Youth (14-24 years) is a significant developmental stage. Young people often experience distress as a result of the dramatic interplay between biological growth, psychological change, and social influences like family, friends, studies and work.
If young people go through this period grappling with the possibility that they are gay or lesbian, they have to face additional stresses:
- Social Discrimination
In our society, gays and lesbians are often stigmatized as "abnormal" or "immoral". The spectre of AIDS has caused many to associate homosexuality with the disease. For fear that they will be discriminated against, harassed and/or bashed, many lesbian and gay youth are too afraid to come out.
- Non-acceptance in Chinese Culture
Generally speaking, homosexuality is not accepted in the Chinese community. In accordance with Chinese customs, a person who deviates from the social norms loses "face", bringing shame to his or her entire family. Many lesbian and gay Chinese youth are therefore reluctant to come out for fear of bringing shame to their families. Chinese culture also values fidelity to one's parents, thus homosexual youth are afraid of the disapproval they might face if they admit their sexual orientation. Moreover, it is commonly assumed that homosexuals cannot have children. Homosexual youth worry about letting their family down by not being able to carry on the family name.
- Rejection by Religion and School System
Most religions disapprove of homosexuality. Despite the fact that many schools claim to be accepting of homosexuality, gay and lesbian students still sense that heterosexuality is being actively promoted in their schools, and that homosexuality is being discouraged and discriminated. This may imply that they will not be accepted if they come out.
These youngsters' sense of loneliness comes from four sources.
- Their homosexual orientation makes them feel alienated from their peers, causing them to feel alone and inferior.
- These youth have to face possible rejection by their families, friends, and community, which makes them feel isolated and helpless.
- Because of the aforementioned stresses and the fact that they have hard time finding accurate information about homosexuality, many young people tend to hide who they are or deny their feelings. This self-alienation will make it difficult for them to feel genuine, and will prevent them from connecting with people. Problems with interpersonal relationship will increase their sense of isolation.
- Even if these youth are eager to seek professional help, they have trouble finding gay positive professionals in the Chinese community.
How Do These Youth Cope?
In coping with a heterosexual world, many young homosexual people tend to hide themselves or deny who they are, and focus on fulfilling the expectations of their families and friends. Some of these youth may feel depressed and try to avoid facing the reality by turning to alcohol or drug abuse. Some hopeless youngsters may even resort to a desperate solution: Suicide. Research indicates that homosexual youth are at least twice as likely to commit suicide as their heterosexual peers.
Are you questioning yourself or someone you know?
Do you want to get more information about homosexuality?
Please contact Chinese Family Services of Ontario at (416) 979-8299.
All Your Information Is Confidential!
1 Garofalo, R., Cameron W.R., Wissow, L.S., Woods, E.R., & Goodman, E. (1999). Sexual Orientation and Risk of Suicide Attempts among a Representative Sample of Youth. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 153, 487-493.
Gibson, P. (1989). Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide. Report to the Secretary's Task: Force on Youth Suicide, 3, 110-142.