Understanding LGBT and Adolescence
Adolescence is a challenging phase that transforms a child into an adult. The teenage years can be upsetting, confusing and requiring lots of adaptation – physically and mentally. Internally as the body starts developing hormones, the teenagers experience mood swings, skin breakouts, change in their voice, and other physical changes. As confounding as this stage already is for a young person, there is also the development of their sexuality.
Table of Contents: Understanding LGBT and Adolescence
Understanding Sexual identity
Development of sexuality results to an individual’s sexual identity which comprises four components: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Let’s understand the basic concept of these components:
- Biological sex is the physical anatomy i.e. the sexual/reproductive organs you are born with. Based on the genitalia a person can be a male, female or intersex.
- Gender identity is how one identifies themselves – this may vary despite the biological sex.
- Gender expression is how a person appears to the outside world. This too is not dependent to either biological sex or gender identity.
- Sexual orientation is who you are attracted to romantically or sexually.
If a person is born a male, identifies himself as a male, projects himself as a male and is attracted to the opposite sex – female, he is a heterosexual male or straight. The same goes with a straight female. However, when things are not as straightforward, then an adolescent would find themselves struggling to understand where they belong.
Understanding LGBT 🏳️🌈
Let us now dissect and understand the acronym LGBTQIA.
- LGB stands for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual; and refers to the sexual orientation. This identity is based on who you are attracted to.
- T stands for Transgender and this refers to gender identity and gender expression. A person may not be able to relate to the body they are born with or the gender they are assigned to.
- Q stands for Queer or Questioning. Whereas Queer is an umbrella term for the LGBT community, Questioning refers to a state when a person is not certain about their sexual identity yet.
- I stands for Intersex which is the biological aspect. In case of intersex, a person is born with sexual / reproductive organs which cannot be identified as either ‘Female’ or ‘Male’.
- A stands for Asexual or Ally. Asexual falls under sexual orientation whereas Ally are non-queer individuals who support the queer community.
Understanding Gender Dysphoria and Other Mental Health Issues
When a young person is standing at the threshold of adulthood, it isn’t just the question of growing physically bigger – it is a stage of making decisions in terms of their identity. Therefore at this stage when a young person struggles to identify with the linear extreme of the male and female spectrum, they may experience a feeling of distress or sadness called the Gender Dysphoria.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person with Gender Dysphoria has “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify”.
Although the world has now become more adjusting and accustomed to varied sexual identities, it is still a conflicting time for a young adult. Identifying themselves as transgender or lesbian/gay can invite negative peer pressure and bullying at school. Having conservative parents can add to the pressure at home. Suppressing their sexual identity to avoid outside pressure can result in debilitating mental health issues.
Studies done with sexual minority youth show that they are three times more likely to have suicidal ideation compared to their heterosexuals counterparts. In addition, suicides in males are higher than in females. However, in terms of developing substance use disorder female youth are more susceptible compared to males.
Adolescence is a time of transition and transformation. The young adults are coming to terms with their identity – physically, socially and sexually. At this stage, many teenagers experience low self-esteem, body image issues, and dating/ relationship problems. They are going through a lot already even without the sexuality issues. As guardians, seniors, or just friends let us show a little understanding towards these teenagers. Let us understand that they are going through a critical stage in life and give them the respect they deserve whoever or whatever they are in the male-female spectrum, let us respect them as a human being.
June – the Pride month, the month of the Pride parades – may not have seen the usual gaiety this year due to the virus outbreak, but that should not stop us from rejoicing at the sexual diversity. If you belong to the queer community, be proud of your identity; if you do not belong to the queer community, be proud of the ones who are. The month of June is coming to an end, but we do not have to end our understanding, our support and our love for the queer community. Let us wave the rainbow flag – a symbol of LGBT rights movements and show our solidarity to our young queer adults as well as the entire LGBT world.