The teenage years are filled with a variety of difficulties, but gay and lesbian teens often face additional challenges. One of the most universal needs of teenagers is peer acceptance. The idea of fitting in is most appealing during adolescence and being different is a common fear. Years ago, gay and lesbian teenagers were highly unlikely to be open about their sexuality, but times are changing. Today, more and more teenagers are finding that they are free to be truthful about themselves and will still be accepted.
Recognising Your Sexuality
Although sexuality is a part of every person, it is during the teenage years when most people first experience strong sexual feelings. Some teens find it confusing or troubling to note that they are romantically and sexually attracted to the same sex, but be assured that many people experience these feelings. Determining sexual orientation can take a great deal of time for some people, while others have always had a sense that they were homosexual.
The most important step that teenagers, heterosexual as well as homosexual, can take is to appreciate themselves and celebrate their unique gifts and talents. Sexuality may be only one component of a person, but it can be a defining one. Accepting sexual orientation as a wonderful part of who you are is healthy and vital step in emotional growth. Although it is perfectly normal to feel confused and scared about sexuality and sexual orientation, it is important for gay teens to accept themselves without limitations.
What Makes Someone Gay?
While no one knows for sure why some people are heterosexual and others are homosexual, there are two basic schools of thought. The most widely accepted theory is that sexual orientation is predetermined as part of genetic makeup, much like height or hair colour. Others believe that a person’s individual experiences will influence sexuality, determining their orientation. In either case, homosexuality is not a disease or a sign of faulty upbringing. It is merely a way of being.
Once a teenager has come to understand and accept their sexual orientation, it is natural that they would hope to share this information with family, friends, and other people of importance in their lives. Fear of rejection often prohibits gay and lesbian teens from being truthful about their sexuality, so many homosexual teenagers remain “in the closet.” Although there are certainly people who will not choose to accept the gay and lesbian teen, it is harmful to feel forced to hide such an important part of their lives. Most teens choose to first tell the person that they trust most and may take months or even years to be fully forthcoming about their sexual orientation.
Gay and lesbian teens are sometimes subjected to teasing and bullying from their peers. These types in incidents should be reported to school officials, who have a responsibility to see that all students are treated in a fair and impartial way at school. One of the major reasons why homosexual teenagers may resist going public about their sexual orientation is the fear they will be ostracised. If you are the parent of a gay or lesbian teen, be sure to assure them that true friends will accept them and those who do not aren’t good candidates for friendship.
Sexual orientation is no more a conscious choice than eye colour. Gay and lesbian teenagers need exactly the same things as their heterosexual peers — love, support, and acceptance.