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I’m gay, lesbian or bisexual and don’t want to be. Can I change my sexual orientation?

Your sexual orientation is something that is part of you—just like the color of your eyes and the shape of your nose. You can’t change your sexual orientation. In a society where lesbian, gay and bisexual people are still discriminated against, this can be difficult to hear. That’s why it’s important to find a trusted adult to talk through what you’re feeling. If you can’t or don’t accept a piece of yourself, it can affect all areas of your life. Coming to terms with how you feel and integrating that into who you are is a difficult process, and regardless of orientation, it’s usually a process that requires support along the way.

You might also be in a situation where you’re pretty sure of your orientation but still have some doubts. That’s OK. It’s normal not to have all the answers! For most people, understandings about sexual orientation change throughout life. Our society generally accepts being heterosexual as “normal.” That puts a lot of pressure on lesbian, gay and bisexual people to suppress their true feelings and try to fit in. Trying to fit in can seem easier, even if it means being someone you’re not. A lot of times, though, people realize they can’t pretend for their whole life. So they come out. They haven’t “become” lesbian, gay or bisexual. They’ve just accepted who they are.

Some groups claim people can change their sexual orientation through prayer or therapy. Through research, the American Psychological Association has found that these approaches are not successful and can even be harmful. People might change their sexual behavior, but behavior is different from orientation. Maybe they start having sex with a member of a different gender. Or they might stop having sex altogether. But that doesn’t change their inner feelings of who they find attractive.

If you need someone to talk to, you might want to check out The Trevor Project for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Teens, a hotline and website that specializes in helping LGBTQ teens who are contemplating suicide. The 24-hour hotline number is 1-866-488-7386. TrevorChat is a free and confidential live chat for those who don’t have access to a phone, don’t feel safe calling the hotline or are deaf or hard of hearing. The chat is available seven days a week from 3 to 9 p.m. Eastern time.

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