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and Supervisor and offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men’s group therapy and a men’s sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. Dr Kort’s practice is mixed with straight, gay, lesbian and bi-attractional individuals and couples. His websites include www.joekort.com and www.straightguise.com
The idea of pansexuality is newer than some other sexual orientation terms, but it is a necessary label for a unique and important experience that has been a part of human existence since the beginning.
What is pansexuality?
Pansexuality, based on the Greek prefix “pan” meaning “all,” is the sexual and/or romantic attraction to people regardless of their gender identity.
In other words, pansexuals don’t find the gender or gender expression of others to be important with regards to their attraction. Some people use the word “gender-blind” to describe themselves and their sexual tastes. This may often be mistaken for bisexuality, but they are not the same—pansexuality has a distinctive philosophy.
Let’s explore some facts and myths about pansexuality.
Myth #1: Pansexuality isn’t real.
Pansexuality, just like bisexuality, often gets criticised as being less of a “real” orientation than heterosexuality or homosexuality, but is often even less accepted than bisexuality is. Many people think that bisexuals and pansexuals need to “pick a side” or that they are being indecisive, when that is almost always not the case. While some bisexuals and pansexuals might find that they later identify as hetero- or homosexual, most continue to identify as bi or pan throughout their entire lives.
Fact: Pansexuals find their unique sexual orientation to be an important part of their identity.
Pansexual people often say that their sexual orientation represents a way of thinking about sexuality that is disconnected from traditional ideas, and therefore they often get brushed to the side and minimised.
Pansexuality is becoming a widely-accepted orientation and experience. There are even some notable celebrities who publicly identify as pansexual, including singers Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monae, Brendan Urie, and Angel Haze and Texas legislator Mary Gonzalez.
Myth #2: Pansexuality and bisexuality are the same.
A bisexual (as we will define more specifically in the next section) is someone whose attractions are not limited to one gender. However, they generally do not describe being “gender-blind” like pansexuals do.
Fact: There are many reasons why someone might choose to identify as pansexual over bisexual.
Bisexuals and pansexuals have the ability to be attracted to the same people, but they represent unique experiences of sexuality. To put it simply, the gender of another individual factors into the bisexual experience of sexuality, whereas for pansexuals, it doesn’t.
Myth #3: Pansexuals are the only people who are attracted to non-binary individuals.
This is actually a hotly debated issue among people in the LGBTQ community.
For those who might not be up-to-date on LGBTQ terminology, non-binary individuals are people who identify outside the two traditional choices of male or female. They might experience themselves as all genders, no gender, third gender, or any of a myriad of other choices. Not all transgender people are non-binary; many trans people find that a designation of “man” or “woman” works just fine for them.
Fact: Bisexuals and pansexuals can both be attracted to people of any gender.
While some have criticised bisexuality for not being inclusive of non-binary people, bisexuals have come forward saying that “bi” in this case means “both same and different,” and therefore their orientation includes attraction to non-binary people. Their orientation was named in a time period when people were less knowledgeable and accepting of transgender experiences and might reflect outdated ideas about gender, but that doesn’t mean that their personal beliefs and attraction patterns haven’t changed based on the times.
Around 25% of transgender people (including non-binary people) identify as bisexual, and therefore we can see that much of the trans community agrees that bisexuality is inclusive.
Myth#4: Pansexual people can’t be happy in a monogamous relationship.
This is another myth that pansexuality shares with bisexuality. Many believe that bisexuals and pansexuals can’t be happy in a monogamous relationship because they need sexual experiences with people of a variety of genders.
Fact: Pansexual people can be monogamous or polyamorous.
This is not the case—some bisexual and pansexual people choose to be polyamorous, but many are perfectly satisfied with their monogamous relationships. While bisexual and pansexual people have the ability to be attracted to a variety of people, it doesn’t mean that they need to be engaged in sexual activity with all of them at all times.
This myth is as ridiculous as saying a straight woman can’t be happy with monogamy because she needs sexual experiences with all the different men she might experience attraction to.
Don’t worry—if your monogamous partner is pansexual, they have no higher likelihood of cheating.
Myth #5: Pansexual people are promiscuous and don’t have standards.
While the prefix “pan” means “all,” it’s a common myth that pansexual people are promiscuous and will have sex with anyone they meet.
