Out of the Closet

Out of the Closet

The world can be a confusing place for teens these days, growing up in such a permissive society. In many ways that’s great, but in others, it’s tough. The terms ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘pansexual’ have been around for years and are familiar to most people. But that doesn’t always translate to acceptance; in November 1875 two men called James Pratt and John Smith were executed by hanging in front of a baying crowd, simply for their sexual orientation. And yes, that was almost 200 years ago, so you can see the ignorance. But it’s slightly more shocking that just a few decades ago in 1967 it was still an imprisonable offence for being gay! Beggars belief these days. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Reading gaol for exactly this offence. Unbelievable. Thank goodness though days have passed, largely due a new Act that was passed in 1967 which removed criminal culpability for being homosexual. Shockingly, there are still countries where it’s illegal to be gay – Iran and Yemen among them.

So that’s the background for having different sexual orientations than the standard, heterosexual one, but what does that mean today? One thing is for certain, the LGBTQ+ scene is a thriving one. Let’s break down what those letters mean:

L – Lesbian.

G – Gay.

B – Bisexual.

T – Transgender.

Q – Queer/Questioning.

And the little + sign on the end signifies that this is not an exhaustive list, there are people who don’t slide neatly into one category or other, there are different sexual identities such as being pansexual.


A trans, non-binary person describes someone who not only doesn't identify with the sex that was assigned at birth (trans), but also has a gender identity that can't be categorised as exclusively male or female, thereby making them non-binary.

As we mentioned before, growing up in today’s society is a riot of possibilities that can be very confusing. It’s become almost fashionable to identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual, and to ask for their preferred pronouns to be used. But it isn’t all about the youngsters, there are lots of older people who have felt they weren’t the same as everyone else and it’s only now that they can explore what that really means for them. There are hundreds of people seeking gender reassignment surgery every year, which is great because it means that they can finally be themselves.

I think I’m non-binary, what shall I do?

First of all, don’t define yourself as one label or another, you are a person who identifies differently to the standard genders. It’s important to accept that’s your normality, it doesn’t make you a different person. Second – be clear on what non-binary means (see above). Don’t get swept up in a tide of teenage hormones and start asking for different pronouns to be used every day. Ditto if you’re a non-binary adult. Regardless of age, you need to explore your feelings carefully. It can be a daunting thing, so it’s vital that you seek outside support if you can. Some families are understanding, some not, but there are always professionals or your peers you can talk to. If you aren’t sure how you feel but you know that you feel ‘different’, there are loads of online resources that can guide your exploration, as well online chat forums where you can speak to like-minded people. If you’re ready to be open about how you feel there are also in-person groups to attend, but if you’re after something less formal, and perhaps easier, there are LGBTQ+ clubs, bars and coffee shops that offer peer-peer support.

If you want to come out to your family and you think they’re going to be accepting – great. Choose a quiet time with those closest to you and explain clearly how you feel. Some people might dismiss it as just ‘a stage you’re going through’, so be prepared for that. Don’t get into a disagreement, the best way to get others to understand you is to have quiet acceptance of their reaction, it might be a shock to them if you’ve always presented yourself to the world as gender conforming. In other families, your relatives might already have guessed what’s going on so explaining to them how you feel might actually bring feelings of relief.

But the most important thing that you have to remember is not to define yourself by which pronoun you prefer. It doesn’t change who you are as a person, it just describes how you feel. There are definitely no rights and wrongs in this situation, society is completely accepting of all types of sexual identity and choosing to use a different gender pronoun. Have confidence in who you really are, and if you need help – ask for it.

Rather than being a prosecutable offence, fitting into the LGBTQ+ section of society today is far more accepting – so remember that.

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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