A friend's 13 yo son has been having serious mental and behavioral problems and they haven't fully figured out why. They discovered by accident (shared electronics) that he is now identifying as bi and has expressed romantic interest in another guy his age. I'm also queer but I'm not a parent (and I grew up before the internet gave me access to Dan Savage, in a very different cultural climate). I totally know how hard it is to be a GLBTQ teenager and want to help them alleviate as much of the sexual identity stress on him as possible/appropriate. What do you feel are the best resources or advice for a parent of a gay teenager with mental health issues?
I grew up in a bible town and I had to switch high schools because of homophobia. My parents kept me away from my girlfriend for a long time (and sometimes erred on the side of keeping me away from platonic female friends who had short hair; good times). While the theatre crowd I hung out with was much more liberal than the ambient city, that wasn't difficult given that social temperature had been set to "witch hunt" for the last fifty years. It was definitely much more risky for me to seek out even innocent relationships with other girls - I was threatened a couple times by boys and even by parents.
It got better. Liberal arts college, big university grad school, big cities, now live in Seattle. (Literally Dan-Savage-town.) My friend and their son live in a suburb. They're extremely progressive and lefties. I bet high school sucks for GLBT kids everywhere, though. I'm already set to offer low pressure mentoring and perhaps my copy of Kate Bornstein's Hello, Cruel World
(appropriate?). What do you feel are the best resources or advice for a parent a bi teen (with mental health and behavioral issues), whose sexuality is new to his parents? Do you have any advice I could give them or resources (web, books, Seattle specific, Washington specific, etc) that specifically address:
1. having found out that he was identifying as bi by accident? (It sounds like the topic has already been broached.)
2. the specific mental health issues that gay teens deal with? Importantly: how many diverse behavior problems and mental health issues are common among gay teens, boys in specific. Trouble at school, with authority, defiance, etc. (Last I heard, counseling was in the works. Is queer friendly a big deal for non-religious counselors who work with children? It's never been much of an issue for me with medical providers. I realize that's rare, though. I'd worry about a therapist framing his sexuality as acting out or a phase. Is that common, still?)
3. general stuff about all the bullshit that comes with being queer in high school?
4. given that he's expressed interest in another kid, relationship stuff that might be particular to parents of gay teens (maybe including sex ed particular to all this)? My parents, despite the lesbo panic, had NO IDEA how many girlfriends I had and I wasn't educated at all about how to protect myself from disease with them. It seems like that could be a lot riskier with boys.
5. finally, and this is what I've never seen a single resource about, anything specific to young adults and bisexuality, specifically boys? When I was growing up, my sexuality was dismissed as a phase by many of the people who were safe to tell about it.
Any tips for how to be a big queer sister to him, if they'd like that, are very welcome too. Oh, and I know I'm being a busybody. I will approach with caution and not assume anything unless asked. I know that. I wish somebody like me had been around back then.