Fact: Pansexual people find that someone’s gender identity is not important in their attraction or lack thereof.
As we’ve defined above, pansexual people describe their sexual orientation as an experience that doesn’t take someone’s gender into account—that’s all. It doesn’t mean pansexual people are attracted to everyone and anyone.
People with this sexual orientation have types and tendencies to their attraction, just like everyone else.
How do I know if I’m pansexual?
In the end, only you can decide your sexual orientation. While it’s always okay to hear about the experiences of others and talk about your own before you make any kind of decision, you are the only person who can come to a conclusion about your orientation. (You’re also free to never come to any conclusion at all.)
That said, many people who identify as pansexual start out identifying as bisexual instead, because they find themselves attracted to men, women, and other genders too, and bisexuality is a more commonly used term. However, they find that gender doesn’t play an important part in how attracted they are to someone and therefore they start identifying more closely with pansexuality.
Remember that it is always okay to change how you identify, regardless of where you are in your life or who you have come out to!
If you suspect you may be pansexual or another type of LGBTQ, it could be very beneficial to make an appointment with a therapist today to help sort out your feelings and decide if pansexuality is a word you can identify with.
Are you a gay, bisexual, or lesbian person who is struggling with your life or relationships?
The number of gay male couples that want to have children or already have children is on the rise in Australia.
Since the legalisation of gay marriage in Australia in 2017, same-sex relationships have finally received the recognition they have always deserved. And the good news is same-sex parenting is becoming more socially accepted and therefore increasingly possible.
It’s hard to quantify how many people are LGBTQIA and what exactly constitutes a family, but of 33,714 same-sex couples counted in the 2011 Australian census, 12% (just over 4,000) couples had dependent children living in their household. That means over 6,300 children are living in gay households. (These statistics don’t count LGBTQIA people in different-gender relationships, and therefore don’t provide an entire picture of the possibilities of LGBTQIA families.)
Research is showing that children of gay parents are just as happy and well-adjusted as kids with heterosexual parents. A recent Australian study showed that out of a sample of 500 children with same-gender parents, they did just as well on measures of child health and wellbeing as those with heterosexual parents.
Families with stable, loving relationships produce well-adjusted children, regardless of the gender of the parents. However, experiencing stigma and discrimination from others can have a detrimental effect on the emotional health of the entire family.
If you’re a man in a same-sex relationship and you’re looking at your options for childrearing, what do you need to know?
There are a number of both practical and psychological concerns when you’re a gay man looking to start a family.
Current challenges for new gay dads
While most same-sex families experience precisely the same hurdles as different-sex families, there are some challenges unique to the queer experience.
How are you going to have a baby? There are some different options for gay male couples, but some are more challenging than others. If you want to use a surrogate and have money exchange hands, you would have to go to another country, since that is illegal in Australia. Legal surrogacy is possible in Australia, but it’s challenging with a lot of legal hoops to jump through. Fostering by same-sex couples might be easier, since it is encouraged by many foster agencies. An adoption is also an option, but it has very long waiting periods and is not yet very common in Australia among same-sex couples. Other options can include co-parenting with another same-sex couple or opposite-sex couple. You’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons of your options to decide how you’re going to create your family.
You may feel a lack of social support services. Unfortunately, there are not many social services for gay dads in Australia yet. For example, some mothers’ groups don’t allow men to join, and this can be alienating and leave you without practical childrearing help.
You may feel a sense of isolation. Sadly, this is very common for many gay dads. Since you might not know any other gay parents who have been or are going through what you’re experiencing, this can be disheartening and lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
You may feel marginalized. Because you’re a minority among a minority, this means it’s even harder to find other gay dads like yourself. Only 3% of gay men in relationships have children, so you’re unlikely to find resources just for you.
You may lack family acceptance. As much as Australian society is progressing slowly with the acceptance of same-sex relationships and families, we still have a long way to go. If your parents and other family members don’t support your sexual orientation or your decision to start a family of your own, you may find yourself without an emotional support system to aid you in rough times. And without the practical help, you may need to raise a family and stay healthy (like grandparents babysitting), this can create added stress.
