There are few parents who can easily and completely accept the news that their child is gay. Even those who are comfortable with homosexuality and same-sex marriage may find themselves having difficulty. They may feel that they have done something that "caused" homosexuality in their child. They may be saddened to think that they won't have grandchildren, feel that they have "lost" their child, or worry that life will be hard for him or her. If you have these kinds of feelings after learning that your child is gay, give yourself time to process them and educate yourself with some facts. You'll find that none of those fears is a given. Your child is the same person he or she was yesterday, and needs your love and support more than ever.
Risks Facing Gay Teens
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) stresses that sexual orientation is not a mental disorder, and that the causes of homosexuality are not fully understood. Furthermore, a person's sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, and attempts to change it may be harmful.
However, the AACAP identifies a number of concerns for gay teens, including:
- Feeling different from peers.
- Feeling guilty about their sexual orientation.
- Worrying about the response from their families and loved ones.
- Being teased and ridiculed by their peers.
- Worrying about AIDS, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Fearing discrimination when joining clubs, sports, seeking admission to college, and finding employment.
- Being rejected and harassed by others.
Gay teens who are struggling with these issues may start to withdraw from activities and friends, have trouble concentrating, and develop low self-esteem. Some may become seriously depressed and begin to think about or attempt suicide. Parents and others need to be alert to these signs of distress and be ready to intervene. Recent studies show that gay youth account for a significant number of deaths by suicide during adolescence.
Transgender youth face similar mental health struggles and need emotional support from their parents and others.