OK, “476” is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it seems that people consistently need to be reminded of this topic. If not, I suggest, Wisconsin would not have voted approximately 60% to 40% to ban gay marriage in 2006.
The RAND Corporation recently discovered that while 70% of teenagers are aware of being definitively straight, gay, or otherwise, that only about 33% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) teenagers inform their doctors of their sexuality. What does this have to do with you? Well, pretty much everything–because I believe that we are all responsible for creating a world in which LGB and transgender (T) people are not ashamed of who they are.
So, what’s the real harm to teenagers, in this case, of not disclosing their sexuality to their doctors? Here are ten points about what can happen when teenagers do not reveal their sexualities because they do not feel safe to do so. Some of these points can happen to anyone of any sexuality but my experience informs me that LGBT teenagers are more likely to experience these.
- People will lie about what is really wrong with them and do not get the help they need.
- Many will go about their daily lives pretending that they do not have a medical concern because they would rather pretend nothing is wrong than admit to a medical professional that they ‘made a mistake’ somehow by getting sick. If the concern happens to be something sexually transmitted, that person may unwittingly infect another person.
- There may be self treatment that causes great harm. People who are unable to express what is really going on in their lives will diagnose themselves and prescribe whatever methods are at their disposal.
- Suicide and depression become very real. Without proper medical support–whether from western or eastern traditions–teenagers can feel left out because they world tells them that they are ‘different.’
- ‘Simple’ infections become major ones. If a teenager is embarrassed by something that has happened to him or her, he or she may wait until it is too late to receive proper medical care.
- A person can receive improper care and treatment leading to a false sense of a ‘cure’ based on the wrong prescription.
- Teenagers may begin to believe that their sexuality is the root cause of their medical concern and seek dangerous methods such as anti-gay therapy techniques (also known as ex-gay therapy).
- A false sense of immunity can be developed as a self defense mechanism. This can lead to a lack of support for other people who have similar medical concerns.
- Mistrust builds within families because teenagers are unable to cope with the perceived embarrassment of being LGBT. This can result in runaway cases.
- People stop believing that anyone can support them because they are unable to be honest about who they are and what affects them–from sexually transmitted diseases to depression to those facing ridicule for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
What can you do? You can remember each day that whatever you are doing or saying not to assume that everyone is heterosexual. That’s it. This is one simple thing that can help these ten things not happen so often–or, hopefully, anymore.
– Todd Wellman (c) 2007
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