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FAQs from Friends of people with diverse sexuality & gender

Why didn’t they tell me before?

You friend has probably been confused or unsure and thinking about this for months or even years. This does not mean they don’t trust or love you, nor is it a reflection on your friendship. It can be painful to realize that you don’t know your friend as well as you thought you did and that you may have been excluded from a part of their life. To some extent, this is true in all friendships and relationships, regardless of sexuality.

Gay, lesbian, trans* and bisexual people often recognize at an early age that they feel ‘different’, but it may take years before they can put a name to it or feel sure about things. It’s often not until this stage that they consider telling someone.

Even though you may have some sadness for not having been able to help your friend through that period, understand that they probably could not have told you any earlier. More importantly, them doing so now is an invitation for a more open and honest friendship.

Why did they have to tell me?

Some friends believe they may have been happier not knowing. They start to recall the time before they knew as ‘problem free’, remembering an ideal situation rather than the reality.

Sometimes we can try to deny what is happening by rejecting what we’re hearing (“it’s just a phase; you’ll get over it”); by shutting down (“If you choose that lifestyle I don’t want to hear about it”); or by dismissing or not registering the impact of what we’re being told (“that’s nice, and what do you want to see at the movies later?”).

 

Friends may feel resentment towards their friend’s sexuality. This feeling is based on the belief that to be gay, lesbian, trans* or bisexual was a conscious decision. Being GLBTQ is not a choice or decision people make. The main decision most GLBTIQ people have to make is whether to be honest about who they are or hide it. Hiding it imposes a tremendous burden. A large part of their life would be kept secret from you, and you would never really know them. While people may experiment for some time with their sexuality and/or gender, someone who has reached the point of telling their friends that they are LGBTQ is not usually someone who is going through a phase. Generally they have thought long and hard to understand and acknowledge their sexual orientation or gender identity. Telling friends they think they are LGBTQ involves overcoming a great many negative stereotypes and often taking a great risk, and few would take that step lightly or prematurely.

Will my GLBTIQ friend hit on me?

Would you hit on anyone/everyone from the opposite sex? Most people wouldn’t. Just because your friend is attracted to the same gender as themselves doesn’t mean they’ll hit on everyone who is that gender. Just as heterosexual people can be friends with the opposite sex, Homo/bisexual people can be just friends with people who are the same sex as them.

 

Most people would only hit on someone if they thought they would possibly respond well. So most GLBTIQ people would only hit on other GLBTIQ people who they think are attracted to them too. No-one wants to be rejected when they hit on someone, so hitting on someone who is straight wouldn’t make much sense.

 

If your friend does hit on you, it’s a compliment!! They think you’re attractive and might think it’s worth a try or have misunderstood your body language, but everyone has the right to say no. If your friend hits on you and you don’t feel comfortable with it; say so! Be assertive and respectful, but be clear about how you feel and what you want from your friendship. There are plenty of friends (straight and GLBTIQ) who can find each other attractive but respect that you will only be friends.

Why am I uncomfortable with my friend’s sexuality?

Our culture and society gives us messages about many things, including sexuality and gender. The negative messages or myths we have learned from our society about sexuality and gender are very strong and not easy to dismiss. However developing a better understanding of your friend and becoming more familiar with the issues will help reduce these uncomfortable feelings. Homophobia is a very strong part of our culture and is similar to many other forms of discrimination and prejudice. As long as homophobia exists on our society LGBTIQ people and their families may have very real and legitimate fears and concerns.

Could a counsellor or therapist be helpful?

Support for friends who are coming to terms with their friend’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be gained from a counselor or therapist trained in the area of sexual or gender diversity (check out our Support and Mental Health sections for some that FC recommends). You may want to talk about your own feelings and how to work through them. It may help you and your friend communicate clearly through this period.

Young people who have acknowledged their attractions to the same gender, or who have acknowledged their true gender identity can still have feelings of depression, fear and isolation, and may need help with self-acceptance. Supporting your friend to access a counsellor or therapist may be very helpful for them if they feel this way, and you helping them with something like this will not go unnoticed; they will feel better just knowing you’re trying to support them through what can be a very difficult time.

