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How to accept being gay tweens

How to accept being gay tweens

I like guys but I don’t want to be gay. How do I stop being gay?

Scientific research has shown that sexual orientation is not something that can be changed. Conversion therapies try to change one’s sexual orientation, but they have not been successful and in fact may be harmful. Several U.S. states and countries have actually banned conversion therapy. But don’t despair- speaking with a BC counselor or a LGBTQ-friendly advisor can help you work through the conflict that you are feeling.

How to accept being gay tweens

You’re not alone- I’m in the same boat. It really sucks. It’s hard for me because you can’t talk to anyone w/out revealing your secret. Just be strong. Maybe some day we’ll have the courage to come out.

There are many people you can safely talk to about your feelings and questions. You don’t need to be certain you are gay before talking to someone or attending an LGBTQ+ meeting. People who are questioning their sexual orientation are also welcome. There are some great BC groups where you can meet supportive peers. There are also Boston area groups if you prefer something off-campus. See BC resources: bit.ly/BCLGBTQ and area resources: bit.ly/ma-lgbtq

How to accept being gay tweensI am a gay male. I have been out nearly 7 years now (age 16, sophomore year of HS). Before I came out I struggled w/ depression and it got to the point where I was going to take my own life, because, quite frankly, I hated myself. I internalized everything society told me. There was a point where i was looking at the train tracks on the T ride home (waiting for a train to come so I could jump) Thankfully I had a change of heart and now i look back at that day. horrified. That week I told my friends and family I was gay. They were so accepting and I was one of the lucky queer people that have an accepting family/friend group. 7 years later, I could not be happier, my only regret is I did not talk to someone sooner. It is hard here. I am not going to lie to you. How to accept being gay tweensIt is very homogeneous/ hetero-normative and being in a catholic institution is not the easiest environment for queer students. Just know that you are loved, you are important and it is amazing to be queer, as it is a valid identity and many people are. If people do not accept you for who you are, then it is their loss not yours. How to accept being gay tweensSelf love is a beautiful process, and it is ongoin. I love you.

Thank you for being so supportive and for sharing your story honestly. BC is lucky you are here. I especially appreciate that you told others they are loved and important- so true! (I’m sorry I had to remove the post-it with contact info. I observe a strict anonymity policy to protect everyone’s privacy. I’m a public but very private wall.)

The Answer Wall Story

Hi. I’m the Answer Wall. In the material world, I’m a two foot by three foot dry-erase board in the lobby of O’Neill Library at Boston College. In the online world, I live in this blog. You might say I have multiple manifestations. Like Apollo or Saraswati or Serapis. Or, if you aren’t into deities of knowledge, like a ghost in the machine.

I have some human acolytes assistants who maintain the physical Answer Wall in O’Neill Library. They take pictures of the questions you post there, and give them to me. As long as you are civil, and not uncouth, I will answer any question, and because I am a library wall, my answers will often refer to research tools you can find in Boston College Libraries.

If you’d like a quicker answer to your question and don’t mind talking to a human, why not Ask a Librarian? Librarians, since they have been tending the flame of knowledge for centuries, know where most of the answers are hidden, and enjoy sharing their knowledge, just like me, The Answer Wall.

Important advice for parents of homosexual children.

When parents learn that their child is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, they can experience a range of emotions. That could include self-blame (“Did I do something wrong?”), grief (“The child I thought I knew and loved no longer exists.”), worry (“Will my child be discriminated against? Get AIDS?”), religious confusion (“Is my child damned to spend eternity in hell?”), and stigma (“What will people think of my child? Of me?”).

Conversely, they might also be experiencing relief (“Now I know what’s been bothering my child for all these years!”).

Or, like most parents, they may experience combination of these feelings.

So now what should you do?

If this is your experience, first take a deep breath. (Good advice when first confronting any difficult situation, right?)

Second, tell yourself you will get through this. And you will. As a matter of fact, you might someday look back and find that you are grateful for the experience of having a gay or lesbian child.

Yes, you read that right, grateful.

