Teens Struggling with Gender Identity
Sexual orientation is a very important topic that parents and teens need to understand and learn more about.
It’s a fact that youth that struggle with their sexual orientation are at-risk for being bullied, cyberbullying, and have a higher-suicide rate. Parents must open up their lines of communication and be willing to open their minds to what their child is feeling.
What is sexual orientation?
The term sexual orientation refers to the gender (that is, male or female) to which a person is attracted. There are several types of sexual orientation that are commonly described:
- Heterosexual (straight). People who are heterosexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex: males are attracted to females, and females are attracted to males. Heterosexuals are sometimes called “straight.”
- Homosexual (gay or lesbian). People who are homosexual are romantically and physically attracted to people of the same sex: females are attracted to other females; males are attracted to other males. Homosexuals (whether male or female) are often called “gay.” Gay females are also called lesbian.
- Bisexual. People who are bisexual are romantically and physically attracted to members of both sexes.
Although we live in a more accepting society today of all sexual orientations, many parents have a hard time accepting that their child may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Even if you are struggling with this possibility, remember the importance of showing unconditional love to your child.
Teens who realize that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender sometimes stay “in the closet” (do not reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity) for a long time because they are afraid of what their friends, family (especially their parents), and others will say and do. This can be very stressful and can cause depression, anxiety, and other problems.
Parents can find local support groups through PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends and Allies United with LGBTQ People). Ten tips for parents to help you better understand your child and let them know you are interested in getting to know about them better. Another great resource for teens and parents is The Trevor Project.
What is most important to understand is that LGBTQ teens can be at-risk for depression and suicidal thoughts if not addressed.
- 80% of gay and lesbian youth report severe social isolation.
- 6 in 10 LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
- Young people who are LGBT and who are “out” to their immediate families report feeling happier than those who aren’t.
- While non-LGBT students struggle most with school classes, exams, and work, their LGBT peers say the biggest problem they face is unaccepting families.
- Facts about teens and suicide.
If you feel your teen is struggling, be sure to reach out to them. If they are shutting down emotionally, find outside help. Let them know you are there for them. If you fear they are escalating deeper into depression and refusing to get help, contact us for more information.
Sources: Kids Health, WedMD, DoSomething.org, The Trevor Project
If you feel you have exhausted your local resources, your troubled teen is shutting down in therapy, out-patient isn’t working, please contact us for information regarding quality residential therapy.