Understanding diversity Understanding diversity

Understanding diversity

WITH YOUR MIND 17 December, 2020 Ana María López de Mesa

The human spectrum includes other realities. Information and guidance are essential for understanding these life processes.

Tatiana Fernández, psychologist

“We are all diverse,” said psychologist Juliana Correa Cardona, a volunteer with the NGO Fauds (Familiares y Amigos Unidos por la Diversidad Sexual y de Género, Family and Friends United for Sexual and Gender Diversity), at the seminar ‘Comprehensive Approach to the LGBTI population,’ an event available on YouTube. This is because sexual orientation is defined by at least four spheres: sexual arousal, affective bonding, life project, and a sense of completeness, explained Dr. Gabriel Montoya at the same event.

It is not enough for a man to become sexually aroused with another man to be homosexual. He would also have to be able to fall in love with him, project a life together, and feel satisfied with it. Montoya states that human beings can move along this spectrum in different ways, for example, there are asexual people who are not sexually aroused. Also, heteroflexible or homoflexible, who have defined sexual orientation but have occasionally had sexual relations with other genders different from their preference because they are sexually aroused by them but cannot imagine building a life in that reality.

There are also orientations open to all possibilities such as pansexual or others who are simply not sure yet what they prefer and define themselves as questioning. There are more sexual orientations than those highlighted in the LGBTI acronym (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexuals, intersexual), which is why the letter Q is added for queer, which refers to a sociological theory of being different. According to Montoya, there are up to 36 classifications, and if the person does not yet feel identified with any of them, they can build their own.

A path of love

Understanding this spectrum can be overwhelming and clash with traditional ideals, such as those of some religions that point this out as something negative. However, diversity translates to richness.

This shock is not only experienced by the close circle of someone who is LGBTIQ+, but is even experienced by the person themself when they realize that they do not fit into conventional heteronormativity. Hence the need for a grieving process, as established by the American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler Ross, to accept the new reality, a method they use in Fauds.

What is grieved is the expectation everyone has about life. A homosexual child’s parents probably imagined a typical marriage and the arrival of grandchildren; the parents of a trans girl were prepared to raise a boy, but those projections will no longer be. Nevertheless, do not forget that a different sexual orientation does not change a person’s values, and that the person can have an equally or more satisfactory life.

Negative prejudices also come from popular beliefs, such as that people of different orientations are sexually deviant, may abuse children, or may in some way spread their condition to others, which is not true. “I walk through the world just like you, I feel just like you, you judge me, and I invite you to get to know me,” says psychologist Tatiana Fernández, who reflected on when she met someone who did not accept her because she was a lesbian.

“It is necessary to question what has been established and know that the person in front of you who you love, be it a son, daughter, mother, father, is not different. The only thing that changes is your choice to love. In the end, I always choose love,” she states.

Collective processes

For LGBTIQ+ people it can be a challenge to find their place. Some orientations, such as those of gays and lesbians, are increasingly accepted and understood, but others such as transexuals, intersexual, and others on the spectrum have even more challenges. It is common that transgender children do not understand what is happening to them when they begin to realize their orientation, how will someone else understand it? That is why the experts advise going to medical and psychological counseling, both for the individual and their families.

When someone in the family or social environment cannot understand the situation because of ingrained prejudices, there are several paths to follow. Psychologist Juliana Correa warns that the process can take years: “Not because I ‘come out of the closet’ does the other have to accept, support, and respect me. I also have to accept, support, and respect the other person.” This is why she suggests trying to understand where the prejudices come from and making the person see, being patient, understanding, and careful with your words, that sexual orientation does not change a person and that, surely, there are individuals that he values that have a different sexual orientation and a good life.

For Tatiana Fernández, it has been a matter of being an example, first, without hiding her sexual orientation, so that it is not understood as something bad; and second, showing that she is an ordinary person with a functional family full of love. However, it is important to know how to choose your battles. “Sometimes it’s wise to distance myself from people who can’t accept me. I respect their thinking, but I also have to watch out for unpleasant comments about and my family, and that’s okay, even with extended family, for mental and emotional health,” she states.

There are still many challenges in sex education in order for society to fully understand the world of sexual orientations, but there is a lot of information about it, which can clear up doubts and help participate in creation.•

Understanding and respecting differences help build a more inclusive society.