Recently, I’ve had more parents asking my thoughts on whether their adolescent is gay or straight, if this is normal development or an attention seeking social trend. This new process of labeling has me incredibly intrigued.
In the past, it’s been the norm to assume straight unless you’re not. Labeling your sexuality wasn’t a requirement to progress through adolescence as it seems to be now. What I’m seeing in young adolescents is more of a blank slate leading into a period of questioning to label themselves gay, straight, bi, asexual or a myriad of other descriptions.
I’m very interested to watch this trend over time. My sense is they might be pretty far off trying to accurately label their sexuality with no experience. Looking at beautiful people on instagram and youtube is not the same as being sexually attracted in real life. Looking back, at age 12, had I been expected to question my sexuality, I would have said boys are gross, sex sounds disgusting, and I like to cuddle and be close with my best friend. I think I would have called myself asexual, lesbian, aromantic? I’m not sure. It’s a difficult to pick all the correct labels.
I find myself wondering… It’s developmentally appropriate for teens to want to fit in. They want to have someone who wants them and to be included. They want to feel important to someone else. As long as you are not having sex with them, isn’t it more comfortable to date your best friend than someone of the opposite sex?
Anyone’s actual sexuality is not my interest. It’s the process of attempting to label it so young and so specifically that’s got my attention.
Is it something for parents to be concerned about? It depends on the level of anxiety it causes, how concerned they are about it and how much time they spend thinking and trying to figure it out. Does it get in the way of homework and dance class and fun time spent with their friends? Is it causing mood swings or fights at home? If yes, then it may be helpful to talk with a therapist. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be concerned. Lean towards a supportive role and let them know you are open to any question they may be wondering about.
There was a article published in New York Magazine back in 2006 talking about a very similar trend. http://nymag.com/news/features/15589/