Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sexuality and Youth

One of my new favorites online is a site called Psych Central.  It delves into many of the youth related issues that my team and I face everyday.  Yesterday I was reading an article discussion entitled, "Are More Girls Really Lesbian or Bisexual?" Being a youth worker sexuality is a topic that enters the discussion almost every day. 

I know for myself having grown up in a small farming town the topic of homosexuality wasn't something that was discussed on a regular basis so there were times when I was quite overwhelmed by the fact that young people were openly identifying themselves as homosexual. As the years have gone by this has really ceased to be surprising or shocking to me as it is so common. 

In our western culture sexuality holds a place of a mysterious desire. If sex were just a physical act then it would not be something that would be used to in marketing and humor to name a few.  In a sense sexuality is considered taboo and in others it is considered normal.  However it is my understanding that what people are craving in sexuality is a sense of something defining.  Something that makes sense of a senseless life.  However when young people start to enter into their sexuality they find it to be overwhelming and confusing.  I have talks every week with youth that are struggling with their sexual identity.  It seems they cannot separate caring for their friends from sexual desire.  When they get into intense emotional situations with their friends they feel as though the only way that can truly be expressed is via a sexual encounter with the other person. A girl may have gone through a terrible abusive situation and when she finds another girl that shares a similar background she bonds to the hope that someone understands her she feels something deeper than a normal friendship and so she thinks that she may in fact be a lesbian or bisexual.  Instead of being a helpful comrade she now thinks that she may need to completely redefine her self identity to cater to an alternate sexual behavior.

Other situations include guys that have trouble fitting in with the crowds and are interested in things outside what other guys consider normal.  They feel outcast and really are able to emphasize and befriend girls better than guys.  Maybe they are told they are gay or maybe they just feel alone and want to be able to feel like they belong somewhere and so they start to experiment feel changing their sexuality identity to fit in with other guys that dont fit in.

It is confusing for people that are well into adulthood let alone the kids as young as 11 who have shared such stories with me.  In telling our kids to just trust their feelings is not to help them become who they were meant to be it is to leave them at the mercy of the source of feelings - the pressures from media, friends, the culture, the teasing, the bullying, the self hatred, etc.  What they need is strong mentoring to help them discern feeling from fact.  Sometimes there are some genuine things they need to wrestle with, but other times they just need someone to affirm who they are so they dont have to go through the process of reinventing themselves.
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