You may feel that you have to contend with traditional gender roles. In traditional, heterosexual families, the father tends to be the breadwinner/authoritarian and the mother is the homemaker/nurturer. However, gay families don’t have these preconceived notions about who does what, and therefore child rearing takes constant negotiation. You may feel pressure to reproduce these roles, but it’s an opportunity to create a family free of heteronormative ideas about relationships. The study mentioned above found that this lack of gender stereotyping actually increased familial harmony and wellbeing.
Issues that can arise when you become a gay dad
Gay male dads experience many of the same issues that straight couples have, mainly stemming from the problem of the baby taking up much of the couple’s time—resulting in stress and sleep deprivation.
A change in relationship dynamics. It’s hard to predict what effects the addition of a child will have on you and your partner, but it’s almost sure that you will encounter some new differences in the way you relate to each other. Additional stresses can cause increase conflict and emotional stress.
A decrease in libido or frequency of sex. The stress of raising a child and the lack of alone time may lead to a dip in your sex life, leading to feelings of estrangement from your partner and problems with intimacy.
A lack of one-on-one adult time like date nights. It’s important to make sure that you have time to enjoy adults-only pleasures like dinner dates and movies to boost your relationship with your partner and keep things going strong as you raise a child. Investing in a babysitter is a smart investment for your relationship.
Tips for new gay dads
When you and your partner are prepared for changes once you become dads, the better off your family will be in the long run.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re about to become gay dads:
Be prepared for a lot of changes in the relationship. It’s impossible to know in advance how having a child will affect your relationship so prepare for any possibility. Make sure your relationship is strong enough to weather these changes.
Surround yourself with supportive family and friends. Establish an emotional and practical support system that consists of your most accepting and helpful family and friends.
Have a budget for a babysitter. Even though you’re new parents, you also need to have date nights and alone time with your partner. Adult time together will help you keep your relationship healthy, for the sake of yourself and your children.
Focus on good communication. Take the time to sit down and communicate with each other to avoid misunderstandings and reduce conflict. It’s important to be a great role model for your children, but it’s also essential for your relationship to be the best you can be at interpersonal skills.
Take turns with childcare to give your partner a break. For example, book a spa treatment for your spouse while you take your child to the park. Raising a child should involve an equal commitment from both partners, so make sure that one person isn’t doing all the work.
If you’re a new dad and you’re struggling with communication in your relationship, consider relationship therapy to help you navigate the changes in your relationship and to strengthen your emotional and sexual connection. Relationship therapy with a gay-informed therapist can be an excellent investment in the future of your family.
Are you in a same-sex relationship and want to have children, or currently have a child but having relationship problems?
You may have come across people who identify as “polyamorous.” Most people’s reaction to this revelation is one of horror, since our culture trains us to believe one monogamous relationship at a time is the only acceptable form of intimacy and commitment. Anything else is cheating, right?
What is polyamory?
Monogamy, which is what most people practice, is having only one intimate partner at once. Polyamory is the practice of having multiple intimate partners at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
There is no single way to do it, so defining polyamory can be challenging. Basically, instead of having a romantic and/or sexual relationship with one person at a time, a polyamorous person has multiple such relationships.
The practice is based on the concept that one individual cannot possibly fulfill all of someone’s emotional and sexual desires, and that people should be free to explore relationships as they see fit.
Polyamory has enjoyed growing cultural acceptance since the 1997 publication of The Ethical Slut, which outlines how to have multiple relationships with the consent of everyone involved.
Psychology Today, in 2014, estimated that at least 9.8 million Americans are actively practicing some type of non-monogamy.
But first of all, let’s discuss what polyamory is not.
When one person cheats on another in a relationship, they are being inherently dishonest and acting against the other person’s wishes. In polyamory, everyone is honest and has everyone else’s blessing when it comes to other relationships.
Swinging is the practice of engaging in recreational sex outside of a committed relationship. It often comes in the form of partner-swapping. While swinging can be an activity that polyamorous people do engage in, it’s not the same as polyamory.
An open relationship. Open relationships involve sexual relations with more than one person, while keeping romance only between you and your primary partner.
A way to fix problems in a pre-existing relationship. If you’re bored with your current partner, getting an additional one isn’t going to fix that boredom. All relationship problems have to be solved in the context of that relationship.
What is a primary partner and how is it different than a secondary partner?
