The adolescent and teen years are almost universally awkward (for kids and parents alike!). Imagine coping with the normal ups and downs of teen life, and adding to the mix the challenges of being a youth who questions their sexual orientation. On top of the usual mix of hormones, peer-pressure, and overall angst, add on the unique struggles faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
Many gay youth report feeling unsafe in their school due to their sexual orientation, with a majority reporting being verbally harassed and many also subjected to violence.Perhaps most painful of all, however, is when gay youth are rejected by their own families. Imagine having to go from an unaccepting school environment, say, to a household that’s equally unfriendly. Gay youth make up a disproportionately high number of homeless teens, and no wonder: these kids often don’t have a “home” or safe place to go when coping with harassment and abuse, and may even be forced from their homes by families who can’t, or won’t, accept them.
But this isn’t always the case! Many gay youth find support among family and friends. For those who don’t though, there are places you can turn for support. One place to start is YouthResource, a website for LGBT youth which offers a database of peer education groups, campus groups, gay-straight alliances, and community-based youth groups in your area, as well as a list of national hotlines and other resources.
The letters LGBTQ (or GLBTQ) are often used as an abbreviated way of referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, as well as those who identify as queer. Those who identify as queer (or sometimes genderqueer) have non-binary identities, meaning they don’t identify with either the male or female gender.
Is sexual orientation a choice?
No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay (homosexual) or straight (heterosexual). Sexual orientation emerges in most people in the early teen years without any sexual experience. We do get to act on our feelings, but psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice.
Gay can be used to refer to anyone (man or woman) who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex, but it is often used to refer to a male who is attracted to other males. Lesbian refers to females who are attracted to other females. Someone who is bisexual might be attracted to either males or females.
Many people feel attracted to people of the same sex. This can lead someone to wonder whether or not they are gay. Deciding you are gay often happens gradually, it may not be something you can initially put a name to, and it can feel very confusing.
“I kept telling myself sooner or later I’d start finding girls attractive. I tried dating girls to, you know, get things started. I hated it though. I felt so fake. The older I got the more I realized I really was attracted to guys, not girls! I finally had to admit to myself I was gay. It was really quite a shock when it hit me–a shock, but a relief too.”