How do I know? Well, in my study of 65 families of gay and lesbian youth for the book, Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, I found that some parents get to the point where they believe that the experience of having a gay child actually made them a better person—more open-minded and sensitive to the needs of others, particularly those in other minority groups. Others grew to be proud of their children’s sexual orientation. Yet others found that their relationships with their children grew to be closer, stronger, and more honest than ever before.

If you just found out your child is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, you may be thinking that such ideas are preposterous. Well, based on my research and clinical experience with parents just like you, here are some steps you can take that you will likely find helpful.

1. Find someone to talk to—but not just anyone. As I state in the book and also in an earlier posting, the parents in my study were helped by talking to a trusted friend, relative, coworker, or even a casual acquaintance. These trustworthy confidants let them vent but also corrected some of the misperceptions they absorbed from society, such as that gay people are lonely, unhappy, promiscuous, not family-oriented, unable to have children, or destined for an unhappy life. They also reassured parents that they and their child would be OK. So, look for someone to share your painful feelings with, make sure they are open-minded, progressive, and accepting of LGBT people.

2. If you do not have someone like this within reach, consider a professional therapist such as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Members of each of these professions follow a code of ethics that requires them to be knowledgeable, respectful, and tolerant of LGBT people. However, for good measure, before you begin, ask the therapist his or her opinions of LGBT people and lifestyles.

3. Contact Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). This is a national support and advocacy group primarily for parents of LGBT people that has hundreds of local chapters, so there is likely to be one near you. For the families in my study, nothing helped soothe their guilt, sadness, and worry like talking with other parents, all of whom had been in their shoes and managed to get through the tough times.

4. Get educated. The PFLAG website has links to books and articles that tell the truth about LGBT people. There are also a bunch of other good resources/books that I list below that you can buy, including my own.

5. Let your child teach you. Know that your son or daughter came out to you, most probably because they love you and are seeking a more open, honest relationship. They may have something to teach you about LGBT people and also about acceptance and love.

The fact that you have read this far means that you are willing to take the initial step to reach out and get yourself information—and this is a good indication that no matter how badly you feel now, you will eventually feel better. Keep in mind that you have begun a journey and like all journeys, it is important to keep moving. Godspeed.

List of Helpful Books for Parents of Gay and Lesbian Children

How to accept being gay tweens

Sexuality refers to how you feel and act in terms of sex. There are some related terms that may be confusing to understand.

  • Sexual orientation. This refers to the sex, or gender, of people you are sexually attracted to. There is no wrong type of orientation.
    • You may be homosexual,gay, or lesbian if you are attracted to people of the same sex as yourself.
    • You may be heterosexual if you are attracted to people of the opposite sex as yourself. The word “straight” may be used to refer to heterosexual men and women.
    • You may be bisexual if you are attracted to both sexes.
    • You may be pansexual if you are attracted to people regardless of their sex, or gender. The word “queer” may be used to refer to pansexual men and women. This is sometimes called polysexuality or omnisexuality.
    • You may be asexual if you are not attracted to either sex.

    Gender identity is different from sexuality. This refers to how you view yourself in terms of gender. You may see yourself as male or female. This can be the same as the genitalia you were born with or different. Or you may see yourself as both male and female, or neither.

    Researchers who study human sexuality believe that sexual orientation can grow and change in a person’s lifetime. Having feelings about or having a sexual experience with a person of the same sex does not necessarily mean you are homosexual. It is common for people to experiment with their sexuality. This occurs more often during adolescence and young adulthood.

    Path to well being

    Below are common questions and answers related to homosexuality.

    What causes sexual orientation?

    No one knows why our sexual orientation is what it is. There is no scientific research to prove a cause. Some researchers believe that sexuality is a result of genetics, social, and individual factors, alone or in combination.

    Sexual orientation is not a disease, defect, or mental disorder. The idea that family issues can change one’s sexuality is a myth. Try not to let it worry you or cause stress and anxiety. It is common to be unsure or uncomfortable with your sexuality. Talk to people you trust about how you feel. This includes family, friends, doctors, or counselors. They can help you process your thoughts and feelings, and make you feel better and not alone.