Some people engage in what is called “hierarchical” polyamory, in which partners are grouped into different “levels.” Someone might have a spouse, which is a “primary” level relationship—this relationship comes before all others, and has the most importance and the highest level of intimacy. Then they might have a girlfriend/boyfriend/partner, who is a “secondary” partner. A “friend with benefits,” with whom the relationship is only sexual, might be considered a “tertiary” partner.
Other people have a “non-hierarchical” approach, in which different relationships, while they may take various forms, aren’t labeled by level of involvement. For example, someone in non-hierarchical polyamory might be legally married to one partner but have a similar level and type of commitment to another partner, while also having other relationships that are purely sexual. However, they aren’t “ranked,” and each partner is given as much importance as they want to have.
Is polyamory right for me?
Polyamory might be the right relationship format for you if:
You really want to be polyamorous, and you’re not just going along with what your partner wants.
You are a good communicator and are able to have challenging conversations without exploding into anger or collapsing withdrawal.
You’re ready to be 100% honest, even if you think it might hurt your partner.
You can examine your own thoughts, motivations, and feelings calmly and rationally.
You have the time and resources to give an additional partner what they deserve out of a relationship.
You might have an idea of what you’d like your polyamory to look like, but you also have the flexibility to cope when something unexpected happens.
You feel relatively secure in any existing relationship you have.
You’re ready to deal with jealousy with self-awareness. (More on this below.)
You’re not seeking to fix problems with your existing relationship via adding other partners.
You believe that you could be happy seeing your partner with other partners. (This experience of joy is called “compersion.”)
How do I deal with the jealousy?
Many people assume that jealousy is a sign of deep and passionate love for a partner, but in reality, jealousy is a sign of a problem and can often become unhealthy.
Believe it or not, polyamorous people are not immune. Jealousy is very common in polyamorous relationships, especially when people are just starting out!
Jealousy, when it comes to relationships, is almost always the result of not getting what you need from a partner. It seldom has anything to do with the existence of the other partner.
For example, you might be feeling jealous because your primary partner isn’t devoting enough time to you. While you may feel that this is the result of them having another partner, often these jealous feelings can be easily dealt with when you practice good communication and collaboration.
You could, for example, schedule regular date nights and spend some quality time together. Negotiations like these are almost always the solution to jealousy issues.
Many people think that establishing “rules” around their partner’s behavior will help with their jealousy, but often this just serves to hamstring the freedom that polyamory promises while not helping the original problem.
For example, you might require your primary partner let you know two days in advance whenever they’re going to be seeing a secondary partner, because you’re feeling jealous and insecure. While this can be tempting and often seem comfortable, it’s much more helpful to continually negotiate on everyone’s boundaries.
You might instead ask your partner to respect that you want to know via text, in advance, if they’re going to be home late from work for any reason. This will lead to a sense of security that doesn’t put the responsibility of “following rules” on the other partner.
Keep in mind, however, that “rules” are not the same as boundaries. And everyone should get tested for STIs before and after swapping bodily fluids with a new partner.
Polyamory is a relatively new cultural phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a place in your established relationship. It’s not for everyone, but if you can make it work, it can bring a whole new level of experiences and joy into your relationship.
Are you a gay, bisexual, or lesbian person who is struggling with your life or relationships?
Almost everyone is aware of the difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality, and most people know about bisexuality too. Some of the more up-to-date have heard of pansexuality. But have you heard about a fifth sexual orientation? The one that means someone doesn’t have a sexual attraction at all?
The lack of sexual attraction has become known as “asexuality,” and has only been recognised in queer circles for about a decade. Despite that delay, it’s not a rare condition—many researchers estimate that the prevalence of asexuality is around 1% of the population or about 70 million people. In his book Understanding Asexuality, author Bogaert attests that it is a higher percentage of adults.
So what exactly is asexuality? What does it mean to be asexual?
What is asexuality?
Asexuality is a sexual orientation—or a lack thereof. Basically, asexual people aren’t sexually attracted to anyone.
In The Invisible Orientation, author Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions and puts asexual people’s experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world.
To clear up some of the most common misconceptions, Asexuality is not:
A low sex drive. Asexual people can have a sex drive or lack one, and some asexual people masturbate and/or have an active sex life. Asexuality has nothing to do with someone’s libido and is actually related to their experience of attraction to other people.
