You know what is pretty offensive? Telling someone who just came out to you that he or she is probably just going through a "stage" which will pass.
But sadly, this is what far too many teens hear when they share the news that they aren't straight with everyone from parents to friends.
"I told my mom I was lesbian. First she pretended it was a stage, then she pretended I never came out, then she told me I can't come out to the rest of the family and I should quickly try to fix my "problem".
Another teen says
"I came out to my parents both verbally about two years ago and then in a letter about a year ago. This is because they didn't believe me the first time and said I was just going through a stage. So I had to give them a letter to back it up."
So why does this happen? There are a few reasons.
- People think that teens who say they aren't straight or cisgender teens are too young to really know their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Some people hope that teens are just going through a stage, often because they are afraid or homophobic.
- Someone might be legitimately confused about what it means to be gay or transgender and might not understand that a person is actually stating their identity.
Though any teen can be told that his or her identity is just a stage, bisexual teens often hear this more than others. As one bisexual teen explains:
"Basically people who are bi-curious are what cause people to think of bisexuality as a transition stage, not as something where you just don't care if your partner is male or female. But bisexuality is not a just a transition stage. It's just where you don't care about gender, so long as you love the person."
Being told that you are probably just going through a stage when you are certain of your sexual orientation can be really frustrating. And of course, no one asks a straight teen if he or she might actually be gay. (For that matter, no one really talks about the development of straight teens' sexual orientation at all...).
But while this dismissive statement can come from homophobia, it can also simply be an assumption born of the fact that many people simply don't realize that awareness of sexual orientation can develop in early childhood.
If you think the person asking if you are going through a stage is sincerely trying to understand where you are at emotionally, try to be patient and explain that you are certain of who you are. It can take people a long time to accept a GLBT friend or relative for who they really are and waiting for that to happen can stink. In the meantime, try to find friends and family-members who won't give you the third degree. You can also talk about this with other teens on the GLBT Teens Community Forum.