Sexual Orientation

The American Psychological Association (APA) (2011) defines sexual orientation as:

“an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction toward others. It is easily distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior.)” Further, “sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional, and affectional attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sometimes referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian (women only).”

Coming Out
For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersexed (LGBTI) people, coming out is the process of understanding, accepting, and valuing both one’s sexual orientation and one’s sexual identity. Coming out includes both exploring one’s identity and sharing that identity with others. It also involves coping with social responses and attitudes toward LGBTI people.

LGBTI individuals must come to terms with what it means to be different in a society that judges differences from the norm negatively. The coming out process is very personal, and people may come out in different ways and/or at different ages. Some people are aware of their sexual identity early in their lives. Others become aware only after many years. Coming out is a continuing, sometimes lifelong, process.

Coming out may cause anxiety among LGBTI college students. Because positive role models are often difficult to identify, LGBTI people may feel alone and unsure of their own sexual identities.

Counseling as a Source of Support
Counseling is a process in which a nonjudgmental, caring, and trained therapist helps a person resolve problems or complete life tasks. While specific methods may vary, most counselors believe that helping someone involves facilitating his or her self-exploration, self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. Helping a gay or lesbian individual value and esteem his or her sexual orientation certainly fits into this philosophy.

Counseling may assist you with:

Identifying and clarifying issues.
Sometimes people who seek counseling are not sure what is wrong, but they know that they are unhappy. Counselors help people understand themselves and their feelings. The process of recognizing and understanding gay or lesbian sexual orientation often brings confusing thoughts and feelings with it. Counselors can help an individual clarify and sort through this confusion.

Identifying, clarifying, and expressing feelings.
People often have difficulty understanding, labeling and/or expressing feelings. This is particularly true when people are under stress. Feelings can be confusing and may often seem to be out of control. Counselors help people handle and understand their feelings.

Deciding what to do.
When people have difficulty determining alternatives, they often feeling stuck and uncertain because there is more than one way to behave. Counselors are adept at helping people discover options and alternatives.

Developing and enhancing relationship skills.
Building a support system and developing close interpersonal relationships is especially important to most people. However some individuals have difficulty getting what they want from relationships with family members, friends, or partners. Relationships may be a primary focus of counseling and counselors. If you would like to talk more with a counselor about any issues you may be facing, work with a gay-affirming counselor at the Counseling Center. Contact the Counseling Center at 919-515-2423 or come by the center to set up an initial appointment. The Counseling Center also offers group counseling for LGBTQ students as well.

Suggested Reading
Alyson, S. (Ed.). (1980). Young. gay. and proud! Boston: Alyson.
This is a book for adolescents exploring a gay identity or who want to learn what it’s like to be gay. The author presents facts clearly, informatively, and engagingly, interspersing with personal stories. This book is also excellent for counselors working with adolescents and their families.

Cohen, S., & Cohen, D. (1989). When someone you know is gay. M. Evans Co.
Directed at straight teenagers, this book includes a wonderful video and film bibliography.

Eichberg, R. (1991). Coming out: An act of love. New York: Plume.
Using clear, empathetic, and direct language, Eichberg, a trained psychotherapist, explains in detail how coming out radically alters self-perception and relationships with others. He combines examples from his own practice with letters from gay people to their mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends, Eichberg puts a positive, forceful, but gentle face on the process of coming out and the complications that it sometimes raises.

Front Page News
Front Page News is a free North Carolina gay and lesbian newspaper published every other Friday.

Herdt, G. (Ed.). (1989). Gay and lesbian youth. New York: Haworth Press.
This pioneering volume explores adolescent homosexuality from a global perspective. Social scientists recount personal experiences of gay and lesbian teenagers from various cultures and address the obstacles these young people face.

Heron, A. (1983). One teenager in ten. Warner Books.
This book is an anthology of personal testimonies of gay and lesbian youths. This book will help youths, parents, and counselors attempting to understand what it means to be young and gay.

