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Coping with Your Child’s Sexuality
Recently, President Obama recognized June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Children and adolescents who identify as LGBT often experience significant difficulties with depression, suicidal behaviors, and coping with acceptance.
In the black community, having a child who is coming to terms with their sexual orientation or who is “outed” to the family can be difficult for all who are involved. Often when we discuss sexual minorities, especially black gay and bisexual males, we focus on stereotypes and risky sexual behaviors (e.g., HIV).
For Black bisexual youth, one factor that occasionally makes it more difficult to come-out is fear of being rejected by those closest to them. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona reported that coming out is most stressful for bisexual males (Pollitt, Li, Grossman, & Russell, 2014). The authors noted that bisexual males have more stress than other LGBT individuals in terms of coming out to family, friends, and at school.
3 Tips to Cope with a Child’s Sexual Orientation:
- Understand You Didn’t Make Your Child Gay, and You Can’t Reverse it.
Many parents mistakenly believe they somehow made their child gay, lesbian, or bisexual. While the scientific community has not yet identified a “gay gene” most credible research now suggests that homosexuality is largely a biological phenomenon. Said differently, parents probably have as much direct or indirect influence on their child’s sexual orientation as they did her or his complexion. Parents of a gay teen should therefore avoid beating themselves up for being too indulgent, not taking their daughter to church enough, allowing their sons to wear the occasional pink tee-shirt, or anything else. Trying to change or fix their child’s sexual orientation is similarly problematic.
For nearly four decades the psychological community has recognized that homosexuality is not a mental illness and cannot that can be changed through prayer or so-called “reparative therapy.” At best such practices may spur a child to temporarily change their behavior, though not without considerable damage to their self-esteem and overall psychological wellbeing.
- Find Support for Yourself.
According to research from the Human Rights Campaign, African American parents are likely to feel a range of emotions upon learning their child is gay, including, anger, sadness, fear, and guilt. Black parents often must mourn the loss of the heterosexual life they envisioned for their child, while simultaneously fearing for another layer of discrimination (i.e., sexual prejudice, homophobia, heterosexism). Support is available in almost every community, and online. Organizations like PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) can be invaluable resources.
- Support Your Child.
The world can be a rough place, particularly for adolescents whose parents have rejected them. Having supportive, accepting parents is often best antidote for the mental health challenges that LGB youth face. Parental rejection can exacerbate depression among LGBT youth and is a significant risk factor for suicide and risky sexual behavior among this population. Parents may also wish to seek therapeutic support for their gay child who is being bullied, depressed, or facing other negative circumstances because they are gay.
Portions of the article were previously posted here.
Dr. Erlanger “Earl” Turner is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown and a Clinical Psychologist. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology for Texas A&M University and completed postdoctoral training at the Kennedy Krieger Institute through the Department of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Follow him @DrEarlTurner. For more information on mental health, stress, and parenting, you can also visit drerlangerturner.com