The Rainbow Umbrella
April 28, 2021
One of the biggest challenges in a teens life is their sexual orientation.
Many teens question their sexuality and it can have a lot of effects, both positive and negative.
Along with the LGBTQ+ community often receiving negative judgements, teens also have to deal with the everlasting debate over their choice. Oftentimes it’s adult vs youth, and it never gets resolved.
Many adults view youth as irresponsible and immature and, therefore, unable to decide their identity. On the other hand, being unable to express themselves is unfair to teens and can cause them mental harm.
For teens, expressing sexuality has become a form of rebellion against adults. The debate around sexuality, while not often directly addressed, has been very present in everyday life since homosexuality has become more widely accepted. And both points are valid, given that teens actually go through sexuality phases as a part of hormonal changes.
But while there is no right or wrong, we must be respectful to everyone and listen to what they have to say. And most of all, trust and respect yourself.
We have come a long way when it comes to LGBTQ+ advocacy and acceptance — but we still have ways to go. Because even now, in a seemingly progressive age, not all members of the LGBTQ+ community are protected and supported. Questioning either sexuality or gender identity is a very challenging and complicated process, and by the time a child matures into a teenager, they understand that some people are not accepting of those who are different.
Some teenagers think that they have to hide their emotions and experience guilt, shame, and isolation because of their gender or sexuality. By telling someone or coming out, they take the first steps towards accepting themselves and taking ownership of who they are and what they feel.
Because family is such a vital part of teens’ lives, many LGBTQ+ youth are very nervous to come out to their parents and other relatives. This can be because they are not comfortable talking about sexuality, or their parents are, unfortunately, unaccepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Whatever the case, coming out to family is a big deal, and the outcome can greatly impact the teen’s future.
While many religious communities support LGBTQ+ teens others do not. Teens who are consistently around conservative religious people experience a much higher rate of harassment and are more likely to internalize anti LGBTQ+ messages. However, queer teens who grew up in other religious settings that are not obstructive often have better mental health than those who did not.
The average age for “coming out” is getting steadily younger. This is partly because many middle and high schools are becoming vastly more supportive of LGBTQ+ students. In some schools, equity councils or gay-straight alliances even organize large events to support and empower LGBTQ+ youth.
Sadly, many sexual and gender minority teens still face discrimination and bullying in their high schools. The idea of being gay is frequently placed at the center of rude expressions and jokes, which are too often ignored by students and teachers. However, more people have started calling out all types of discriminatory behaviour, so there is movement in the right direction.
Coming out as trans during teenage years can range from being problematic and awkward to liberating and exhilarating, and everybody’s experience is different. Some people come out before they have started to transition, while others wait until later. Coming out as transgender may involve telling people about preferred pronouns, and/or requesting to be addressed by a new name.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misinformation out there about what it means to be transgender, and coming out may cause a person’s identity to be misunderstood or disrespected. This can cause transgender teens to suppress their feelings. Teens are more comfortable in an environment that speaks positively of the trans community, and they frequently come out to friends before they come out to their families.
Throughout history, coming out in terms of sexuality has tended to be a very personal experience for teenagers, something they shared only with close friends and family. However, as both time and technology have advanced, more and more teens are using social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to announce their sexuality.
Moreover, with the ever-growing support groups, hashtags, positivity, and knowledge circulated online, many teenagers perceive social media as safer means of coming out first. However, there are negative effects, since social media sets unrealistic standards for teens and provides anonymous cyber-bullying platforms.
The decisions that teens make are impacted by the sexual orientation with which they identify. Youth are very aware of how their peers perceive them, so coming out becomes quite an intimidating task. For example, it is rare for teens to come out as asexual or aromantic because these categories are sometimes poorly understood and teens may feel judged or invalidated.
Sexual Orientation often also affects choice in other areas, such as sex and dating. While many teenagers start dating around age 12 or 13, LGBTQ+ teens frequently do not start until they are older, because they do not want to draw attention to themselves, or because they feel unsure about whether it is “right”.
While various sexualities certainly exist, it is important to remember that it is difficult to label sexual orientation because the categories are often fluid. Someone who identifies with a particular orientation may be attracted to a variety of people. This can be confusing for teens, as many teenagers are already struggling to discern their sexual orientation.
In conclusion, teen sexuality is a broad topic, and youth are faced with many crossroads and obstacles that may decide their future. But for all who struggle there is hope at the end of the road, and as allies or members of the LGBTQ+ community, we can help them get there.