Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones is our leading resource for parents, pastors and all who care for LGBT+ people. It offers relationally honoring, biblically sound paths forward in your relationship with your LGBT+ loved ones. One of the greatest principles in Guiding Families is the importance of seeking to understand our LGBT+ loved ones and what they experience. The following article is an excerpt from Guiding Families which explains this principle. You can purchase copies of Guiding Families through our resource page.
Teens do not decide to come out on a whim. They have likely been trying to sort out their identity for many years. They often experience isolation and depression as they seek answers with little social support.
It is critical to avoid stereotypes that misrepresent others’ experiences and result in the patronizing of people. Put another way, it is disrespectful to presume that we know another person’s story. Just because someone identifies at LGBT+ does not necessarily mean that they have been bullied or mistreated.
While stereotypes are dangerous, statistics do not lie. Victimization of LGBT+ young people occurs at a much higher rate than that of heterosexual peers. For this reason, it is critical that we understand what it can be like to grow up LGBT+.
LGBT+ young people routinely report feeling “different” at an early age. This internal difference may or may not be visible to their peers. If it is visible, peers may begin to exclude such a child. Even if it is not visible, LGBT+ youth feel discomfort inside and may withhold themselves from interacting with peers.
During elementary school years, this withdrawal can amplify perceptions of difference, leading to name-calling, overt attempts to exclude, and assigning labels to areas of differences. Sadly, this exclusion gets infused into the social lives of many LGBT+ young people. As middle school years approach, there is a greater risk of bullying.
When LGBT+ teens come out to themselves, they often wrestle not only with their past pain but also their future fears. They may fear their parents. They may fear their pastors. These fears can lead many young people to isolate, repress, and attempt to “pray the gay away.”
The weight that many LGBT+ teens carry is too heavy. And we cannot lighten their burden if we are unaware of what they have been through. In a young life, feeling intrinsically different from peers over a long period of time can be a trauma. Being routinely treated differently — possibly even being repeatedly threatened or harmed — is an additional trauma.
Fearing parents’ reaction to sexual or gender identity adds yet another layer of trauma. These past, present, and future traumas shape brain chemistry to continually anticipate condemnation, threat, or harm.
The cumulative impact of the above traumas can yield growing isolation, lower self-worth, and, for some, trouble in academic performance.
Understanding one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity can be a confusing and frustrating process that takes time. This is a very real experience: you cannot demand that these feelings go away — or deny the reality of what your child experiences.
We hope this excerpt was helpful. You can learn more by purchasing copies of Guiding Families. Your LGBT+ loved one needs you and at times desperately wants you to understand. We are here to help. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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