Human beings differ in culture, race, religion, spirituality as well as gender and sexuality. Sexual and gender diversity refers to the range of different sexual orientations and gender expressions found between people. This page provides information about sexual and gender diversity and answers some commonly asked questions.
What is sexual and gender diversity?
Sexual orientation and gender expression is not as clear cut and simplified as one might think. There are more sexual orientations than simply being either gay or straight, and in the same way, there are more expressions of gender than simply being man or woman. Sexual and gender discrimination and intolerance can have a profoundly negative effect on the emotional and mental wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ) people. Understanding the diverse orientations and expressions of sexuality and gender is paramount to ensuring acceptance and tolerance of this wonderful variety of human experience.
Is sexual diversity as simple as LGBTIQ?
Lesbian, gay, bisexual etc. are all labels used to define a particular sexual orientation. In some cases this makes it easier to understand and explain one’s sexual orientation, in other cases it can be quite a limiting label. In many cases, people have found their sexual orientation to have changed over the course of their life. In other cases, people have changed their gender identity. There are countless permutations and expressions of gender and sexuality. Some say they have crossed over, others feel they are in between and still others are undecided. So, while labels are an easy way to categorise and define, they can also be fairly limiting to diversity.
Can sexual orientation be changed?
The question really is: should it? Sexual orientation and preference is often more than simply a choice – it is a natural inclination. While a particular orientation may seem uncomfortable at first, particularly to those around you, it is recommended that you work towards integrating this natural inclination rather than trying to change it. In many cases, attempts to try change sexual orientation have been damaging and far from beneficial. While it may feel challenging to integrate your sexual orientation, the end result it a far more comfortable and less damaging experience.
With a higher level of social acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, more gay men, lesbian women, and more bisexual, transgendered and intersex people are seeking therapy. Sometimes therapy is sought for issues relating to their orientation or identity and other times therapy is sought for the same issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems and so on.
In general the LGBTIQ community faces a different set of stressors than others.
The following are common difficulties faced:
- Dealing with prejudice and discrimination
- “Coming Out” to your family and friends
- Integrating self with social ‘norms’ and expectations
- Dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace
These common difficulties have led to a higher rate of depression and anxiety in the LGBTIQ community for which treatment and support is easily available. Seek support and assistance from a therapist or counsellor who demonstrates an acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, and an understanding of the unique issues that you may be facing. Therapy will aim at providing emotional support where necessary and assisting you in the variety of difficulties you may be facing.