When you are searching online for infomation about gay teen life, what terms to do put in your search engine?
I know I use phrases like "coming out," "gay teen suicide," "gay teen help," "GLBT teen relationships," and "anti-gay bullying" a lot during research. And while I am sometimes directed to some pretty disturbing websites, most of the time, I will be end up at great sites like these:
- The Trevor Project
- The ACLU
- It Gets Better
- GLBT National Youth Talkline
- Live Out Loud
- Advocates for Youth
In these environments you might hear phrases like:
- homosexual lifestyle
- homosexual treatment
- deliverance from homosexuality
- homosexual attraction
- overcome (lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality)
- sexual preference
- transgendered cure
- same-sex attraction
- unwanted same-sex attractions
- unwanted homosexual thoughts
- change therapy
If these are the terms you hear used to describe what you are feeling, and you are being told that what you are feeling is bad, then it just makes perfect sense that you would type these things into Google.
But often what you will find is not a site with medically accurate information designed to reassure you that is is A-OK to be gay, and which will point you in a direction where you can get the information and help you need.
For the record, it can't, but for a lot of teens hearing this isn't enough to stop them from trying. The American Psychological Association sheds some light on why this is:
"Efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity...the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation."
So if you are searching for these things, then what you read will likely reinforce what you are already hearing. You might hit upon a site like Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality, which is anything but, or Facts About Youth, which should be called untruths about youth or samesexattraction.com, which might as well be called how to get rid of attractions to the same sex.
But even searches using language common in the GLBT community can sometimes send you to savvy groups that have deliberately adopted names designed confuse their audience.
One example is PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays) which has intentionally used a name similar to the well-respected organization PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), but which has a completely different anti-gay agenda.
A similar tactic is used by an organization called, International Healing Foundation. Their tagline is "Coming Out Loved." Sounds good, right? Wrong! Just glance up at the url and you know all you need to about this group. It reads: gaytostraight.org.
These folks aren't the only ones who try to twist language. There is a book sold on various Christian websites called, "Coming Out of Homosexuality: New Freedom for Men and Women." And if you Google the phrase "coming out homosexual" you get everything from YoutTube videos of people talking about how they changed their sexual orientation by coming out from homosexuality, to articles in the Christian press about the same thing.
GLBT teens already face numerous challenges, so it is a real downer when kids who are searching for help end up being told that they can and should try to change their sexual orientations, and that all it takes is willpower and prayer.