Homosexuality: Facts for Teens

Homosexuality: Facts for Teens Family Doctor Logo

What does it mean to be homosexual?

A person is said to be homosexual if he or she is sexually or romantically attracted to members of the same gender, or sex. This doesn’t mean that homosexuals are sexually attracted to all members of the same gender any more than heterosexuals are sexually attracted to every person of the opposite sex. Typically, the words “gay” and “lesbian” are used to refer to homosexual men and women. The term “bisexual” refers to people who are attracted to both men and women.

Researchers who study human sexuality believe that sexual orientation develops and changes over a person’s lifetime. Having feelings about or even having a sexual experience with a person of the same sex doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is gay or bisexual. It’s not uncommon for people to experiment with their sexuality, especially during adolescence and young adulthood.

What causes homosexuality?

No one knows why some people are homosexual. Some people who study human sexuality believe that sexuality is a result of genetics, social or individual factors, alone or in combination. A common misperception is that troubled family relationships cause people to be homosexual, but no scientifically sound research supports this myth.

Is homosexuality a disease?

No, homosexuality is not a disease. All major mental health organizations, including the American Psychological Association (APA), have stated that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Being unsure or uncomfortable about your feelings can cause anxiety and stress, which can sometimes cause physical problems like trouble sleeping, nausea and headache. Talking with people about how you feel, such as trusted family members and friends, can help reduce your stress and anxiety.

Can people be forced or convinced to change from gay to straight or the other way around?

No. Some people feel pressured to “change” their sexuality, but trying to be something you’re not can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

What is homophobia?

Homophobia refers to an irrational fear, prejudice or discrimination towards homosexuals. Homophobia can take many forms, from name-calling and teasing to serious crimes like assault and murder. Homophobia is most often based on fear and ignorance.

I think I might be gay. How will I know if I really am?

You will eventually figure it out. You may consider different options or even experiment to determine what you are happy and comfortable with. The process may take a long time, and the decisions you make may be difficult for you and other people to accept.

What does “coming out” mean?

The process of telling people about one’s homosexuality is often referred to as coming out. The phrase “in the closet” is sometimes used to describe a person who’s gay but who hasn’t acknowledged it yet to friends and family members.

How do I come out and when is it appropriate?

As with any other personal information, when and whom you tell about your sexuality is your decision. It’s important and healthy for you to share your feelings with others. It’s also important to realize that telling others–even people you consider supportive–may not always be a positive experience. If you feel you can’t tell your parents, talk to a friend or someone else you trust. It’s possible that the people who are closest to you already know and are waiting for you to be comfortable enough to talk about it.

Other Organizations

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Advocates for Youth
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)