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 during adolescence.
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.
increased knowledge and information about being gay or lesbian,
teens still have many concerns. These include:
different from peers;
guilty about their sexual orientation;
about the response from their families and loved ones;
teased and ridiculed by their peers;
about AIDS, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted
discrimination when joining clubs, sports, seeking admission
to college, and finding employment;
rejected and harassed by others.
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.
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
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
information about Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians
and Gays (PFLAG) contact:
1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 1030,
Washington, DC 20005,
other Facts for Families (#62 Talking to Your Kids About Sex,
# 10 Teen Suicide, # 4 The Depressed Child, # 30 Children
#63 Updated 04/98