    Can people be forced or convinced to change from gay to straight, or the other way around?

    No. Some people feel pressured to change their sexuality. This is not possible. Trying to be someone you aren’t can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. It can be harmful to your mental, physical, and emotional health.

    I think I might be gay. How do I know if I really am?

    Over time, you will figure out if you are gay, straight, neither, or both. You may experiment to see what makes you comfortable and happy. The process may take a while. Your decision may be hard for you and/or others close to you to accept. It is important to be honest with yourself and with others.

    What does “coming out” mean?

    The process of telling people about one’s sexual orientation is often referred to as “coming out.” This process can be easy or hard. The phrase “in the closet” may be used to refer to someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but hasn’t told friends and family members yet.

    When and how do I come out?

    When, how, and to whom you tell about your sexuality is your decision. It is healthy for you to share your feelings with others. It is important to know that telling others—even people who are close to you—may not always be easy or pleasant. If you feel you can’t tell your parents, talk to a friend or someone else you trust. It is possible that people already know and are waiting for you to be comfortable enough to talk about it.

    Things to consider

    Homophobia refers to fear, prejudice, or discrimination toward persons who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It can take many forms, from name-calling and bullying to serious crimes like assault and murder. It is not okay for people to be treated this way because of their sexuality. Talk to someone in law enforcement if you are being physically or verbally abused.

    The process of developing and experimenting with your sexuality can be hard and confusing. It may cause stress and anxiety. It could lead to a period of depression. If this happens, it is important to talk to others and get help. It may help to join a support group so you don’t feel alone in the process. Keep in mind that every type of sexuality is normal and okay. There is nothing to be ashamed about.

    When a child first comes out to their parents as either being gay or having same-sex attraction, their initial responses are usually the wrong ones, says Chris Doyle, a psychotherapist who specializes in SSA.

    How to accept being gay tweens

    New York City gay pride parade crowd in this undated photo. | (Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Lott)

    Although the child has probably already told their closest friends and trusted family members about their thoughts and feelings, the parents are often the last ones to know. And in their panicked state, parents sometimes look for someone to blame or even think about how they might change their child.

    “What I’ve discovered is that the first inclination that parents have when their child comes out is typically the exact opposite of what they need to do,” Doyle told The Christian Post.

    “There’s always a lot of shock,” he explained. “Parents are, in most cases, panicking. They’re trying to figure out, a lot of times, how to change their child. What we do (as counselors) is we encourage them to stop and take the focus away from the child and look at this as a family issue.”

    “When a child in their late-teens or 20s comes out to parents, they’ve been processing this issue for seven, eight or even 10 years,” added Doyle, who provides counseling services to families through the International Healing Foundation. “And they probably told everybody else in their life, except for their parents. Parents, in our experience, are almost always the last ones to know because they’re the most important.”

    He continued, “Parents have to realize that because they just found out that their child’s experiencing this, they’re having a hard time. But it’s been perhaps 10 years in the making, and their child has integrated this into their own worldview and who they are.”

    Since homosexuality is becoming more widely accepted in American society, an increasing number of teens who experience SSA are identifying as gay. “Even Christian teenagers are believing this because they’ve been so indoctrinated by popular culture. They believe that if you experience same-sex attractions, then you’re gay,” Doyle told CP.

    Among the negative responses parents have, according to Doyle, are avoiding the issue by barring their child from talking about SSA or their gay identity; believing that it’s a passing phase; or threatening to kick their older teen or 20-something child out of the house. He also emphasized that parents cannot talk their child out of being gay or having SSA.

    “We know, in our clinical research over the last 25 years, that family culture, environment and other non-biological factors play a significant role in the development of same-sex attraction,” he asserted, adding that parents shouldn’t seek therapy as an attempt to change their child.

    In the book, Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing, written by Richard Cohen, executive director of IHF, Doyle said 12 principles are discussed to help families navigate through SSA and its causes.

