Help me convince him that it does get better.
December 21, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I help my 14 year old cousin? He came out as bisexual a couple of years ago and recently confessesd to me that he hates this about himself. He is also just generally miserable which I chalked up to being 14.

His mother recently mentioned that he begged her to let him transfer schools because he was being teased. He wants to go to school in the city, rather than in the boroughs. She did sign the papers. I'm not sure what her attitude is about his sexuality at this time. I did bring it up once and she was very dismissive. From what I know of her (and she raised me as well), she would not be very accepting. She also brags whenever he is hanging out with girls. She sees them as girlfriends instead of friends who are girls. She has very old fashioned ideas in a lot of ways - think of your typical Puerto Rican machismo.

Anyway, I love the shit out of this kid and want to help him, be there for him, and provide whatever support I can. I picked up Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez and will be passing it on to him. What are some other resources that I can direct him towards? What should I keep in mind when he tells me how miserable he is? I've told him that it will get better but it's hard for a kid to hear that and believe it.
posted by mokeydraws to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Point him towards the It Gets Better videos on YouTube. He might find one that gets through to him.

Make sure he knows that your home is always a safe place for him, even if he just needs to decompress for an afternoon.

Remind him as often as you can (and as often as he can stand to hear it) that there's nothing wrong with him, nothing wrong with his sexuality, and that you love him exactly the way he is.
posted by Zozo at 12:26 PM on December 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'd recommend not just It gets better, but also, Make it better, a related project. And if he doesn't already watch Glee, they're been addressing this for most of this fall and winter, with the character Kurt. I'm glad his mom helped him transfer. That can make a huge difference.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:49 PM on December 21, 2010

Where does he live? In Puerto Rico?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:08 PM on December 21, 2010

Response by poster: roomthreeseventeen - he's in Brooklyn, NY.
posted by mokeydraws at 1:26 PM on December 21, 2010

Is there anything he could relate to that isn't sexuality based - I am thinking that maybe there is something else that he can relate to, a relative or friend who had a hard time with something about themselves when they were younger?

My first thought was that at 14 you probably hate anything about yourself that seems different or stands out, especially if it gets you teased. So maybe there is a way to pull it to something that helps him understand that this is more common than he thinks?

I haven't seen many of the It Gets Better Videos, although I have been wanting to - I could see those being a good source of inspiration. There was also that speech from that councilman in Texas, if you think that he would be interested in that. I feel like it would be good to have something he can read or watch whenever he feels like it won't get better.

I don't know where you guys are, but if you get the chance to hang out with him and there is a more LGBT-friendly area to take him to visit, maybe he would benefit from realizing that there are all different kinds of places, and while he might not get to choose his surroundings so much right now he *will* get to do so eventually.

As a side note, I don't even know the kid and I am ridiculously proud of him - it can't have been easy.
posted by mrs. taters at 1:26 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make sure he knows that every 14 year old is "generally miserable" -- that this is not a (permanent) part of being bisexual but rather a (temporary) part of being a teenager.
posted by foursentences at 1:32 PM on December 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Oh, Brooklyn!

Does he know about YES? It's an outreach group run by the LGBT Center in Manhattan. I spent a LOT of time there, and it's wonderful. Kids as young as 13, up to 23 years old. They have programs many nights of the week, men's groups, women's groups, dances, a Youth Pride Chorus (full disclosure, I'm a founding member), a summer camp.

It's a huge and welcoming group of out kids. Lots of trans teenagers, homeless teens, kids from the Upper East Side, Brooklyn, Bronx, etc. A huge mix of different types. It's amazing and wonderful and he should get there ASAP!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:34 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, he might want to look at Harvey Milk High School.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:36 PM on December 21, 2010

Lots of cities have resources for GLBT(QI?) teens, like a center with activities and supportive grown-ups, check to see if there's something near him. The Q Center is an example.

Love him. And make sure you also talk to him about stuff that isn't him being bi.

Let him know that if he's in an unsafe situation, he can always call you and you'll come get him, no questions asked.
posted by momus_window at 1:38 PM on December 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you have a gay or bisexual friend who is cool, it may really, really help for him to see an adult who isn't straight who's happy and successful and -- imagine this -- just like most other adults he knows and looks up to. (It may also extra-help if you know someone who shares his cultural background.) That's a large part of the point of "It Gets Better," but I think it's also helpful to meet people in the flesh. Kids that age need adults to pattern themselves after, and he'll believe that "it gets better" more if he can SEE it for himself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:40 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with mrs. taters above.

I am a straight straighty (as far as I can tell), but one thing that pops out at me here is that being bisexual could be a lot more confusing than being plain old gay. What do you tell people? How much "hiding" do you have to do when you're not straight but not gay either? What if you've established your identity as a guy who likes guys... and suddenly like a girl? Most importantly, how can you form an identity as someone with possibly-fluid attractions when people in your life act like everything is fluid simply because you're a teenager?

If I were 14 and miserable, period (let's face it; I've at least been THERE), my biggest problem would probably be finding people who take me seriously. "Fluid" or "attracted to both at the same time" != "it's just a phase." He's got enough problems in his normal teenage life without having to define himself by a hard-to-define term.

So I'd basically start from the angle of loving him as a person and giving him support for being a kid, not necessarily hitting the bisexuality angle. Sure, you can mention it, but it's just another part of him, like the kind of food he enjoys or what time he likes to get up in the morning. They inform his life, but they're not the sum total of his life. He may not feel like he has the chance to just be a person and not Bisexual [Cousin] The Bisexual Guy.

I'd then ask him about the things that are making him miserable like I'd ask him about the things that are making him happy. [Note: he's a 14-year-old boy, so he would possibly answer the phone in monosyllables and/or stare quietly at his shoes. Such is life.] What about his bisexuality makes him uncomfortable? Why are people making fun of him? Doesn't it suck when you get to the end of the lunch line and they're out of the good cookies? What band would he like to go see in concert?

Listen to him in a way that says "I hear you," whether he's talking about serious stuff or not. Repeat back the things he says so he knows it. Ask him how he wants you to respond -- to intervene for him, to listen quietly, to work with him to solve it.
posted by Madamina at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Everyone else has really good advice. Biphobia is something that I only recently learned about and most of the time it's a state of mind associated with heterosexuals being afraid of bisexuals, but I think that there's a lot to be said about its resonance in bisexuals, too. Self-hate sucks, and it breaks my heart that this kid is so young and has just started on his path to self-discover and self-acceptance, only to decide that what he is = disgusting. Definitely ask him about what he needs from you, and ask him if he would be okay with you working to find him other places and spaces in which to get the support he needs. He sounds overwhelmed and browbeaten by his experiences at school and at home, and if it were me, having someone like you on my side would be such a big help in moving past the initial discomfort of affirming who I am.

Kudos to you, and kudos to the kid.
posted by patronuscharms at 5:51 PM on December 21, 2010

The LGBT Center in the city is great, but there's also a Brooklyn LGBT Community Center. It's much newer, and I don't have much direct experience with it but it looks like it has a youth program and some events geared toward youth.
posted by cheerwine at 7:43 PM on December 21, 2010

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower?" It rocked my 14-year-old, queer world. And yeah, just let him know that he can always come to you.
posted by honeydew at 8:24 PM on December 21, 2010

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