The inability to become aroused or orgasm. Asexuality is not a medical problem and does not need to be cured.
While some asexual people also have no desire for a romantic relationship, many want and/or have successful, happy romantic partnerships.
Sex repulsion. Some asexual people are repulsed by sex, but just as many are not.
Naivety, immaturity, or virginity. People are not asexual due to inexperience.
A result of trauma. Asexuality is an orientation just like any other, and framing it as the result of assault or abuse is not accurate. Even if someone asexual has a history of sexual and/or interpersonal trauma, it doesn’t mean that that is the cause of their asexuality. Similarly, asexuality is not the result of anxiety about sex.
Celibacy is the conscious choice to abstain from sex, for any of a variety of religious or personal reasons. Celibate people often still feel sexual attraction and have a sex drive.
The desire to never have children. Many asexual people form happy families in which to raise children, whether those children are biologically related to them or not.
A lack of warm feelings at all. Asexual people are still human, and experience love, affection, and every other emotion.
Inherently a problem. Most asexual people are perfectly fine with their orientation and have no desire to be different. When problems do occur, they are usually the result of a culture that doesn’t understand the issue.
Asexuality is, ultimately, an umbrella term. For example, one type of asexuality called “demisexuality” is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone with whom the person is not very emotionally close. They might be attracted to their spouse or long-term partner(s), but virtually no one else. There is also “gray asexuality,” which is when someone isn’t entirely asexual, but it’s still very rare for them to be sexually attracted to anyone.
How do you know if you’re asexual?
Asexuality is a particularly hard orientation to pin down because the definition of the sexual attraction itself is so nebulous and unclear.
You are, ultimately, the only person who can decide what your sexual orientation is, because it’s different and unique for each person. Even when you decide on one, that label can always change as you grow.
However, people who are questioning their sexual orientation often value the experiences of others in their decision, so here are some signs you may be asexual:
When you see someone who catches your eye, your thoughts usually don’t turn to sex.
You find certain people cute or pretty, but not really sexy or hot.
Naked bodies generally don’t cause you to become aroused.
You don’t often fantasize about sex.
When you watch porn, you feel like an anthropologist studying an unfamiliar culture.
You think that the statistic that people think about sex every three seconds sounds unreasonably high.
The way other people talk about sex seems way overblown to you.
You make interpersonal and/or romantic connections and have very little or no desire to have sex with the other person.
Alternatively, you only feel sexual desire for emotionally close friends/partners and none for celebrities or strangers.
You have a tough time pinning down your sexual orientation at all.
You engage in sexual activity just to please your partner or because you feel like you’re expected to.
Sex just isn’t an important focus of your life. You could take it or leave it, and you’d rather talk or cuddle.
If you think you might be asexual, one thing you can do is schedule an appointment with a therapist. Figuring out your sexual orientation can be stressful and confusing, and a therapist can help with the process. You don’t have to do this alone!
When should you tell a potential partner you’re asexual?
Just as all decisions about sexual orientation, it’s up to you. Some people disclose it on the first date, while others wait until it becomes more urgently relevant. While honesty is generally the best policy in relationships, a disclosure is all about your comfort.
What do I do about sex if my partner is asexual and I’m not?
There are a few options when it comes to partnerships in which one person is asexual. Here are some common collaborative arrangements:
The non-asexual person doesn’t mind, so they just don’t have sex. This may be easier for non-asexuals with a low sex drive.
The asexual person doesn’t mind, so they have sex. It may or may not be less frequent than with other couples.
The people mutually agree to be polyamorous. This means that they can both seek out other partners, and the non-asexual person can get their sexual desires fulfilled.
If you think you may be asexual, you might have a hard time pinning down your orientation and dealing with the opinions of others, but accurately knowing yourself is always worth it.
When in doubt, call a therapist. There’s no shame in getting help.
Are you an LGBTQIA person who is struggling with coming out or understanding your sexual orientation?
It’s not easy for young Australian men to come out as bisexual
The “What’s Up in Your World?” survey heard from 11,000 18 to 29 year old triple j listeners. The survey asked questions about the private lives of young people in Australia.
The survey revealed some interesting data.
