What Exactly Is Gay For Adults?
Gay is a broad term that generally refers to the sexual attraction, gender identity, or behavior of a gay man. The word in its original sense meant ‘open minded’, ‘colourful’, or ‘sporting’. Some people believe that the word gay has come into existence as a result of organizing or advertising homosexual clubs in the city. This is not true. Gay has become an accepted, valued, and acceptable term.
Currently, over thirty million Americans identify as belonging to the GLBT community. Additionally, there are many estimates as to how many GLBT individuals are present in the population of the United States. Estimates range from a low of around four percent to a high of around twenty-five percent. Of note is that these estimates do not include the full Transgender population.
There are many GLBT organizations that exist in the United States. Some have been national, regional, and local in scope. An example would be the Gay and Lesbian National Survey. The GLBT National Survey is a nationwide survey that takes a national level view of the sexual orientations and gender identities of adults. It also takes a national level view of the sexual behaviors and practices of adults who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or Transgender.
A major portion of the GLBT population identifies as bisexual. Approximately six percent of the adult lesbian population identifies as bisexual. This six percent represents a significant increase since the last national survey was conducted in 1996. However, because many of the bisexual individuals identify as a gay or lesbian rather than a bisexual, the figure represents only about five percent of all cases of bisexuality.
Homosexuality, on the other hand, is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as the “persistent state of gender arousal without psychological engagement with a sex partner.” According to the APA, “Being attracted to the same sex does not mean you think, act, or feel like a gay or lesbian person.” As such, a positive identification with being gay does not require one to live a gay lifestyle. Being attracted to the same sex does not require one to attend gay clubs or to engage in gay sex. Being a gay man or woman does not require one to sleep with men for money, or cross-dress or be in relationships with men and women.
One might assume that a person does not have to struggle with his or her sexual orientation if he or she is attracted to the same sex. That would make the issue of sexual orientation secondary to gender identification. However, the bisexual experience is different than the straight experience. The bisexual person still has to grapple with his or her sexual orientation.
The fact that there are a number of variations among lesbians and gay men make it difficult to determine whether being gay is compatible with one’s sexual identity. People do not necessarily choose their sexual identity. There are those who choose one orientation and identify as a certain gender while sexually identifying as another. In many cases, this requires making some type of lifestyle changes, for example, living as a woman and becoming a gay man. While this may be more complicated, the end result is usually the same.
Being attracted to the same gender is not the same as being attracted to members of the opposite sex. Many people have attractions towards both men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation. Because of this, a person may fall on the “all girls” or “all boys” side of the spectrum even though he or she may identify as gay. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, and lesbian relationships) is an important part of society, but not a necessary component.