Valentine’s Day is upon us once again. Love is in the air. It’s easy to get caught up in the romanticism of the day and, perhaps, to take things a little further than we might on another, less sexually charged occasion. That makes this the perfect time to talk to our teenagers about sex.
If your teen is gay, this conversation may take on a different significance than the traditional sex talk once held. For parents of gay teens, the emphasis has changed from pregnancy prevention to personal boundaries. Here are a few key topics that you can discuss with your teen.
Love Through the Ages
There is no doubt that sex has been a favorite pastime of the young and hormonal since the beginning of time. For generation upon generation, the prohibitions against acting on sexual impulses centered on consequences. Teens were routinely admonished to abstain from sexual activity until marriage, lest they shame themselves or their families with an unwanted pregnancy or tarnished reputation. Little, if any, attention was paid to the emotional ramifications of sexual involvement before adulthood. Saving their teens from heartbreak was not most parents’ primary goal; saving them from early parenthood was. Here are a few important areas to focus on:
1. Guarding Young Hearts
For gay teens, pregnancy is not a concern. The messages targeted to them regarding sex continue to focus on prevention, specifically, the use of condoms for prevention of HIV and other diseases. While this is vitally important information for all teens, it fails to address the emotional side of sex. Given the high suicide rate among gay teens, their feelings of isolation, and the devastating effect that break-ups tend to have on young hearts, the emotional consequence of underage sex is an area that we as adults need to explore with the youth in our lives, a conversation that should be started.
2. Teaching to Respect Values
Today’s gay teens need to hear that not everything about being gay revolves around sex; that being gay is a facet of who they are but not necessarily the defining element. They must be made to understand that they have the right to insist that their values be respected by those with whom they are romantically involved, as well as by their community at large, wherever those values may fall on the scale of traditionalism. For some, the concept of waiting until marriage, particularly now that marriage is an option for their future, may be an ideal they have been raised to believe in, regardless of their sexual orientation. For others, sexual expression can be a natural part of maturing and an integral part of their dating lives. But for all, self-esteem, self-respect and the right to say “no” must always be stressed.
A few seasons back, an episode of the TV drama Glee addressed this issue head on. In a scene unlikely to be played out in many real families, the boyfriend of the show’s gay lead, Curt, approached Curt’s father and advised him that talking to his son about sex was a parental duty which he had been neglecting. The father agreed and broached the subject with his son in a touching, if awkward, encounter, saying essentially, “I don’t understand the mechanics of what two guys do in bed, but just remember, don’t throw yourself around like a piece of trash. You are better than that and deserve more.” Short but to the point, with a profound message: You are a gift to the world, and your sexuality is the world’s gift to you. Use it wisely.
I’m not completely certain that my 12-year-old son is gay, but he seems to be a little overly attached to one of the other boys in his school. It’s not that I wouldn’t be supportive if he were gay, but I’m worried that if he does have more romantic feelings for this other boy, and this other boy is not gay, that my son might end up getting hurt or made fun of. Is there a good way to handle this situation?
–Worried in Wantagh
Dear Worried in Wantagh,
Although it would be nice for your son to be able to express his feelings freely, being openly gay at school could pose problems for him at this age. Try taking a broad approach to the issue, one that won’t make him feel that he is being singled out because his feelings might be for another boy. Casually mention to him that many schools are adopting new rules that prohibit any behavior that could be viewed as sexually based. Talk to your son about the policies at his school, and impress upon him that sometimes secret crushes are better kept that way. As he gets older and more confident in himself, he will become better able to weigh the pros and cons of making his romantic feelings known to others, and to do it in a respectful and socially acceptable manner that won’t embarrass his crush and could lead to a happy relationship for your son.