Coming out as LGBTIQ is rarely easy, but one interesting stat from this study showed it’s hard for young Australian men to come out as bisexual.
It turns out women are more likely to identify as sexually diverse and to be open about their sexuality but young men who identify as bi are the least likely to be out of all young LGBTQ people.
In fact, young men who identify as gay are twice as likely to have come out compared to bisexual guys.
I spoke on the ABC triple j radio show The Hack about this study and the challenges of coming out for bisexual men.
Here’s a summary of the main points I discussed. You can also listen to the audio recording below this summary.
The stigma of being bi
For many bisexual men there’s a stigma associated with being bisexual. There are a number of reasons for this stigma including:
There are a lack of bisexual role models today. When you look around in popular media there are now more gay and lesbian role models but there are very few bisexual role models.
Bi-erasure is real. Bi-erasure is a phenomenon that refers to a common myth about bisexual men. Many people believe that if a man says he’s bisexual, he just hasn’t come out of the closet as gay. Bi-erasure is a way of dismissing the possibility that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation.
Some gay people perpetuate bisexual sterotypes. Gay men are often guilty of not believing that bisexuality is real. Some gay men believe bisexual men are “greedy” and are secretly gay, but don’t want to commit to a gay identity.
Bisexual men can’t be monogamous. This is a myth that says if you’re bisexual you can’t be monogamous. Some women believe a bisexual man will cheat on them with another man.
Lack of social support. While there are many support services for gay and lesbian people, bisexual people often feel left out. They are a minority of the LGBTIQ minority and sadly, our society doesn’t offer them much acknowledgement or support.
Bi-phobia happens in LGBTQI spaces. Sadly, bi-phobia exists not only in the heterosexual community, but also within queer spaces. This can lead to many bi men feeling outcast and disconnected from the one community they thought they were a part of.
Facts about bisexuality:
Bisexuality is a real sexual orientation. Bisexuality is on a spectrum because there are variations within a bisexual orientation. For example, a bisexual man may enjoy sex with men, but be only interested in romantic relationships with women (this is often called hetero-amorous.)
Bisexual men can be faithful. Many bisexual men are in sexually exclusive relationships. Others are in open relationships. Bisexual people can and do form faithful relationships. There is no evidence that bisexual men have more affairs or cheat than heterosexual men.
Young men are less hung up on labels. We are seeing the emergence of men describe themselves as, “I’m mostly straight” or “I’m hetero-flexible.” This means they are predominately heterosexual but if they meet the right guy and the conditions are right, they’re open to having a bisexual experience.
Listen to my interview on ABC triple radio station The Hack below:
The Challenges of Coming Out Bisexual - SoundCloud (1073 secs long, 2 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Are you a gay, bisexual, or lesbian person who is struggling with coming out?
Affairs and infidelity are more painful than ever.
Because now we often see a replay of the entire betrayal. The intimate texts. The sexy emails. Dick pics. Sometimes even the XXX rated videos.
Long gone are the days when all we found was a matchbook from a seedy motel or lipstick on a collar.
It’s a new layer of modern trauma that never before existed. The words and images are burned into the minds of the one who is betrayed.
And when old boyfriends are now just a click away on Facebook, affairs are everywhere. And, on average, gay men are heavy users of social media.
Undisclosed hook-ups are painful in relationships, but affairs are torturous. Affairs are about secret emotional involvement.
Recovery is possible, and in fact, most gay couples do survive an affair. To give you some hope, and a sense of what the healing process might look like, here are some common stages of repair for couples in therapy:
Stage 1: Managing the crisis
This is the crisis stage. The relationship is going through a grieving process. These initial stages are almost always the most painful.
Now is the time to focus on the person who has been betrayed. The work is about making sure that the person who had the affair takes the time to really put his feet into his partner’s shoes to understand what he is feeling.
Until the betrayer can feel empathy for the betrayed, no progress can be made.
This isn’t about where someone put his penis. This is about the experience of being lied to. When our loved one lies to us, our view of the world falls apart. Relationships are about trust and safety. This is lost when what we thought was true is no longer real.
Stage 2: Understanding why the affair happened
For a couple to feel connected again they will need to know why the affair occurred. This is powerful growth work for both partners.
Sometimes there are unresolved issues in the relationship that are “acted out” through the affair. The crisis of the affair is often a wake-up call for the couple to do this work.
