Gender and sexuality
Adolescence is often when we start figuring out who we’re attracted to and how we want to express ourselves.
For young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) or gender diverse (where their inner sense of gender identity is different from their biological sex), sharing this part of themselves with loved ones can be a stressful and uncertain time. Adolescence is also the time when intersex variations (sex characteristics that don’t fit typical definitions of ‘male’ and ‘female’) may become apparent.
We know that LGBTI1 young people, or those questioning their sexual or gender identity, are at significantly greater risk of anxiety, depression and suicide.2
We also know that same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people often face discrimination, rejection, social isolation or a lack of support – and that these two factors are closely linked. It’s important to recognise that LGBTI young people don’t experience anxiety or depression because they’re LGBTI, but because of discrimination, abuse (both verbal and physical), exclusion and prejudice.
A fear of rejection or discrimination from those around them can be just as damaging to a young person’s sense of self and mental health as an actual negative experience.
That’s why creating a visibly supportive, encouraging, inclusive environment at home, school and in the community is so important.
Supporting your young person
We know that a supportive family can make all the difference for sexuality and gender diverse young people coming out, and beyond, as well as intersex young people. Strong and embracing family relationships help to reassure your young person, provide them with avenues to get support and advice, and protect their mental health and wellbeing.
Just as young people discovering or affirming their identity are on a journey, family members are also working things through. It can be a bit of a process, and it’s ok to take your time.
Some families, or individuals within a family, may have more understanding and knowledge of LGBTI people and communities than others. For some, it will be a steep learning curve as they begin to learn about LGBTI people, culture and issues for the first time.
Wherever you’re at on your journey, we’re here for you
Many parents and carers feel uncertain about what to say or how to create an inclusive, supportive environment. We’ve got practical tips and advice to help you support your young person and yourself if you need it, as well as answers to common questions that crop up.
There are also a number of groups that can provide support and advice to parents of LGBTI young people.