Gay and Lesbian Teens

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Homosexual, or gay, refers to people whose sexual and romantic feelings are mostly for the same gender or sex. Typically, the words "gay" and "lesbian" are used to refer to homosexual men and women. The term "bisexual" refers to people who are attracted to both men and women. The stigma of being gay affects everyone differently. It is especially difficult in the growing years or puberty when a teen is going through hormonal changes and emotional conflict.

If a teen is gay, he will often hear ridicule and isolation. A recent research says that there are more than two million school-age gays and lesbians in America. A large number of them are subjected to verbal or physical abuse by their peers and even teachers. LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) teens are at higher risk for suicide, substance abuse, and physical attack than other young people because of the widespread prejudice against homosexuality almost all over the world. Because of this discrimination, LGBT teens feel forced to keep their sexual orientation or gender identity undisclosed. These teens constantly face the social pressure to behave heterosexually. This often results in self-loathing that can lead to substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, lack of self confidence, violent behavior or other psychological disorders often culminating into suicide. Gay teens are two or three times more likely to attempt suicide than other teens and may comprise up to 30% of completed youth suicides annually.

A child's sexual orientation is an area that is of major concern for some parents. A youth's interests and actions during middle childhood may cause parents to worry that their child might be homosexual. They may try to inappropriately discipline the child or seek professional help to ensure that he develops heterosexual tendencies. However, trying to be something you're not can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

A child's sexual orientation is deep-seated as part of them. As a parent, you must offer understanding, respect, love and support to your child. Do not be critical or judgmental of your child's preferences. If there are more than one child in the family, do not be partial towards heterosexual children and isolate the homosexual child. This way the child will be able to trust you and seek your help during the difficult times. Do not judge a child's aptitude and capabilities based on his/her sexual orientation. Your child needs your love and support, at all times.

Frequently adults mistakenly avoid discussion of this subject. They want to "protect" their youngsters from the "threat" or "spread" of homosexuality, consequently much pain and suffering is inflicted on the young who are becoming aware of their need for the very identity he or she is being protected from. Disclosing to one's friends and peers can have devastating consequences for an adolescent.

Psychiatric counseling can be prescribed to teens who are uncomfortable with their sexual orientation or uncertain about how to express it. Therapy may also help the teen adjust to personal, family, and school-related issues or conflicts that emerge. However,
"treatment" directed specifically at changing sexual 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 already struggling.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,