Helping teenagers deal with their
The acceptance of diversity hasn't seemed to improve
in today's society. Public opinion consists of interests, attitudes and
beliefs that differ in many ways - especially about
gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered (GLBT) individuals.
During a recent television news program, teenagers
insultingly called one another "gay." This term was used in a derogatory
way, not as a term for defining sexuality. Although teenagers of
previous generations have used the term in a derogatory manner, it is
difficult to understand how it is still acceptable among a group of the
iPod-toting, Internet-savvy, FCAT-approved youth.
While there have been some improvements in rights of
the GLBT community, other issues have worsened. According to several
studies over the last 30 years, one out of every 10 people is attracted
to those of the same gender at some point in their life.
Unlike anonymous short questionnaires in national
magazines, these studies were designed to elicit sensitive personal
information from random participants. Accordingly, one out of 10
participants is willing to risk disclosing aspects about their sexual
orientation despite the personal and social consequences of being
truthful. Most people, however, reported that they are unwilling to
discuss their sexual orientation when not knowing how that information
might be used.
Regardless of the actual numbers, a substantial GLBT
population exists in the United States and there is fear amongst these
individuals about talking about their identity with their employers,
family and co-workers.
Growing up with such an identity can be difficult.
Homosexual teens often see that there isn't much hope of acceptance by
society, their immediate peers or their own families. Emotional and
confused parents may kick their children out for leading a homosexual
life, and teens can be acutely aware of this risk to their well-being.
Statistics validate that this fear is real - one-half of homeless youth
living on the streets are homosexual, half kicked out by their parents
and the other half ran away from home to avoid any unbearable
Some adolescents don't have the mental strength to
protect themselves against verbal abuse by others. With no family/peer
support, no role models and no access to resources, homosexual youths
are at high risk for depression, substance abuse and suicide. Additional
stresses can further intensify feelings of loneliness and "otherness."
Homosexual teenagers who deal with such rejection by
loved ones may inflict self-harm and commit suicide more often than the
general teenage population. Because adolescents may not have previous
experience with such rejection and because they are not fully
intellectually mature, substance abuse can also be used as a way to
Treatment of homosexual youth must always take the
above issues into account. The social isolation and denial of common
civil rights that can protect an individual are just as important to the
While it is disheartening that the term "gay" is still
used as an insult, it is hopeful that we can intervene with the teenage
population to save this generation. It may also pave the way for
complete acceptance by the next generation.
26 May 2007