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
• 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
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
• 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
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
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
• Up to 30 % of completed youth suicides annuallly are committed by
• 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
• 25 % are forced to leave home because of their orientation
• 50% of gay/bisexual male youths are forced into prostitution to
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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with Your Audience
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