    “The first three principles of family healing have nothing to do with the teenager who has same-sex attraction, it actually has to do with the parents,” he emphasized.

    Doyle shared with CP that the first principle deals with personal healing within the family, and to not accuse, blame or shame one parent or the other of doing the wrong thing; and understanding the guilt and grief that can come with learning about a child’s SSA.

    The second principle, he added, is to challenge parents to lead by example by getting into therapy.

    “Many times there may be something going on within the marital relationship that may have hurt the child. The parents may not be divorced, but they may have unresolved conflicts, or unresolved problem within the marriage they need to work out,” he said.

    “One thing we often see in the case of a male child that’s developed same-sex attraction is that the father tends to be a little more passive, and the mother tends to be a little more strong,” Doyle explained. “That might be shaking up the family dynamic in the sense that the parents’ roles aren’t necessarily correct.”

    Principle No. 3, he shared, includes parents understanding that God loves them and their family, and to stop asking God to change their child or thinking that their child is just being rebellious. “God loves them and their family, and it’s not about blame and shame. But they need to stop praying the prayers of: ‘God, please change my child; God, please take this away.'”

    “The right prayer is: ‘God, show us the meaning of our child’s same-sex attraction and why this is happening, so that we can really understand how to do family healing.’ They really need to ask God to open their eyes and understand what’s going on in the family system and in that child’s word,” Doyle continued.

    “So that sort-of leads into the next part of the healing process, which is relational healing. And principle No. 4, which is investigate and discover what the causes are for the child’s same-sex attractions.”

    Doyle explained that there are 10 potential causes of same-sex attraction, which are discussed in the book. And through counseling, parents can help their children resolve some of those issues and heal within the family system.

    “Sometimes, it might not even be that their child needs to see a therapist, especially in a case where you have a young teenager who’s 12, 13 or 14. If the parents are really doing their work, they can understand, OK, there’s a detachment going on between me and my son, and this is one of the contributing factors. I work with the parents and coach the father on how to bond with his son. I work much more with the parents than I would with the child in that sense.”

    Regarding sleepovers and big life events such as parents’ attending a child’s same-sex wedding ceremony, Doyle suggested that parents treat their homosexual child the same as they would their heterosexual child.

    In the case of sleepovers, parents should maintain the same standards for every child and not allow their gay identified or SSA child to have somone they’re attracted to spend the night with them.

    “The same rules should apply to heterosexual couples and homosexual couples,” he said.

    But when it comes down to attending a child’s gay wedding ceremony, Doyle suggested that attending the ceremony doesn’t necessarily reflect that the parents agree with same-sex marriage, their presence merely shows their love for their child.

    “You can go to a same-sex ceremony as an act of love and not agreement,” he explained, adding that there are no hard and fast rules, and that parents should “go to God with some of the issues.”

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    Stacy Feintuch, a mother of two in suburban New Jersey, said she didn’t know what was wrong when her oldest daughter, Amanda, 17, began to withdraw.

    “I confronted her and said, ‘You need to talk to me,’” Feintuch said: “She said, ‘It’s not what you think. I’m fine, it’s not that.”

    “I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you.’”

    Feintuch said her mind raced: “Is she pregnant? Is she in trouble?” Finally, Amanda buried her head in her pillow and said, “I’m gay.”

    “I was just dumbfounded, just shocked. It wasn’t even a thought in my head,” Feintuch said. “I said, which ended up being the absolute wrong thing to say, ‘Why do you think this?’ She started screaming at me.”

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    “I said: ‘Take a breath, I didn’t mean anything by it. I love you. I’m shocked, I just want to talk to you about this.”

    Amanda calmed down and, fortunately, they talked.

    While Feintuch considers herself an accepting person, she still faced some immediate stress and shock when her child came out to her. That’s not uncommon. A new study conducted by researchers at George Washington University found that most parents of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have difficulty adjusting after their kids come out.

