What If My Child Is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender?
It can be confusing for teenagers to sort out their sexual feelings. If a girl feels attracted to another girl or a boy gets aroused in a guy’s locker room, they may quickly jump to conclusions about their sexuality. It’s not unusual for heterosexuals to feel attracted to members of the same sex. Just because your teenager is attracted to members of both sexes doesn’t mean that she is bisexual. At the same time, more and more middle schoolers are coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT).1 Sexual identity, like other aspects of identity, unfolds throughout life.
Supporting GLBT Youth and Teens
- Listen. Find out what your teenager has to say about sexuality. Ask questions. Keep talking about this subject.
- Give yourself (and your child) time to assimilate the information once you learn about it. It can take a while to get used to the idea, especially because we still live in a society that highly values heterosexuality.
- Encourage kids to use correct words, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Sometimes kids struggling with their own sexual identity (particularly if they’ve been taught that it’s shameful) can become involved in name-calling. Be clear that this is not acceptable.
- Talk with your child about the pros and cons of coming out, how far, to whom, what the consequences could be, and how to deal with others’ reactions. For some kids, coming out can be one of the healthiest things they’ve ever done. For others, it could be one of the most dangerous. GLBT teens need a lot of support, so be sure to be affirming and positive.
- Talk to your child about his or her safety. Nine out of 10 GLBT youth are harassed at school. Three out of 5 feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. One out of 3 has skipped a day of school because of feeling unsafe.3
- Explain that for GLBT youth, just like heterosexual youth, sexual orientation is only one part of a person’s identity. Most people do not make a big deal about their sexuality. It’s just part of who they are. Encourage your teenager to also develop other aspects of his identity, such as finding interests that excite him and developing a strong sense of self-confidence.
No matter how you feel about your child’s sexual orientation, remember that she is still your child. Coming to terms with one’s sexual identity isn’t easy, and everyone—especially GLBT youth—needs strong support throughout this tough time. Be there for your child, whatever the situation may be.
1. Benoit Denizet-Lewis, “Coming Out in Middle School,” New York Times Magazine, September 23, 2009.
2. Joseph G. Kosciw, Elizabeth Diaz, and Emily Greytak, The 2007 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools (Washington, D.C.: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 2008).
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