GAY AND LESBIAN ADOLESCENTS
Articles for Parents
All Family Resources
Alphabetical List
  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
  12. Children Who Steal
  13. Children and TV Violence
  14. Children and Family Moves
  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
GAY AND LESBIAN ADOLESCENTS

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.

Homosexuality 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 during adolescence.

Parents 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 diseases;
  • 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 develop depression. 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 in adolescence.

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).

Counseling 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 already struggling.

For additional information about Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) contact:

PFLAG,
1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 1030,
Washington, DC 20005,
(202) 638-4200.

Also see other Facts for Families (#62 Talking to Your Kids About Sex, # 10 Teen Suicide, # 4 The Depressed Child, # 30 Children & AIDS).

Article #63 Updated 04/98

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
All Family Resources
4286 Redwood Hwy. Suite 401 San Rafael, CA 94903
Phone: 415-491-9170  
Email the Webmaster
1998 - 2001All Family Resources, http://www.familymanagement.com. All Rights Reserved
Terms of Use