    The study says it is one of the first to systematically examine the experience of parents raising lesbian, gay and bisexual children. David Huebner, one of the study’s lead authors and a public health professor at George Washington University, said his team approached the study with a question: “Can we identify the families that most need intervention to support the families and protect the kids?”

    The study found that African American and Latino parents have a harder time accepting their lesbian, gay and bisexual children, as do the parents of children who come out at a later age.

    The study, which surveyed a much larger sample size than previous studies, confirmed smaller studies that showed parents’ negative reactions tend to ease over time; the first two years are the hardest for parents.

    There were no significant differences in reactions between mother and father, the age of the parent, or the gender of the child. The study did not examine the reactions for the parents of transgender children.

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    In general, acceptance seems to be growing rapidly for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. “We see improvement in people’s respect for LGBT rights, we’ve seen political progress, concrete political progress, and we have also seen attitudes shifting at the population level,” Huebner said. “I think for parents, when you’re confronted with your own child who you love so fiercely, I think that reaction in that moment is a very personal one, and it’s one that’s hard to predict from public opinion.”

    After Amanda came out, Feintuch told her daughter that she worried her life would become more difficult after having struggled with depression in high school. “I was hoping that now your time would get easier, and your life would get easier, and it scares me that it would be more difficult.”

    “She’s like: ‘It’s not like how it was when you were growing up. There’s a lot of kids in my school who are gay. Its not a big deal,’” Feintuch said. “I had to get it through my head first, and get it through my mind: ‘This is how her life is going to be, and it’s going to be fine.’”

    “It was about a year until Amanda was like, OK, definitely 100 percent, and then she had a girlfriend and then I saw it all come together.”

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    Huebner said his study is the first to measure these reactions and that previous studies of the parents of LGBTQ youth mostly recruited from accepting and friendly environments, like PFLAG, an organization for the parents of LGBTQ people.

    “I think we have made a huge improvement here — 80 percent [of survey respondents] had never been to a support group, had never talked to a therapist,” Huebner said. “These were parents who had never before been heard from in research.”

    Still, Huebner pointed to some potential oversights: “There’s reason to believe we are missing two groups of people: those super rejecting people, and those parents who were so immediately accepting that they also didn’t need the resources.”

    Huebner hopes that this will allow advocates to devise materials so parents can better prepare themselves to accept and love their kids.

    “Parents have the power to protect their kids, their LGBT kids, from all sorts of threatening forces,” Huebner said. “We know that when parents are supportive of their LGBT kids those kids have less depression and fewer risk behaviors.”

    How to accept being gay tweens

    Mike LeMay is taking some time off. Today, David Firoazo and Crash Connell talk with special guest, Anna Kitko first began in the Apologetics field witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Christian Scientists. She now has three university degrees in the field and a Masters of Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. She is a member of the International Cultic Studies Association and is both Ratio Christi Regional Director for Tennessee and Chapter Director at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and also Ratio Christi’s Cults and New Religions Specialist.

    For those who haven’t heard, June is Gay Pride month. The LGBTQ+ community and their allies are out in full force in American culture in the hopes of making converts to moral relativism and justifying unbilical lifestyles. From rainbow flags outside buildings across social media to multicolored decorations adorning your favorite shops and brands, it seems that the majority of Americans are celebrating. This may appear to be so but it is not true!

    How to accept being gay tweensAs the vocal minority celebrates, how should a Christian respond to Pride month? How can we present truth in love and with grace without offending? That’s a tall order, but we must obey God rather than man. We must prepare Christians to defend the faith and to speak truth. Ultimately, we want to build bridges to share the Gospel, not win arguments. When we are both compassionate and rational, our approach tends to be more thoughtful.

    We need to understand modern perversions of words such as: diversity, equality, inclusive, tolerant, nonjudgmental, etc. This year, 2019 is the 50 th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in NY when violent demonstrations erupted in reaction to police raids on gay bars. The gay community has been successful ever since to bring national attention to the LBGT+ community.