Consulting a counsellor or therapist in the hopes of changing your friend’s sexuality or gender identity has little value. The Australian Psychology Society and Australian Medical Association both assert this, and that homosexuality is not a disease or illness and so is not something that can be ‘cured’.

 

Check out our Info section for more information about Sexuality, Gender, Discrimination, Mental Health, Support and more.

How can I support my friend?

Finding information like on this website is a great first step to supporting your friend. You have shown that you are open to new information and hopefully are better informed. Every young person needs different things from their friends. Some friends find that they are better able to understand and support their friend by recognizing the similarities and differences in experiences. You can support your friend by educating yourself and others around you as much as possible about sexuality, gender and diversity.

Feeling marginalized or stigmatized in society can lead to some young people becoming depressed or even suicidal. If you think your friend is depressed or suicidal, get help. Check out our Mental Health and Support info sheets, for info on where to get help or contact us for more info.

 

We also recomend you check out the booklet "My Friend Is Gay" go to http://www.glhv.org.au/node/269
to download a copy.

Frequently asked questions from Professionals

Are you a counselling service

No we are not. We offer peer support, a safe social drop-in space, and information and referrals that are GLBTIQQ friendly. We refer people to counselling services that are appropriate to their needs.

What training do the volunteers receive?

Volunteers receive FC Volunteer Training on interpersonal & communication skills, boundaries, confidentiality, peer support, information and referral provision, and sexual and mental health. Volunteers are also asked to complete the WA AIDS Council Volunteer Training and continue to attend in-service trainings, team meetings, and debrief meetings after each session. There is always at least one staff member present in addition to the volunteers at each session.

How does the peer model work?

Peer support at the Freedom Centre works using Social Cognitive Theory, which basically says that we learn and develop best when we get the right information that’s relevant to us and have a safe and respectful social environment to practice and understand what we learn. At Freedom Centre we hope people learn to accept and respect themselves and others and find support networks that suit their needs. The volunteers use peer support to provide an ideal space for this to be learnt and understood.

 

So we use peer support and the safe social space to empower young people to be themselves, be confident, make healthy informed choices, establish support networks, and respect diversity (theirs and others’).

What services do you offer to young people?

A safe social space to hang out with people who have had similar experiences to theirs, peer support, information, referrals, educational and recreational workshops & events and a place to have fun being themselves!

What services do you offer professionals?

We offer tailored trainings for students & professionals working with youth and/or people with diverse sexuality, sex and/or gender.

We can arrange for agency visits to FC or for FC to come to you for an info session about our services. We also attend community information, health & youth events.

How do I refer my client to you?

Because we are a drop-in service we don’t require formal referrals in order for someone to come to FC. If you would like to however, you are welcome to contact the Freedom Centre Coordinator about your client or any questions you might have. Otherwise, anyone can drop-in to Freedom Centre sessions when they like.

Can I accompany a client to your service?

Yes. While the drop-in Centre is a youth-owned space, we understand that having a support person come with a young person may be important until they feel comfortable in the space. We encourage professionals, family and friends to accompany young people when coming to Freedom Centre for the first (or first few) times.

What are the volunteer/visitor boundaries?

The volunteers at Freedom Centre are trained on boundaries before starting to staff FC. Boundaries are particularly important in a peer support service as Perth is a small place and, although we are peers, the FC staff and volunteers are in a position where they are setting an example to others.

At FC the volunteer role is to be friendly, supportive and social in that space, but volunteers are not there to become friends with visitors. The volunteer/ visitor relationship is a one way relationship where the volunteers are at FC to support, listen to and inform the visitors and to facilitate the safe social space.

 

Out side of FC volunteers will not become friends with visitors, and even won’t approach them in case the visitor is with people who they have not come out to.

My client is questioning their sexuality and/or gender, but isn’t sure yet. Will you encourage them to be GLBTIQ?

No! We do not have an agenda; we just want people to feel OK being themselves – if that turns out to mean they are straight, that’s great; if not, that’s great too! So long as the young person is able to make informed and supported decisions and do/be what feels right for them, we’ve done our job! Check out our Info Sheets on Sexuality and Gender to find out more