I was going to only have one post on dating, but there’s so much to cover. Welcome to Part 2 of Part 4! This post is kind of a catch-all for some other common questions parents have when their LGB teen starts dating. The main focus is on ways to ensure that your teen has healthy dating experiences (or at least give it your best shot.)
Sometimes parents feel more hesitant to discuss romantic issues with LGB teens. They may feel like they have less relevant experience, are less familiar with LGB issues, or their teen will care less about what they have to say. But so much about romantic relationships- including a lot of your wisdom and experience- is universal. Your teen does care what you have to say (whether they seem to or not), and they need your love, support, and guidance.
Here are some common questions that parents of LGB teens have, and answers- or at least ideas- to think about.
How do I treat their boyfriend/ girlfriend? The same way you’d treat an opposite-sex boyfriend or girlfriend. Make an effort to get to know them. Discuss their goals and interests. Invite them to dinner. Get to know their parents if possible, or at least make contact. Make sure they treat your teen with respect and kindness.
I like their boyfriend/ girlfriend, but they flaunt their sexuality in a way that makes me uncomfortable. What is bothering you in particular? Do they hold hands or cuddle with your teen in public? Do they break gender norms? Do they sport tattoos or piercings that seem too obvious? Accepting that teens experiment with their identity in all sorts of ways, ask yourself what specifically bothers you about a teen expressing themselves in a way that is not the gender or sexuality norm. A good rule is to ask, “would this bother me in an opposite-sex partner?” If not, you may need to look past it, and try to connect with your teen’s partner the best you can.
What if my teen’s boyfriend’s/ girlfriend’s parents don’t even know about their kid’s sexual orientation? It’s never your responsibility to “out” anyone to their family. If your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend has not revealed their sexual orientation to their parents, explore why. Their fears could be anything from concern about upsetting their parents, to a certainty that they will be kicked out of the house. The most important thing is to be supportive. Offer your help or advice. And if they do decide to come out, be available to be a “sounding board” when they’re leading up to it. After all, you’ve been through it before.
Where should my teen go to meet someone they can date? They can start with all the “usual” places: school, extracurricular activities, through friends, etc. Your teen may want to be circumspect about their sexuality, which means they will need to wade through a lot of signals and vague questioning to discern if somebody is interested in them. (Heterosexual teens do this a lot too!) If your teen feels like they are failing to find someone, see if there is a gay-straight alliance, LGBTQ group, or liberal political action group for teens in your area. The arts, especially theater, have historically been a safe place for those with alternative sexuality; even if your teen doesn’t meet someone to date, it may be a good way to meet some LGB role models and explore their creative side to boot!
At least I don’t have to worry about sexual assault, dating violence, or unplanned pregnancy, right? Unfortunately, no. Talk to your LGB kid about dating violence in the same way you’d talk to a heterosexual kid. They are at risk, and may feel even more alone if it happens, since a same-sex experience is not “the norm.” With an LGB teen, surprisingly, you may have to worry even more about unplanned pregnancy. Discuss pregnancy prevention in detail, on a “just in case” or “you can be the expert for your friends” basis if your teen resists.
For LGB teens it can be hard to have healthy self-esteem if they feel lonely, different, or discriminated against. Help your teen realize that they deserve a loving, caring romantic partner who respects them for who they are. They should never “settle” for somebody because they feel like they have no other option, or that somebody supportive and loving is less than what they deserve.
This is just a few of the common questions. What other questions do you have?