Teen Sexuality & Gender Identity: What do I need to know as a parent?
School is around the calendar corner for some and has already started for others. As I am getting back into the swing of blogging, I wanted to start with a topic that often gets overlooked.
Okay, I know this subject is a touchy one and that is why we are going to discuss it. Teen sexuality has traditionally been a taboo topic in most homes across the world. Yes, the world. Since I am not a sexuality expert, I won't go into much detail. However, I will link sexuality professionals or blogs to follow and learn more information from. This post is going to be more about how to support your teen through their identified sexuality,gender, sexual preferences and so forth.
Firstly, it is going to be important to understand your narratives around sexuality in general. Then, you want to think about your narrative around teen sexuality.
Do you think teens can be sexual?
Do you think waiting until marriage is the only time they can express sexuality?
Do you have a sexual trauma history?
Does your teen have a sexual trauma history?
Were you ever talked to about sexuality?
Was it the basic birds and bees conversation?
Did your caregivers use fear to make you not interested in sex?
Based on how you answered the questions above, it will provide insight on what some barriers may be to having this conversation with your teenager or accepting what they have shared with you about their sexuality.
Sexuality is more of a spectrum for teenagers and the way the identify is important for you as a parent to acknowledge. I am not saying you must agree. I am saying acknowledge it and ask how you can support their journey. Acceptance is a huge part of teenage development and the hardest thing for parents to do. Typically because parents think they have failed if their child chooses a life path different from what they have taught them.
Here, I am going to introduce some terms to you about sexuality. Take some time to do more research to better understand the depth of sexuality and the spectrum it rests on.
LGBTQIA+ is something that you may have seen. Each letter stands for an orientation. I should also add that some orientations do not have a letter and should not be forgotten.
+ for the other categories.
Check out this resource to learn more about the categories.
As we move on to explore gender, it is important to know sex and gender are defined differently. Sex808.org defines the difference between sex and gender below.
What’s the difference between sex and gender?
Sex is about your body-your genetics, hormones, and physical attributes.
Gender is the socially constructed characteristics of men and women, like norms, roles, relationships, even looks.
Gender Identity is how someone feels about their sex and gender.
Gender Expression is the way in which we display our gender to others by dressing, acting, and speaking in different ways.
I hope this was helpful to you as basic information sharing. One of the main points of this blog is to make sure that as a parent you take time to understand what your teen is expressing to you. If you do not have the information, it is possible you will remain from a place of fear and could cause tension on the relationship. If your teen is struggling with their gender or sexuality identity, a safe space is utterly important for them. Even if your teen isn't struggling, a safe space is still necessary to ensure them that they can be themselves and share what ever they want among others they may identify with. Be sure to check out local resources and if you are in the Philadelphia area, check out The Attic and The Mazzoni Center. If you aren't in Philadelphia, here are some national resources National LGBT Health Education Center.
Seek understanding before any other response.
With love from your favorite teen therapist,