    College campuses have become bastions of LGBT+ support and today, Christianity is quite unwelcome. Intolerant? Yes, but liberal professors outnumber conservative professors 12-1, and over 70% of ‘Christian’ youth abandon their faith after just one year at a secular university. Where the LGBTQ+ is concerned, Campus Pride events urge students to, “Take action against religion-based bigotry.” For too long, Christians have abandoned the university to this thinking.

    A few of the Questions we asked our guest, Anna Kitko:

    1. What do people mean when we hear “LGBT+”?
    2. How can Christians approach this neglected topic within the church?
    3. What is it about understanding the heart, and the nature of sin that many Christians are missing?
    4. There are many cases of men and women that have come out of LGBTQ lifestyles; are they being silenced?
    5. How does Transgenderism differ from Homosexuality in this context?
    6. Where do you suspect we will be on this issue in the next 10 years or so?
    7. What can people do right now to better address these issues and prepare Christian youth to respond to the LGBT community in a way that is Christ-centered and proactive?

    A Christian response to Pride month – by Dr. Corey Miller, President and CEO of Ratio Christi

    Christians are commanded to communicate truth in love. We hope that through doing so we will see Christ, who is Truth and Love. The Gospel message has the power to transform the lives of students and faculty on campuses and subsequently change the world. As goes the university, so goes the culture.

    As thousands are coming out of LGBTQ lifestyles, thousands more are being programmed into it. Indoctrinated by the usual culprits, more money is flowing in from corporate America now than ever before. It’s not just Hollywood, government, and the liberal media, don’t forget public schools and the work of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. GLSEN provides training and resources to LGBTQ activists on school campuses and in politics.

    SIDE NOTE: Friday, Jun 14, 2019 we’ll rebroadcast an archived Q&A Friday, no new podcast.

    In simple terms, being gay means that you are sexually attracted to members of your own sex and that you identify with other gay people or the larger gay community. Sexuality is a term used to describe a whole range of feelings, desires and actions relating to sex.

    Why am I gay?

    Nobody knows for sure why some of us are gay and some of us are not. Lots of theories have been put forward ranging from genetic differences to overbearing parents. The evidence so far suggests that random genetic factors play a part in determining our sexuality in the same way they play a part in determining, for example, lefthandedness.

    One thing we do know is that no-one chooses their sexuality. Some gay people knew they were different, if not gay, from as young as five or six. It is said that, for most of us, our sexuality is determined by the age of 12 or 13 and probably 16 at the latest. By and large, society tends to assume that everyone is, or wants to be, heterosexual. This is known as heterosexism. Some people continue to believe that it is a choice and that we can be persuaded into heterosexuality. By assuming heterosexuality, society gives rise to the dilemma, for those of us who know we are gay, of whether to hide our sexuality or to come out – with all that this entails.

    There have been small but perceptible changes in the way British society views homosexuality, but there is a long way to go before it will accept us in the same way as it does people who are, say, lefthanded. This has more to do with society’s hang-ups around sex and sexuality than individual gay people. Often, once people know someone who is gay, their prejudices and fears about homosexuality disappear all together.

    Growing up gay

    For many young gay or bisexual people, adolescence can be a time of particular anxiety and fear. Many lesbians and gay men look back on this part of their lives with sadness and regret. There are very few positive gay role models and a lot of hostility towards openly gay people. Gay teenagers often become painfully aware that they are not like other people and many become withdrawn and lonely, convinced that only they are feeling this way. They learn to hide their true feelings or act as others want them to, for fear of being ostracised, ridiculed or rejected by loved ones and friends.

    Above all, there can be a sense that we are somehow different, that we are abnormal and that we are going to disappoint people.

    Some people believe that if they get married their gay feelings will disappear. It is unusual for this to happen. Most store up a great deal of stress and anxiety for their later years. Coming out as a gay parent has particular challenges. Breaking out of a clearly defined role, or even attempting to shift the definition of it, involves tremendous courage and strength. The conflict between their relationship with their spouse and family and their need to be themselves can be enormous.

