Gay & Lesbian Teens
Growing up is a demanding and challenging
task for every adolescent. One important aspect is forming one's
sexual identity. All children explore and experiment sexually
as part of normal development. This sexual behavior may be with
members of the same or opposite sex. For many adolescents, thinking
about and/or experimenting with the same sex may cause concerns
and anxiety regarding their sexual orientation. For others, even
thoughts or fantasies may cause anxiety.
is the persistent sexual and emotional attraction to someone of
the same sex. It is part of the range of sexual expression. Many
gay and lesbian individuals first become aware of and experience
their homosexual thoughts and feelings during childhood and adolescence.
Homosexuality has existed throughout history and across cultures.
Recent changes in society's attitude toward homosexuality have
helped some gay and lesbian teens feel
more comfortable with their sexual orientation. In other aspects
of their development, they are similar to heterosexual youngsters.
They experience the same kinds of stress, struggles, and tasks
need to clearly understand that homosexual orientation is not
a mental disorder. The cause(s) of homosexuality are not fully
understood. However, a person's sexual orientation is not a matter
of choice. In other words, individuals have no more choice about
being homosexual than heterosexual. All teenagers do have a choice
about their expression of sexual behaviors and lifestyle, regardless
of their sexual orientation.
Despite increased knowledge and
information about being gay or lesbian, teens still have many
concerns. These include:
* feeling different from peers;
* feeling guilty about their sexual orientation;
* worrying about the response from their families and loved ones;
* being teased and ridiculed by their peers;
* worrying about AIDS, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted
* fearing discrimination when joining clubs, sports, seeking admission
to college, and finding employment;
* being rejected and harassed by others.
Gay and lesbian teens can become
socially isolated, withdraw from activities and friends, have
trouble concentrating, and develop low self-esteem. They may also
Parents and others need to be alert to these signs of distress
because recent studies show that gay/lesbian youth account for
a significant number of deaths by suicide
It is important for parents to
understand their teen's homosexual orientation and to provide
emotional support. Parents often have difficulty accepting their
teen's homosexuality for some of the same reasons that the youngster
wants to keep it secret. Gay or lesbian adolescents should be
allowed to decide when and to whom to disclose their homosexuality.
Parents and other family members may gain understanding and support
from organizations such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians
and Gays (PFLAG).
may be helpful for teens who are uncomfortable with their sexual
orientation or uncertain about how to express it. They may benefit
from support and the opportunity to clarify their feelings. Therapy
may also help the teen adjust to personal, family, and school-related
issues or conflicts that emerge. Therapy directed specifically
at changing homosexual orientation is not recommended and may
be harmful for an unwilling teen. It may create more confusion
and anxiety by reinforcing
the negative thoughts and emotions with which the youngster is
Problems of Children &
Alcohol & Drug