Paradoxically, the crisis can spark intimate, honest conversations that clients have waited a lifetime to experience. This is an exciting high for both partners. In stage two these peak moments are typically short-lived and not sustainable. But they do provide the much-needed hope. And that hope is the fuel to power the hard work of lasting relationship repair.
Sometimes the affair is not about problems within the relationship. Some people cheat because they want to feel more alive. The secrecy of an affair can make you feel more powerful, less vulnerable, and freer.
Affairs are usually less about sex and more often about the desire to feel special and seen. And because they are “naughty”, the erotic charge increases. Research shows us that breaking taboos is the number one human aphrodisiac.
Affairs are often about wanting a new relationship with yourself rather than a new relationship with another person. The partner who had the affair will need to forge a new path to do the important work of building aliveness within himself.
Stage 3: Rebuilding intimacy
In the last stage the couple builds a new relationship dynamic based on honesty, empathy, and deeply connecting communication. They learn how to talk about any subject in a way that brings them closer together rather than further apart.
Typically this new culture is one of safety but also of imagination. The paradox of long-term relationships is that they offer safety but they often don’t provide adventure. Humans like both.
Long term relationships need imagination to avoid domestic deadness. Some couples go dancing all night. Others create sexy scenes together. Affairs usually have lots of imagination. Why shouldn’t long-term relationships receive the same creativity?
Fortunately, gay men are often known for their creativity.
About the author
ADAM D. BLUM, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specialises in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBTQ people. The Center offers services in San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit the website to subscribe to the e-newsletter and free e-class on building a better relationship with yourself. Follow the Center on Facebook and read the blog.
Making the decision to ‘come out’ can be an intensely emotional and stressful situation. The thought of revealing your true self to the people in your life can be daunting, potentially opening you up to rejection, ridicule and ignorance. However, it’s good to understand the steps involved in coming out whether you’re just considering it, or somewhere along the path already.
Coming out (short for the older expression “coming out of the closet”) is the process through which you explore, define, and share your sexual orientation and/or gender identity with the people around you.
Whether for better or worse, as an LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex) person, the coming out process lasts a lifetime. Recognising, accepting, and expressing your non-normative sexual orientation and/or gender identity is a series of developmental stages special to you.
Unfortunately, straight and cisgender (cisgender means your sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) is the default worldwide, so you’re going to have to come out repeatedly, to different people—until our culture changes, that is.
It’s not all bad, though— as an LGBTQI person, you have a unique experience in that you’re constantly exploring and redefining your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, leading to a higher level of self-awareness and personal engagement than many people ever achieve.
The Cass identity model was first published by Vivian Cass in 1979, and is still referred to today to describe common stages of coming out gay. Later, it was restated in Ritter and Tendrip’s 2002 Handbook of Affirmative Psychotherapy with Lesbians and Gay Men.
While the original theory focuses on monosexual, cisgender queers, the process applies to all LGBTQI people who are coming into their own in a homophobic and transphobic society. This model can help you understand where you’re at in the coming out process, and where you need to go next.
A note: the stages of coming out are not linear, and don’t always come about in the same order. You might not go from stage one, to two, to three, and so on. You can temporarily skip stages or land in the same one twice. Everyone’s coming out process is unique, so don’t worry if your journey looks a little different than what is described here. All gay experiences are valid!
Here’s a brief summary of the 6 stages of coming out:
Stage 1: Identity Confusion
This phase doesn’t feel very fun, but it’s one that almost every LGBTQI person goes through on their quest to manifest their true selves. You might find it can last for years or for just a short time, but it almost always includes having feelings of being disconnected and different from others.
Some common thoughts you may have during this stage include:
Who am I?
What do I want?
Why am I different from the people around me?
Why can’t I fit in?
For example, transgender woman Cassie was in this stage when she was a child and couldn’t figure out how to play with the other boys without getting teased. She didn’t know exactly why, but she just couldn’t navigate male social spaces successfully. She had never heard of transgenderness, so she had no way to ascribe that label to herself, but something about being a boy just wasn’t working for her.
Stage 2: Identity Comparison
This is the “bargaining” or “rationalization” stage. You might have admitted to yourself on some level that you’re feeling same-gender attraction and/or gender nonconforming feelings, but you’re reluctant to take on a particular label.
