I recently spoke to a large group of high school students about sex and sexuality. A number of students had told the staff that they were either gay or bisexual. Many of the teachers didn’t know what advice to give them beyond, “That’s OK. I still accept you.”
I recently spoke to a large group of high school students about sex and sexuality. A number of students had told the staff that they were either gay or bisexual. Many of the teachers didn’t know what advice to give them beyond, “That’s OK. I still accept you.” Recently, Yahoo News posted a photo of a cake baked by a fifteen-year-old girl with the words “I’m gay” written in frosting. That’s how she announced to her parents that she is gay. Her last line to them was, “It gets batter.”
Unfortunately for our kids, understanding sexuality is a mess in our culture. The truth is, the development of one’s sexuality is a complicated, important, and serious one that takes time—much more time than we are willing to give it. According to my colleague, Dr. Armand Nicholi, a psychiatrist from Harvard and editor of The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry
, a child’s sexuality isn’t fully developed until he or she is near twenty years old. The reason for this is that sexuality isn’t simply a matter of genetics, parental ideals, or the configuration of genitalia. It is a beautifully complex process, which is influenced by environment, personal experience, hormones, personality, family dynamics, and genetics.
Sadly, our culture pressures kids to make decisions about their sexuality way too soon. The reason for this is social engineering and financial gain. Kids are bombarded with sexual messages from the time they are seven years old, and they are led to believe that being sexy and defending their sexuality should be front and center in their lives. I told the group of students to whom I was speaking that their sexuality should not define them. It is a part of who they are, but it isn’t who they are. They aren’t gay, bisexual, or straight. They are Josh, Tanya, Lucy, and Amelia. When I said this, they all cheered. They want the pressure off.
So when a fifteen-year-old girl or boy tells me that she or he is gay or bisexual, I ask them why they believe that and if they feel confused. Usually they say “yes.” After listening, I encourage them to give themselves time to develop. In my experience, girls or boys make such declarations because they are beginning to become sexually active. They feel pressure from our culture to define who they are and a big part of this begins with sexual activity.