Despite the excitement and flirtations that come with it, teen sexual experimentation can be stressful, especially when your child is attracted to someone of the same sex.
Sexual orientation refers to a person's sexual or emotional attraction, which may be towards people of the same sex or towards people of the opposite sex. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to be sexually active to have a sexual orientation and, very early on, a young person can feel desire. If this attraction is directed towards people of the opposite sex, then we speak of heterosexuality: girls attracted to boys, boys to girls.
People who are primarily attracted to people of the same sex are homosexual (gay or lesbian), while those who are attracted to people of both sexes are bisexual.
If these denominations seem clear, for several reasons, it is not always so easy for a child to find their way around and assert themselves.
The famous cupboard
The process of asserting a homosexual identity is often referred to by the popular expression “come out of the closet ". This awakening can occur very early, or later, and begins in different ways. Some adolescents will thus begin to have homosexual fantasies or dreams. Others will realize that they are attracted to someone of the same sex. Often, the teenager will be struggling with a feeling of exclusion: he will then feel different from the others. It also happens that it is a sexual experience that confirms his doubts.
As a result of this realization, some adolescents will experience identity confusion and a feeling of uncertainty that is fueled by the shame of their homosexuality. The lack of knowledge, the absence of gay models in his daily life and, by extension, the lack of communication with people who feel - or have already felt - emotions similar to his can also contribute to bringing down the teenager. Adolescence is already a troubled period, and young homosexuals also have the challenge of forging a he althy and solid identity, despite the stereotypes and prejudices that sometimes prevail in our society. It is therefore not surprising that many teenagers take some time before accepting their orientation and, secondly, before admitting it to their loved ones.
Are there any risks?
Being gay is not associated with any particular medical issue. However, young homosexuals are more at risk of suffering from depression and, as a result, are subject to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. In addition, we note a suicide rate a littlehigher among young gays.
As adults, many gays and lesbians describe their teenage years as a time when they felt isolated, ashamed, and scared that people would find out they were different. These feelings of course have repercussions on self-esteem and identity formation.
Fortunately, times are changing and, in general, we are more open to difference. Nevertheless, discrimination against gays and lesbians, even verbal or physical violence, is still present and can manifest itself in the form of harassment or bullying, especially at school. It is important to remember that almost all of these negative issues stem from the stigma faced by these young people and not from their orientation itself.
Is he gay?
We have just seen it: it can be very difficult for a teenager to announce his homosexuality to his parents. Even if he does not want to lie to them, he worries about their reaction. Of course, the fear of disappointing is omnipresent, as is the fear of being rejected.
Even if you suspect your child is gay, it's best to wait until your child is ready to open up to you. Indeed, there is no point in rushing him: the emotions he feels are already confusing him. Of course, you can encourage him to confide through, for example, fiction (a film, a program, a comic strip). The important thing is to make him understand that, regardless of hissexual orientation, you like it and accept it.
There is no point in forcing things. If your teen wants to talk about sexual orientation, be available and open, but don't force the subject on them. And whether he's gay or straight, encourage him to educate himself about sexual he alth, whether it's talking to a pediatrician or another he alth care provider.
How to react?
We are all different and each parent has their own way of reacting. After learning of their child's homosexuality, some parents will go through the same stages associated with conventional grief. This reaction is not “abnormal”: any parent who sees their child take a different path from what they would have liked for them must go through it. After the initial shock often follows a host of conflicting emotions that will lead, little by little, to the opening. It is during this form of adaptation that the parent will seek to understand the reality of his child in order, finally, to arrive at tolerance and acceptance. This process can take several years.
For others, this "coming out of the closet" is rather synonymous with liberation, as this mother testified to Gai Listening: "From the moment my son came out, I saw him transform before my eyes. He, who was rather solitary and taciturn, began to talk more openly to his father and me, to have social activities. My son's coming out marked the moment when heblossomed so much that we felt like we weren’t losing our son, but rather discovering him.”
Gai Listening is a listening and information center for people interested or concerned by questions related to sexual orientation. Whether it's for your child, or for yourself, know that you can reach these professionals free of charge 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, at 514-866-0103 or 1-888-505-1010. Gay Listening also offers a consultation service by email or chat.