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Growing up Gay or Lesbian: The Woes of Gay and Lesbian Teenagers

Being a teenager is difficult enough. You have mood swings, hormone surges, and incessant growth spurts that give way to visible signs of your approaching manhood or womanhood. Growing up gay adds even another layer to this complex time in a teenager's life. As a result, the suicide rate for gay teenagers has skyrocketed. More and more teenage suicides have 'come out' via leaving confessional notes to family and friends of their anguish, guilt, and pain as the motivation behind their suicide.

There is no doubt that the suicide rate may have been similar 15-20 years ago for gay teens. However, back then it wasn't as common for teenagers to come out. In the 1990's we saw some growth within the GLBT community. Gay and lesbian teenagers were finally finding out they had role models such as Ellen Degeneres and RuPaul who were not afraid to hide their sexuality. Finally, it became 'kinda' okay to say I'm Gay!

In the typical one step forward, two steps back of any triumph - such admissions have led to public declarations by Fundamentalist Christians proclaiming how wrong homosexuality is. Even the President of the United States has made it clear that he does not support homosexuality, leaving gay and lesbian Americans, especially gay and lesbian teenagers, to question their place in the American society.

Coming out is not always an option. Living in the closet can hurt a gay or lesbian teenager emotionally, but these teenagers often feel a real fear of coming out. They fear physical and emotional trauma from their peers, and even from their very own family members. This could escalate to a violence so bad that a gay or lesbian teenager could face death simply because they are gay. Rather then risk their lives by being truthful about who they are, they are forced to have a dual life. In public they are the average teenager, but behind closed doors they are a homosexual who is not only traumatized by having to hide who they are, but who is also scared of the repercussions if anyone finds out. Added to this, they are bombarded with a deep loneliness and strong feelings of being 'different'. Often times, too, they feel a sense of self-hatred, or self-loathing.

As a teenager, they are not fully aware of what emotions are; where they come from; why they feel certain ways; and how to understand and handle these emotions. They just know they hurt. They feel alone. They struggle with these emotions 24/7. And they want the pain and inner turmoil to 'stop'. Now.

While some teenagers struggle with guilt for being gay or lesbian, for hiding that they are homosexual, or for lying to their family and friends in general, they may see their hidden life as the only way to remain safe. Of course, if their secret leads to sexual repression - based on their fear of admitting they are homosexual - then the chance of harming themselves mentally and emotionally increases tenfold.

Coming out is never a fun process for a teenager. Once you've decided to come out it can be difficult finding the right moment to do so. Some parents react better then expected, and for the first time a weight feels lifted from the teenager's shoulders. Of course, the fear of coming out in school is still there since coming out is a never ending process in a gay male or lesbian's life. However, if the reaction is negative this is the moment when the teenager not only feels a great amount of resentment toward their family members, they also feel hatred and resentment for themselves. It is common to believe that, "If only I was straight…..everything would be okay."

Their omission can lead the teenager down a road toward self-destructive behavior. Drugs, promiscuous sex with the threat of STDS, and even suicide are common among gay and lesbian teenagers - simply because these teenagers have not found a way to cope, or to understand emotions. If you cry yourself to sleep every night wishing you were straight, then you should know you are not alone. We've all struggled through these moments. We've been there and wish that it didn't have to be this way for the new emerging homosexual teenagers. We wish they didn't have to endure the teasing, humiliation, and lack of respect we went through 20 years earlier when we were coming out ourselves.

The most important lesson gay and lesbian teenagers need to learn, and this is definitely not easy, is that they are who they are - and that it is 'okay'. No one is going to change that, and no one should. If family and friends cannot accept you for who you are, the wonderful person beneath the layers of pain, it is their loss and not yours. The best thing you can do is try to find support elsewhere. PFLAG and other organizations can offer support, or you may know of organizations in your area to help you through the transition from in the closet homosexual to out and proud homosexual. The right group can help you to see you aren't alone. There are many homosexuals - just like you - who understand exactly how you feel.

Together we can bridge the gap between homosexual teenagers and homosexual adults. The key for both groups is to educate. The reason we are discriminated against is lack of solid information, lack of the truth, and ignorance as to what homosexuality is or how homosexuals feels. We cannot change the minds of those that are stubborn but together we can support one another on the quest to educate those who are willing to learn… and take a chance to get to know some really terrific gay and lesbian teenagers in the process!

The following is a poem taken from our eBook, The Big eBook of Gay and Lesbian Poetry. It speaks for many.

In Memory of Tim

They didn't think to check

he was always in his room

door shut

hiding

isolating

alone

No one noticed

his private pain

his torment

They'd sometimes knock

he'd sometimes answer

he sometimes didn't

this time he didn't

When they entered

his room

his tomb

he was dead

at the end of a rope

hanging

the loneliness still apparent

in his lifeless eyes

no peace here

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