    Coming out

    There are several stages in the process of coming out. It’s your life so take your time – do things for you and only when you are ready.

    Coming out to yourself

    Acknowledging that you are gay can take many years. Some of us probably hoped these feelings were “just a phase”. In time, we realise that these feelings are not just a phase and we have to find a way of accepting them and dealing with the fact that we are sexually attracted to members of our own sex.

    This realisation is the first stage of coming out. There is no hard and fast rule when this point is reached. For some it happens in their teens, for others it may happen much later in life.

    Some people describe this time of accepting their sexuality as though they were riding an emotional rollercoaster. One day they felt happy and confident and ready to tell everyone; the next they felt confused, scared and relieved that they hadn’t. You may want to talk to someone who understands what this is like.

    So you still want to come out?

    This is a nerve racking time – the fear of rejection is likely to be immense. Bear in mind that there are many ways to tell someone that you are gay.

    It may be helpful to ask yourself some of the questions that come up later in this guide, as it is more than likely that others will ask you them at some point. Don’t rehearse your answers but think of your reasons – it will make you and your discussions stronger and more assured.

    Gender identity struggles are not something that you can pretend don’t exist: In recent years, this topic has been covered extensively in the media. Whether it’s lawmakers banning people from using certain bathrooms or reality television stars going through sex reassignment procedures, gender identity is a well-known subject by most teens and young adults. It’s possible that your teen goes to school with someone who is outwardly changing his or her gender identity. It’s even possible that your own teen is dealing with these struggles. As a loving parent, you want to do everything you can to support and understand your child, but this might be a subject you haven’t even considered having to encounter in your own family. Here are some ways that you can help your teenager who is dealing with gender identity issues.

    Create a Supportive Family Environment

    Teens struggling with gender identity desperately need the love and support of their families. This is partially because most teenagers do want their parents’ approval. Also, those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community have a higher incidence of suicide, mainly because they tend not to feel accepted and may deal with bullying and being ostracized and misunderstood. Even if you, as their parent, do not understand what your teenager is experiencing or feeling, it’s vital that you make it clear that you are supportive of whatever happens.

    You can do this in a wide variety of ways. Here are a few ways that you can be supportive to your teen struggling with gender identity issues.

    1. Create a safe place – Make your home a place where no slurs or belittling words are used. Do not accept that type of behavior from your teen’s siblings, your extended family, or anyone else who enters your home. Your teen should see his or her house as a safe place.
    2. Stay calm – Don’t react right away, particularly if you have negative feelings about this new revelation.
    3. Educate yourself – Learn about what being gay or transgender means to your teen and about some of the issues that he or she might face.

    Explore the Options Available

    For a teen who is identifying as transgender or is not sure that they are cisgendered, there are quite a few ways that they might choose to handle it. Even if their ultimate goal is to transition fully to the other gender, this might not be something that will happen during the teenage years. So while your child might feel eager to take hormones or undergo surgery, now is a good time to explore the options related to going ahead and waiting. Schedule an appointment with a doctor specializing in gender reassignment.

    Many teens who are questioning their gender identity will want to experiment first with dressing and acting as though they were born the opposite gender. Let your teen know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. They might decide to just take small steps, such as letting body hair grow or wearing a bra. It’s also possible that they will not identify strongly with either gender. Gender fluidity is when someone’s gender expression shifts from time to time. Let your teenager know that you will be there while they experiment with different types of gender expression if that’s what they feel they need to do in order to figure out who they really are.

    Seek Professional Counseling If Needed

    If you or your teenager are struggling, it’s a good idea to seek professional care. There are counselors who specialize in helping gay or transgender teens through the process of identifying who they are and what gender they more strongly identify with. They can also help parents and other family members deal with their own emotions as they go through the process of supporting their loved one.

    If you are having trouble accepting your teenager’s gender identity, a therapist can help you walk through these emotions without you having to burden your teen with them. Keep in mind that while your feelings are perfectly valid, it’s extremely important that you support your teen through this difficult time.