Some common thoughts you may have during this stage include:
Maybe I’m gay, or maybe I’m bisexual.
Maybe this feeling is just temporary.
Maybe I’m confused.
Maybe I need to forget about this whole thing.
Maybe this same-gender attraction is a special case and won’t ever happen again.
Am I the only one going through this?
I don’t belong anywhere.
John, went through this stage when he heard about gay men on TV and realised that maybe that label could be applied to him. He spent a lot of time “trying on” different words and images in his head and wondering about the possibilities. Was he really gay? Or was he bisexual? Or was it just a phase he would grow out of?
Stage 3: Identity Tolerance
In this stage, you’ve tentatively accepted a label (such as gay, lesbian, bi, queer) and feel tolerant, but not fully accepting, of your gay identity.
When you’re in this stage, you’ll usually seek out other gay people to connect with, because the feeling that you’re not like straight and/or cisgender people has become stronger and harder to deny.
During this stage, it’s particularly important for you to forge constructive connections with other gay and queer people, as this will foster your positive sense of self and more comfort in committing to a particular label.
In this stage, Jonelle has started to go to local lesbian support groups and find lesbian friends on dating sites. She sometimes fantasises about being sexually intimate and emotionally close with another woman, but she doesn’t feel great about the identity of lesbian yet.
Stage 4: Identity Acceptance
At this stage, you’re often forming solid friendships with other LGBTQI people, leading to a more accepting view of your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
When you’re in this stage, you no longer wonder “who am I?” or “where do I belong?” because those questions have been answered by your warm acceptance into the gay community.
It’s possible you will continue to pretend to be heterosexual and cisgender in some situations, and will lie or avoid the topic with family members and friends who might not be accepting. However, with close cisgender/heterosexual friends who you know will take it well, you might very well decide to come out.
Max, who identifies as bisexual, has begun some good friendships with other bisexual people who are at varying stages in the coming out process. He’s beginning to feel like himself around his new friends and does more to express himself while he’s in their company. He isn’t out at work or with family, but he looks forward to a time when he might be able to be more genuine in his day-to-day life.
Stage 5: Identity Pride
This stage comes with some ambivalent feelings that aren’t nearly as strong in some of the other phases.
During this stage, you might dive into the gay and queer subculture and consume literature, art, and other media by LGBTQI creators.
You may come to realise the great gulf between your pride in your own identity and the homophobia and transphobia in society at large. While before you were rejected by individuals, you now feel rejected by the entirety of their culture.
You may feel a lot of anger at this point and can lose any faith you had in traditionally cisgender heterosexual institutions like marriage and gender roles.
Sometimes, this particular mix of anger and pride will result in you becoming an outspoken activist for causes you care about, whether they’re related to your LGBTQI identity or not.
John had a difficult time when coming out to his parents. Thankfully, he was able to receive support from a local LGBTQI youth support service. He is passionate about helping young LGBTQI people get sup the support they need, so he now donates his time at the local youth service and marches with this organsiation in the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. He is an advocate for LGBTQI youth and speaks out against homophobia and transphobia to make the world a better place for himself and for people like him.
Stage 6: Identity Synthesis
The anger that pervaded stage five has abated somewhat, and you’re now willing to admit that there are cisgender heterosexuals that are trustworthy and that the “us versus them” mentality that you previously embraced wasn’t necessarily an accurate picture of the world.
In this stage you have integrated your LGBTQI identity into your personality as a whole, and no longer feel ambivalent about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
At this stage, John has become less interested in activism and more interested in living his life exactly as he pleases. He proudly comes out as gay to everyone in his life because he realises that while his culture might have harmful beliefs about gay and lesbian people, many of his friends surrounding him have good intentions. John feels a deep sense of pride in his sexual orientation and considers it a core aspect of who he is as a person.
The Cass model is not a prescriptive journey that all LGBTQI people necessarily go through, but it can help you get a sense of where you’re at in the coming out process and which stage you may be stuck in. Surrounding yourself with positive LGBTQI role models can help you develop a greater sense of pride over time, which can lead to greater freedom, confidence, and success in your life.
Are you a gay, bisexual, or lesbian person who is struggling with coming out?