A number of people I see are LGB teens still living at home. At a time when they are becoming curious about dating, their parents are still adjusting to the idea that they are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. This can create some friction and tension in the house when they want to assert their ability to be who they are and see who they want to see.
I think we all internalize homophobia entrance phobia to some degree, and it can be hard to recognize that within ourselves. We don’t want to be labeled as bigoted or close-minded, but we also don’t like it when people push us out of our comfort zones. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, children are experts at pushing us outside of our comfort zones. Sometimes they push us a little bit and other times were way outside of our comfort zones. However, it’s important to remember that they did not choose to be who they are in terms of gender identity or sexual orientation. They’re not doing it to get attention or to cuss off, or to prove a point of some kind. Thankfully, we’re living in an age where more is known about different ways of being, and hopefully, with that increased knowledge we can create more space for people to be who they are and to be accepted.
I’ve never heard and LGB kids say that they are being who they are to get back at their parents or to get their attention. In fact, quite often the fear of rejection or discomfort with talking about these matters makes them withdraw and not want attention. It can be very difficult for both parents and teens to talk about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender without parents or teens getting upset and feeling threatened. Here are some ideas to consider in talking about dating with your LGB teenager.
What is your child’s overall stance towards human beings in general? Are they kind, respectful, decent, good friends honest, and fair? Do you think that they treat other people as they would want to be treated? I think if they have successful friendships that are nonsexual in nature, that can bode well for their dating relationships as well.
What is your child’s self-esteem like? How does that play into their relationships with others? Do they get walked all over and friendships? This is important to address early in their lives, regardless of their sexual orientation. If they are unkind to themselves or other people and you notice this, it’s important to talk to them about how to stand up for themselves and be more considerate of other people, respectively.
What is your feeling about gay, lesbian, and bisexual human beings? Do you have any friends or acquaintances who are LGB? How do you treat them and how do they treat you? It’s important to keep this in mind when talking to your children about this issue. Keep in mind that sometimes when we have a bad experience with someone who is part of a minority group, we might generalize our negative experiences inappropriately to all people from that group. Are you doing that with your kid’s partner or friend?
Do you have enough information about LGB folks to make an accurate assessment of your child’s social life? Groups like PFLAG and GLAAD can help you understand your LGB kid better and dispel some unfortunate myths about this population. I encourage you to contact them if you’re not sure. Your child will respect you much more if you admit that you don’t know that if you pretend that you have an idea of their experience without the facts to back it up.
Along the same lines, you might not want to make pronouncements that are untrue. Sometimes people say things like, “this is just a phase you’re going through. We’ll get out of it once you start dating people of the opposite gender.” You don’t know that and it’s not fair to say that to your child. Why not take him or her seriously and try to treat your child with respect, that he or she knows what he or she likes and doesn’t like?
Does your child know about safer sex and is he or she responsible in their relationships? Do they know how to prevent STDs like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, genital warts, etc.? It might be a good time to talk about this and get information about sexual and reproductive health.
If you’re struggling with this, you can always get professional help from someone who understands LGB people and I’d be happy to talk to you about your concerns. My number is 661-233-6771.