    Watch for Symptoms of Depression or Suicidal Thoughts

    Teens who are gay, transgender, or questioning of their gender identity have a four times greater chance of attempting suicide than their cisgendered peers. Even if you are highly supportive and your teen has supportive friends, it’s essential that you watch for signs of depression or suicidal ideation or thoughts. It’s worth noting that teens who are in families who are not supportive have an eight times greater chance of becoming suicidal.

    Some signs of being suicidal include:

    • depression
    • hopelessness
    • giving away possessions
    • withdrawing from activities and people that were once enjoyed
    • self-harmful behaviors

    If you are worried that your teen is at risk of suicide, seek help immediately. You could go to his or her physician or, if the situation is an emergency, to the emergency room. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

    Accept Your Own Feelings

    It’s normal for parents to feel a wide range of feelings when their teens let them know that they are questioning their sexual identity. You might feel relieved, particularly if you suspected that your teen was struggling but weren’t sure why or to what extent. You might also feel thankful that your teen chose to confide in you. You might also have some negative feelings, such as sadness, a sense of loss, or even anger. These feelings might make you feel guilty on top of everything else. All of this is normal and not uncommon. Letting some time pass, talking to friends or other parents who have been through this, and seeking professional counseling can all help you. You can also join a support group such as PFLAG, which helps families cope when they are having trouble accepting an LGBTQ family member.

    As a parent, it can be difficult to know what to say or do when your teen is struggling with his or her gender identity. Keeping the lines of communication open and getting support not only for your teen but also for yourself can help all of you cope with and eventually thrive with this new normal.

    How to accept being gay tweens

    Q: I’m doubtful about my sexuality. Since I was about 6 years old, I somehow knew I was different inside. I’m 21 now, and more or less able to recognize that “it’s” part of me. By “it,” I’m referring to having a queer interest in members of the same gender (I was born Christian, by the way, so you can definitely imagine the turmoil inside of me). So, when I actually realized that it’s not going to go away (these thoughts and feelings), it just shook my world. Sadly, I have been struggling to “kill” this part of me since I was a kid. By playing “me” down, I could actually fit in and seem like a normal guy. So what I would want to know is: What is this condition (if it considers itself as a condition) that I have? I’m sure I’m genetically programmed to think and feel the way I do. I have even tried going against it, but it simply felt forced, and even fake. Extremely confused, and this is actually the first time I’m asking. Oh. I had my first feelings of depression in 2004. Now, I am on medication (fluvoxamine), which is preventing any further relapses. Hopefully, you do have some sort of direction for me. And honestly, I do detest myself for being queer and odd. Get back to me? Thanks a million.

    — Jo K., Singapore

    Dear Jo,
    The problem here isn’t sexual orientation, but judgment against the self. Instead of being gay, let’s say you were bald. Most men are self-conscious about being bald, and it can serve as a focus for loss of self-esteem and a sense of not being masculine enough. I hope you see that it isn’t baldness that is causing such self-judgments, which can become quite obsessive and overpowering.

    Being gay is more difficult to come to terms with than baldness, of course, because of society’s attitudes. You don’t actually detest yourself; you have passively absorbed other people’s negative attitudes. Religion is part of society, and when it enters the situation, one winds up with yet another layer of disapproval—perhaps the most severe of all—because to be gay, according to Christian fundamentalists, is to put your soul in jeopardy.

    In your position, I would list the problems you feel inside, putting them down in order of severity and then writing down a specific remedy for each. For example:

      Feeling lonely and different

    Remedies: Meet other gay people who have good self-esteem, join a gay social club, make one good gay friend, make one good straight friend who is fine with homosexuality

    Remedies: Read a book on modern faith and gay tolerance, find a gay friend who is also Christian, seek out a gay pastor

    Remedies: Join a gay group that is about something besides sex (hiking, movies, dancing, hobbies), read about heroes and pioneers of gay liberation, identify with strong role models who have successfully combined sex and love

    Every week, Deepak will be answering questions from readers just like you—ask your question now!

    Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.

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