In many ways today's GLBT youth have it easier than almost any other generation in the past. But in a few ways modern gay life has resulted in modern challenges that teens need to overcome. Here are the ways being a gay teen today is different than is was in the past, for better and worse.
Average Age of Coming OutThe typical age that someone comes out as GLBT is lower than it has ever been before. A British study found that among people over 60, the average age they had come out was 37. But people in their 30s had come out at an average age of 21, and those between 18 and 24 had an average coming out age of 17.
Another study, this one conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel and published in the Journal Family Relations found that in 1991, the average coming-out age was 25. But as of 2010 it was 16 years old.
And some American reports have found that the average age to come out in the United States has dropped from 18 to 14.
So what doe this mean? Well, for one thing a lot more young people are coming out not just in high school, but in middle school as well. While this can be great for the individual, it can also be really hard since a middle schooler might not be as emotionally equipped to deal with the effects of coming out as an older teen, college student or adult.
Access to Support
GLBT and questioning teens today have an ever growing list or resources they can turn to for help. These include:
- The Trevor Project
- It Gets Better
- The ACLU
- Advocates for Youth
- GLBT National Youth Talkline
- Live Out Loud
- LAMBDA Legal
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Planned Parenthood
- Truth Wins Out
Still even with all these resources, access to in-person support can be really hard to find for rural or suburban teens without access to transportation. For these kids, options are often still very limited.
Never have GLBT individuals had a higher profile. Between discussions about gay marriage and gays in the military, to the regular appearance of gay characters on prime time TV and in all aspects of pop cultures, the gay community is very visible. This is great in many ways and can remind teens that they aren't alone. But increased visibility can mean increased negative awareness of GLBT issues and can lead to harassment.
As Dan Savage, the founder of the the It Get's Better Project told inReads.com:
"When I was a kid, you could sort of fly under the radar a little bit. The default assumption, if you didn't have a girlfriend or you weren't interested in sports, wasn't that you were gay. It was just that you were weird. Or a geek.
Now, kids are very hyperaware of the existence of gay and lesbian adults, and on the lookout for evidence of it in their peers. And they come down on their peers who they perceive to be different or queer…You can't fly under the radar anymore. It's almost like you have to declare your sexual major in middle school."
What would we do without the Internet? For a lot of GLBT kids it is a crucial lifeline. But what you stumble across online will make a huge difference in the type of information you receive about being gay. If you search for things like, "coming out tips," "am I gay?" or "homophobia," you are likely to get a lot of sites like the ones I mentioned above.
But if you search for the type of phrases many teens hear in anti-gay conservative churches, (like, homosexual treatment, deliverance from homosexuality, overcoming lesbianism, homosexuality, or bisexuality), sexual preference, or unwanted same-sex attractions), then you will often get a really anti-gay website that will try to tell you that sexual orientation can be changed. For the record, it can't.
The modern world provides opportunities and difficulties for gay teens and understanding what they are, is a good way to avoid some of the more difficult aspects of today's world.