Gay Teen Dating: Older Partners
A few years ago, I ran a seminar for a group of GLBT teens on healthy relationships. During the discussion a common theme arose. A lot of them had significantly older girlfriends or boyfriends. When I asked "Liz," one of the girls, why she at 15, had a girlfriend almost ten years her senior, her answer was, "She's just a lot more mature than girls my age." And while that might be true, there are a few other reasons why transgender, bisexual lesbian and gay teen dating patterns may skew older.
Common Reasons GLBT Teens Have Older Partners
Though straight teens often have older boyfriends, and sometimes have older girlfriends, there are a few reasons why this scenario is really common in the GLBT teen community.
- More adults than teens are out and it can be hard to meet openly GLBT partners your age.
- Teens who have been forced to leave home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity may find an older partner offers things that their parents can't, like a place to live and financial support.
- Some teens think they can learn from an older, more experienced partner.
- Dating someone older can gain you entrance into a totally different social world.
A lot of teens will claim that their relationships are perfectly healthy and that they are on equal footing with their partner. This might be true for some kids, but dating someone significantly older can present some challenges.
Things to Watch Out For
- Equality: Do you really have an equal say in the relationship? Are your ideas and opinions valued? One person shouldn't get to make all the decisions in a relationship.
- Previous relationships: Does your boyfriend or girlfriend have a history of dating teens? If so, you might want to ask why they never date people their own age.
- Power and control: You shouldn't have to ask a partner for permission to do things, or get their approval to spend time with friends and family. Trust your instincts. If you feel like you're being controlled you probably are.
- Compatibility: Do you get along and have fun together? Does your boyfriend roll his eyes when you gush about the new Beyonce album? Does your girlfriend bore you with stories of her college days? If you can't find common ground, maybe this isn't the right person for you to be dating.
Statutory rape refers to sex between someone over the age of consent (usually between 16 and 18) and someone under the age of consent. The older person can be charged with a crime even if the younger person says they wanted to have sex. A lot of people don't think that statutory rape laws are ever enforced, but they are wrong. There are people, (even some still in their teens) sitting in jail around the country for having sex with their underage partners!
It's Your Call
Plenty of adults date people ten years older and nobody blinks. But things are different for teens, both emotionally and legally. So make sure you that if you date older, doing so is really what's best for you.