Suggested Films
Beautiful Thing (1996)
An English working-class teenage boy struggles with coming out and convinces his family to befriend his crush, who comes from an abusive family.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Oscar-winner Hilary Swank portrays transgender teenager Brandon Teena who falls in love with a girl unaware he is transgender.

The Broken Hearts Club (2000)
The lives of a group of gay friends in West Hollywood center on a restaurant called The Broken Hearts Club.

But I’m A Cheerleader (1999)
A satire that revolves around a girl who thinks she is straight, but is sent to True Directions, a camp for recovering homosexuals. There she meets a tomboy who helps her discover the truth about her sexuality.

Edge of Seventeen (1998)
Set in the 1980’s, this film chronicles the story of a 17-year-old coming to terms with his gay identity.

Get Real (1999)
A coming-of-age story is based on a play by Patrick Wilde and infused with charm, humor, and emotion. Steven is an average high school student who harbors the secret that he is gay.

If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
One house holds the story of several generations of lesbians. In 1961 on character must cope with the loss of her partner. In the second story, a female college student falls for a local woman in the 1970s. The house’s 2000 occupants are a lesbian couple trying to have a child.

Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995)
This lesbian first love story finds Randy (Laurel Holloman), a white high school tomboy living with her lesbian aunt. Evie (Nicole Parker), a beautiful, pampered black deb comes from the right side of the tracks. When they meet, love blossoms, despite their differences. Trouble brews for the two as both of their families try to drive them apart.

The Laramie Project (2002)
A compelling look at the reactions of the people of Laramie, Wyoming to the Matthew Shepard tragedy.

No Ordinary Love (1994)
Young Latino men experiment with their sexuality on the down low to avoid persecution. Recommended for gay people of color.

Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
A cinematic adaptation  of Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-award winning Broadway play that chronicles the struggles of one gay man as he tries to find a lasting relationship.

Trick (1999)
Christian Campbell and Tori Spelling star in this story of a young gay songwriter who falls for a go-go boy.

Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Two teenage boys and a mysterious older woman embark upon a road trip through rural Mexico. Their friendship is tested in the end when they learn each other’s secrets.

X-Men (2000) and X-Men United (2003)
Although these are not gay movies per se, they do star gay actor Ian McKellan as Magneto, one of most the famous comic book villains of all time. These movies deal with the themes of prejudice toward and persecution of those who are different from the norm.

Support Organizations
Hopeline (919) 231-4525
This 24 hour telephone helpline serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities of the Triangle, providing non-judgmental peer counseling services, education, information, resource referrals, and documentation of bias crimes.

The NCSU Counseling Center offers both individual and couples counseling as well as a GLBT counseling group each semester. Call 919-515-2423 or come by in person to set up an appointment.

For a list of even more support organizations, please also see the Resources Section of the NCSU GLBT Center’s website.

Social Organizations
GLBT CommUNITY Alliance
This NC State University student group provides supportive and proactive educational events for our diverse campus community.

North Carolina Transgender Guide
This guide is a free community resource that offers a comprehensive list of services and information resources that represent the transgendered community both accurately and positively.

TriangleGrrrls
TriangleGrrrls is an inclusive social group for LBT women. Our members dream up and organize TriangleGrrrls outings. Anyone may post new activities. No special privileges are necessary. Past outings have included plays, dining at restaurants, after-work pub gatherings, club dancing, orienteering, athletic event attendance, live music performances, swing dance lessons, coffee house gatherings, motorcycle rides, golf outings, support groups, and many, many others.

Delta Lambda Phi Fraternity
A Greek organization for gay, bisexual and progressive men whose purpose is to enhance the quality of life for all men, regardless of sexuality, by providing dignified and purposeful social, service, and recreational activities.

Triangle Tennis Club
Founded in 2004, the Triangle area’s first Gay and Lesbian tennis club promotes the wellness of the gay and lesbian community by meeting every Friday evening for tennis, and participating in a variety of tennis tournaments throughout the year.

