What is “being gay” like for teens?
What is it like to feel “different” from your classmates? To have to hide your real feelings? To feel rejected or judged or harassed by others who see you as different? Not to be able to respond to developing sexual attraction by dating, as heterosexual youth can? Not to be able to go with that special person to your senior prom? To be denied any hope for a spouse and children some day?
Your teens need to ask themselves these questions in order to understand their gay and lesbian friends and classmates. Life can be very, very difficult for teens who experience same sex attraction. This is true whether they are
. . . proud to be gay, are sexually active, and want same-sex relationships to be universally approved and celebrated
. . . accept their attraction for the same sex reluctantly but adopt a gay lifestyle anyway
. . . are keenly aware of their same sex attraction but do not engage in sexual intimacy
. . . are aware of their same sex attraction, don’t want to be that way, and want help in dealing with their feelings
But your teens need to ask themselves another question as well: How should they relate to their gay friends? Should they just ignore their sexual orientation? Certainly, as Christians, they can’t approve of gay and lesbian sexual relationships any more than they can approve of sex between heterosexual teens. They know that sexual intimacy is to be reserved for marriage.
Sexual attitudes formed in the teen years can have a lasting effect — either positive or negative. They can make for either a happy, fulfilled adult life or a life of difficulties and struggles. If your teens really care about their gay friends, they will want to share what they know about biblical teaching on homosexuality and the findings of research on the effects of homosexual practices. How can they do this with compassion, without breaking the spirit of those attracted to someone of the same sex? How can you, as parents and teachers and church leaders, earn the right to speak into the lives of the gay teens you know? Earning that right must begin with a desire to understand what “being gay” is like for them.
It’s easy to understand why same sex oriented youth seek out a gay community — a community of like-minded individuals where they can socialize freely, where they will be understood and affirmed, where they can openly express and discuss their same sex desires. But would it be possible for our Christian teens to provide this kind of support?
We should challenge our teens to engage in conversation with their gay classmates: to share their hopes, dreams, experiences, feelings, and temptations with each other; to show respect for other’s dignity and worth as human beings; to get to know each other as whole persons.
To be a friend doesn’t mean condoning, approving of, or advocating homosexual practices. But hopefully true friendship will lead to the opportunity for your teens to share what they know about the medical and emotional risks of a homosexual lifestyle; about the difficulty of forming lasting, fulfilling relationships for those who choose this lifestyle; and, most importantly, about what God has said about intimate relationships; about the meaning, purpose, and context of sex; and about the power of Christ to transform us and to help us to live according to God’s plan.
A real friend is one who is both compassionate and truthful, speaking the truth in love.