In the past, it could be said that talking to your teens about sexuality was relatively straightforward. These discussions normally centred on the average heterosexual relationships without any reference to alternative sexualities such as homosexual and bisexual orientations. However, it is imperative in modern society to teach our children about alternative sexual orientations and tolerance of those differences.
Gay teens are one of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society, facing the pressure and dangers of gay bashing’ and other forms of homophobic bullying. There is a threefold likelihood of lesbian or gay teens being bullied than other youth.
These pressures in turn lead to a higher incidence of social isolation, alcohol and drug abuse, family problems, and low self esteem than their peers.
There is a relatively common belief that someone who is gay must have suffered some sexual trauma or has been influenced to make this decision by a gay adult. This is a myth as neither of these things influences sexuality. In the past, many have felt the need to hide their homosexuality and have lived their life feeling as though they are living a lie. However, in more recent times, teens are coming out’ much more often and at a younger age.
Talking to parents about their sexuality can sometimes be difficult, if not seemingly impossible. If they have heard anti-gay conversations between their parents or others close to them, this may contribute to their fear. In some situations, these youth run away from home because they feel that they cannot deal with the reaction of their parents.
There are also many gay teens that are forced out of their homes by parents who are unable to deal with their teen’s sexuality. Even for those who remain at home, the tension that occurs when the teen comes out’ can push relationships between the parents and the child beyond breaking point. This can lead to verbal or even physical violent eruptions between both parties, leading to severe relational breakdown. The trauma of this resistance to the teen’s sexual identity can be emotionally devastating. This resistance may be particularly high in parents who have been raised with the conviction that homosexuality is always wrong.
Becoming a teenager is already a big deal regardless of whether the person is heterosexual or homosexual but for the gay teen, the issues are far more frightening. Often, the teen is already having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he or she is homosexual and is already fearful of peoples’ intolerance of them. The ultimate rejection by their parents on the basis of gender issues leaves the person feeling totally confused and isolated.
The incidence of suicide among gay teens is around three times that of their heterosexual counterparts though sexuality and gender issues are not in themselves, seen as a risk factor for suicide. However, the feelings of isolation and of being different can drive many to suicidal behaviour.
Perhaps the difference in acceptance of homosexuals could begin in what we teach children in earlier years. After all, bigotry is something that is learned from a young age. Make your children aware that any form of hatred and discrimination is unacceptable and instil these values as early as possible.
When discussing sexuality with your children, explain that homosexuals have not choice and that they need to be respected as people just as anyone else does.
Let’s do what we can to stop contaminating the minds of our young and causing the discrimination against other people, whether based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Gay teenagers need empathy from those around them and from their healthcare provider. Otherwise, they may feel isolated and worthless, thus pressuring them into taking risks with their sexual health. Having sex with someone of the same gender does not eliminate the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and gay teens need to be aware of this and comfortable enough to discuss these problems with their doctor without fear of prejudice.
Becoming a teenager is a huge milestone for both teenagers and parents and it is particularly so when the teenager is gay. As parents, it is important to reassure the teenager that being gay really is okay and that, regardless of their sexual identity, you love them anyway.
Though the gay community has gained some civil rights over the years, it is important to continue the fight to erode the conservative views on gay issues. Only then can the gay community have the same freedoms as their heterosexual counterparts.