Gay Teens (IWannaKnow.org)

Boyfriends? Girlfriends? It's all many young people can think about. The adolescent years are when most start feeling sexually attracted to other people, and for some, that attraction is not necessarily for members of the opposite sex.

Gay teens deal with feelings of being different, rejection, not fitting in, and so many other things. Safer sex is probably not even on the brain. If you are struggling with coming out to your family and friends, you probably aren't thinking about how to talk about safer sex with a potential partner.

Is sexual orientation a choice?
No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. 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.

While attitudes have certainly shifted over the years, gays and lesbians still face varying degrees of hostility from society that can be as subtle as a snub from a co-worker or classmate, or as violent as a physical attack. Most 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.(1)

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.(2)

But you don't have to be alone. There are resources available, including websites and local organizations.
Advocates for Youth has a large list of resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. GLSEN – Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN promotes respect and acceptance of GLBT students in school settings.

PFLAG – Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. PFLAG is an advocacy and education organization for GLBT individuals and their families. PFLAG’s Web site has resources for family members seeking to learn more about supporting gay loved ones. ASHA sincerely thanks Mr. Donald Cavanaugh and the South Florida PFLAG organization for contributing inspiration, insight, information, and editorial assistance to this document.

References
1. Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. 2001 National School Climate Survey: The School Related Experiences of our Nations Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth. J. Kosciw, ed. Retrieved online at http://www.glsen.org/binary-data/GLSEN_ATTACHMENTS/file/221-1.pdf

2. M. Rosario and E. Schrimshaw. Homelessness among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Health and psychosocial correlates. Data presented at the 132nd Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C., November 2004.

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