Gaymes Night, a program of the Raleigh LGBT Center
If you enjoy playing board or card games in a relaxed, fun atmosphere, come join us for Gaymes Night. This game-playing LGBT social group meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first and third Fridays of the month in Raleigh. Bring games you’d like to play, but if you don’t have any, just show up — we’ve got plenty! Feel free to bring snacks or drinks to share. Gaymes Night is free but gladly accepts donations. Games Night is alcohol and smoke-free, so if you’re looking for a social alternative to bars, come on out!

North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
The Carolina Theatre of Durham, Inc. proudly produces the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. The annual festival celebrates today’s gay and lesbian life, unites the community, and features entertaining and sophisticated films and filmmaking.

NC Pride Marching Band
This inclusive organization unites communities through a shared love of music. A marching band, a concert band and a jazz ensemble comprise the NC Pride Band. The band recruits continuously and has performed at a variety of local and national events.

Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus
The Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus (TGMC) performs entertaining and thought-provoking men’s choral music. TGMC recognizes the power of music to communicate important truths about common human conditions and the value of all people.

Raleigh Ensemble Players
Raleigh’s nationally recognized professional theatre company has produced powerful, penetrating and provocative theatre for 29 years. REP is committed to an ensemble ethic where artists and seasoned professionals create new theatre collaboratively.

For a list of even more social organizations, please also see the Resources Section of the NCSU GLBT Center’s website.

Bars and Nightclubs

  • Boxers Ringside | 308 West Main Street, Durham; 27701 | 919-680-2100
  • 313 | 313 W Hargett St, Raleigh; 27601 | 919-755-9599
  • Flex | 2 S West St, Raleigh; 27603 | 919-832-8855
  • Legends | 330 W. Hargett St, Raleigh; 27601 | 919-831-8888
  • Club Steel Blue | 711 Rigsbee Ave, Durham; 27701 | 919-688-3002 (private members-only club for the LGBT community and their guests )

For a list of even more area bars and nightclubs, please also see the Resources Section of the NCSU GLBT Center’s website.

Spiritual Resources
Recovery from Bible Abuse

This website gives both encouragement and hope to homosexuals and others who have suffered the unrelenting attacks of religious leaders.

Raleigh Churches

For a list of even more spiritual resources, please also see the Resources Section of the NCSU GLBT Center’s website.

Outreach Programs and Services

LGBT Center of Raleigh
This coalition of organizations, individuals, and projects and programs serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied communities in the Research Triangle Park area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) of North Carolina. PO Box 5961, 27650-5961 | 919-781-7574

Pride Committee of North Carolina
The Pride Committee of North Carolina’s mission statement reflects the fact that despite many social, political and economic gains that LGBT individuals and institutions throughout North Carolina have made, there is still work to do. However, it is also important to celebrate our victories and accomplishments.

North Carolina Lambda Youth Network (NCLYN)
This youth-led leadership development network for LGBT people is open to ages 13 to 24. NCLYN helps LGBT youth develop both their identities and their leadership skills. 409 E. Chapel Hill St Durham, NC 27701 | 919-683-3037 | Fax 919-683-3194

For a list of even more outreach programs and services, please also see the Resources Section of the NCSUGLBT Center’s website.

Political and Advocacy Organizations
Equality Political Action Committee (PAC), part of Equality NC
The political action committee secures equality and justice for North Carolina’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by working to elect fair-minded political candidates.

Southerners On New Ground (SONG)
Founded in 1993 in the vision of black and white southern lesbians, SONG advocates progressive social change throughout the South by developing models for organization that connect race, class, culture, gender and sexual identity.

It’s Time North Carolina
Is a statewide organization established in order to advance the social acceptance and political interests of the transgender and gender-diverse community of North Carolina and to coordinate with groups that include transgender and gender-diverse people in their mission statements.

NC Transgender Unity
This site provides information and resources for transgendered people, significant others, and friends of transgendered people, and fosters a sense of community among transgendered people. The site also promotes all transgendered support groups, political organizations, and other GLBT organizations in the state of North Carolina.

For a list of even more political and advocacy organizations, please also see the Resources Section of the NCSU GLBT Center’s website.