Homophobia, the stigma of being LGBT, and discrimination can all affect the mental health of your child. How do you know if your child is well-adjusted to his sexual orientation? Keep the dialogues open and look for clues in these three areas: school, friends, and physical health.
- Does your child avoid school? Over 30% of LGBT youth missed school in the past month due to feeling unsafe, according to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network)’s School Climate Survey, 2015.
- Don’t assume that teachers are going to intervene when it’s reported that 56% of LGBT students have heard homophobic remarks. In fact, 64% of LGBT students have heard derogatory comments from the school staff.
- If your child is trans, he/she/they may be of the 33% of LGBT students who avoid bathrooms or 48% who avoid locker rooms.
- Does your child have friends of both sexes or has he (she/they) been dropped from his original circle of friends due to his sexual orientation? Is he singled out and verbally harassed? If he’s gay, does he only have female friends who protect him from bullies?
- Have you gotten to know his friends? Had them to dinner as you would his cis-gender (straight) siblings? Do you inquire about his love interests?
- Does your child seem happy most of the time or depressed? Is he relieved now that he came out or more morose? Do you know that LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals?
- Compared to LGBT youth, trans kids have a higher suicide rate, nine times the national average. Forty percent made a suicide attempt, forty-six percent are verbally harassed and nine percent are physically assaulted, particularly trans people of color, according to the Williams Institute’s “Just the Facts: LGBT Data Overview,” 2015.
- If you take your child to a therapist for depression, make sure the therapist is LGBT-friendly. Not all “experts” are trained in this field. Even though homosexuality has been declassified as a disorder, in some U.S. states, it is still legal to practice conversion therapy that tries to make the gay child straight with disastrous lingering side-effects.
- Be sure your child’s health care provider treats the patient, your child, with respect, that he doesn’t blame your child’s illnesses on his sexual orientation.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.