Notes on Teenagers

Think about the stereotypes you have of teens – that they are irresponsible, rude, self-centered, lazy, conformist, know-it-alls, etc. Before you go to a class, try to remember what it was like to be a teenager

•    peer pressure
•    lack of self-confidence, body changes
•    pressures from parents, teachers, society
•    nervous about the future, separation anxiety
•     straddling the line between child and adult, with some of the
        responsibilities and privileges of both

Try thinking of teens as less experienced adults. Many are very naive and those who aren’t are still inexperienced. They have lived for fewer years than you have and they often have had little experience with independent thought and action. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they are coming from –  even when they are hostile. Answer them with respect. Keep in mind ...

•     They are very concerned with how they look to their peers.
•    They are just learning about their own sexuality and are full of misinformation.
•    They are sometimes afraid to know things.
•    They are just starting to question and rebel against their family’s beliefs.
•    They may be afraid that expressing non-hostile interest in this topic
        would be damaging to their reputation.    

They often thank us and tell us how brave we are, but the students who ask the questions are usually the ones who are brave. We can walk away and never see any of them again; they have to face their peers again tomorrow, and they are delving into unknown territory. They are the ones taking risks. We should be very proud of every student who opens his or her mouth.

We are often the first people who have honestly answered their questions about sex. Their teachers may have presented facts but they generally can’t risk being perceived as having actual sexual feelings or behaviors.

Peer pressure can be used to your advantage. If someone in the class is acting like a jerk, respond to the question and not the attitude. The class will usually put pressure on the “jerk” because he or she is embarrassing them as a group. If you attack the attitude, however, that same peer pressure can turn the class against you.

Remember how important appearance is to teens. They will immediately judge you – based on your appearance – when you walk in the classroom. Think carefully about your “presentation” whenever you are speaking in a high school.

Sexual Minority Teens At Risk

By sharing your life experience and your positive attitude towards human sexuality in speaking engagments, you may be a significant influence in saving young lives.

Take a moment to reflect on these statistics ...

• Suicide is the leading cause of death amon LGBT youths (1989)
• LGBT youth are 2 - 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth
• Up to 30 % of completed youth suicides annuallly are committed by LGBT youth
• LGBT youth are 25% of all homeless youth
• 53% of transgendered youth had attempted suicide

Source: Gibson, P. (1989) "Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide." In M.R. Feinleib (ed.), Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service, 3: 110 - 142

• 80 % of lesbian and gay youths reported severe isolation
• 50 % of lesbian and gay youths are rejected by their parents for being gay
• 25 % are forced to leave home because of their orientation
• 50% of gay/bisexual male youths are forced into prostitution to survive

Source: Hetrick - Martin Institute (1992) "Factfile: lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth." Hetrick - Martin Institute, 2 Astor Place at Broadway, NY, Ny 10003, 212 - 674 - 2400

• 41 % of gay and lesbian youth reported suffering violence from their families, peers, or strangers
• 46 % of violent incidents were diectly gay-related and primarily perpetrated by family members

Source: Hunter, J (1990) . "Violence Against Lesbian and Gay Youth." Journal of Interpersonal Violence

• 45 % of gay males and 20 % of lesbian females experience verbal or physical assault in high school
• 28 % of gay and lesbian youth are forced to drop out of school becvause of anti - gay harassment
• 25 % of LGBT youth are forced to leave home because of conflicts with their families over their sexual identities

Source: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (1984) Anti - Gay/Lesbian Victimization New York, Ramefedi, G. (1987) "Male Homosexuality: The Adolescent Perspective." Pediatrics

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