Sue Scheff: Teens and Homosexuality

This topic, gay teens, is brought up more and more with parenting today. It seems many teens have questions that parents need to be prepared to answer and more importantly, prepared to understand this sensitive subject.  Without getting into religious beliefs, parents need to recognize that kids today are more exposed to many subjects that were taboo years ago – generations ago!  However, it doesn’t make them less important.  I believe that parents need to take the time to try to understand all concepts of today’s generations, although it has probably been in previous times too – living in the past won’t help us today.  Being an educated parent can help you raise a healthy teen into a stable young adult.  Be open minded, listen, hear what your kids are saying.  Be supportive and be a parent.

Connect with Kids writes an interesting and informational article with helpful parenting tips in respect to this subject. 

gayteenGay Teen Comes Out

“A lot of gay kids think there’s something wrong with them for being gay. And it’s hard whenever your parents think there’s something wrong with you, too.  You’re kind of like, ‘Oh God there really is!’ And they just need someone to come up to them and give them a hug.”

– Kerry Pacer, 16

Kerry Pacer says to her Mom Savannah,  “I knew you’d love me always, but I just didn’t know how you’d accept it, like if you’d be like, ‘Okay, I accept that you’re gay’ or if you’d be like, ‘You’re NOT gay.’”

Kerry was 12 years old when she first told her Mom.  Savannah says, “When you say to me, ‘I’m gay’…I’m thinking ‘Okay…you think you’re gay…you’re 12 years old…we’ll see if it lasts.’”
 
It did last.  And what Kerry wanted most was for her mom to accept her.

Kerry says, “A lot of gay kids think there’s something wrong with them for being gay.  And it’s hard whenever your parents think there’s something wrong with you, too.  You’re kind of like, ‘Oh God there really is!’”

Experts say finding out that your child is gay can be a difficult moment. They add, think before you react… because what you say will be remembered for years.

Bruce Nelson is the co-president of the Atlanta chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  He says, “This kid that they’ve given birth to, they raised from an infant, worried about, cared about, spent a lot of money on, a lot of time with … if you over-react, if you panic, if you don’t get the facts, if you don’t understand what’s going on…than you’re at risk of throwing all that away.” 

Experts say take things slow.  You don’t have to tell people until you are ready.

Savannah says, “I’d say you know, we live in a small town.  We live in a conservative small town, and maybe you don’t want to tell everyone you’re gay just because you’ll get a lot of negative feedback.”

Kerry does tell people.  That means she and her sister, get teased and taunted at school.  Kerry says, “Here people say ‘lesbian’ or ‘dirty lesbian’ when you walk by them in the hall.”   Her younger sister Lindsay says, “People are like, ‘Has she ever tried to kiss you?’ And I’m like, ‘No, she’s still my sister.  It’s like has your brother ever tried to kiss you?’”

Her mom says she can’t stop the hurt.   All she can do is love and accept.  Savannah says, “Even though I maybe can’t take back the things that people have said to her or done to her, she knows she’s coming to a place where she’s going to get understanding.”

Experts say it can be helpful to join a support group such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. They also suggest reviewing literature designed for parents of a gay child. 

Tips for Parents

The teenage years are a time of extraordinary challenges and opportunities. As teens explore their growing independence and sense of identity they must overcome a number of developmental milestones, such as developing social skills, thinking about career choices and fitting into a peer groups. Gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents, however, must often navigate these developmental waters in the face of additional problems and concerns not typically faced by other teens, such as:

  • 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 diseases
  • Fearing discrimination when joining clubs, sports, seeking admission to college and finding employment
  • Being rejected and harassed by others

In particular, studies show that gay and lesbian teens are more likely to report having missed school due to fear, having their property damaged at school and being threatened by other students. It is little wonder that these students often become socially isolated, withdraw from activities and friends, have trouble concentrating, and develop low self-esteem. Some researchers report gay, lesbian and bisexual teens report high rates of depression and account for a significant number of deaths by suicide in adolescence.
 
Teaching a child the dangers of harassment and/or bullying behavior based upon sexual preference can be a very difficult process for some parents. As with other discussions, there are a number of things that parents can do to make the discussion a little easier and more effective.

  • Parents need to inform themselves before they talk with their kids. Parents need to get the facts about homosexuality and need to be prepared to share the facts their kids in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Parents need to come to grips with their own feelings regarding gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and to share those values with their children in the context of the discussion. For many parents, this is the most difficult aspect of the conversation, and there are no easy answers to the problem. Parents should remember they don’t have to condone the behavior to love their child.
  • Parents need to maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for the discussion. Try to use words that are comfortable and familiar when talking to kids about important topics. Parents should also try to encourage the child to talk and ask questions. They need to know that they can talk about things with the parents freely and without fear of consequence.
  • It is important for parents to search for a support group of other parents who share their same concerns and are facing the same issues. If one is not available in your area, organize one. The sharing of ideas and fears can help alleviate anxiety and give parents ideas and thoughts they may not have realized otherwise.

References

  • American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Public Health Association
  • Family Acceptance Project
  • Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
  • Pediatrics
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