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Your Teen Daughter Says She’s Gay. What Now?

I recently spoke to a large group of high school students about sex and sexuality. A number of students had told the staff that they were either gay or bisexual. Many of the teachers didn’t know what advice to give them beyond, “That’s OK. I still accept you.”  Recently, Yahoo News posted a photo of a cake baked by a fifteen-year-old girl with the words “I’m gay” written in frosting. That’s how she announced to her parents that she is gay. Her last line to them was, “It gets batter.”

Unfortunately for our kids, understanding sexuality is a mess in our culture. The truth is, the development of one’s sexuality is a complicated, important, and serious one that takes time—much more time than we are willing to give it. According to my colleague, Dr. Armand Nicholi, a psychiatrist from Harvard and editor of  The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry, a child’s sexuality isn’t fully developed until he or she is near twenty years old. The reason for this is that sexuality isn’t simply a matter of genetics, parental ideals, or the configuration of genitalia. It is a beautifully complex process, which is influenced by environment, personal experience, hormones, personality, family dynamics, and genetics.

Sadly, our culture pressures kids to make decisions about their sexuality way too soon. The reason for this is social engineering and financial gain. Kids are bombarded with sexual messages from the time they are seven years old, and they are led to believe that being sexy and defending their sexuality should be front and center in their lives.  I told the group of students to whom I was speaking that their sexuality should not define them. It is a part of who they are, but it isn’t who they are. They aren’t gay, bisexual, or straight. They are Josh, Tanya, Lucy, and Amelia. When I said this, they all cheered. They want the pressure off.

So when a fifteen-year-old girl or boy tells me that she or he is gay or bisexual, I ask them why they believe that and if they feel confused. Usually they say “yes.” After listening, I encourage them to give themselves time to develop. In my experience, girls or boys make such declarations because they are beginning to become sexually active. They feel pressure from our culture to define who they are and a big part of this begins with sexual activity.

Then I tell them exactly what I tell heterosexual kids. Beginning sexual activity during their teen years is serious and risky business. When they make adult statements, I respond with adult statements, like “Do you know that 20 million Americans contract an STD every year in the US, that one out of five Americans over age twelve tests positive for genital herpes, and one excellent medical journal projects that if teens don’t put the brakes on with sex, that by the year 2025, 39% of all men and 49% of all women in the US will be positive for genital herpes?”

Their faces drop because no one speaks to them as though sex is serious business. Kids think sex is fun and consequence-free (maybe they worry about pregnancy), and they feel that they can be and do whatever they want as long as they use a condom. No one wants to tell them the scary truth because the biggest, little secret in America is that we are experiencing an epidemic of STD’s amongst our youth. But so much money is made from selling sex to our kids that no one wants to shout this from the rooftops. Lawsuits would appear from clothing and shampoo manufacturers. They want their money.

Teens have never been as confused about their sexuality as they are today. My concern for all kids is that cultural pressure forces them to figure out a beautifully complex process prematurely. So if your teen announces that he or she is gay, bisexual, or transsexual, listen. Then gently tell them that their sexuality is wonderfully complicated, and that regardless of what they think about their sexuality now,  they really can’t be sure because at fourteen or fifteen, they aren’t fully developed. Encourage him or her to take time to figure things out.  I fear that many kids stand their ground on being gay or bisexual because it’s cool (on college campuses it’s considered sophisticated if you are open to experimentation), and they are pressured by our culture to announce a decision far too soon. So encourage your son or daughter to take a deep breath and slow down.

One’s sexuality is too serious to be written on a cake. Sadly, kids think that it isn’t. So help your teen along and always encourage him or her to hold off on sex. I promise, they’ll thank you later.



  1. Thank you for this post. During the presidential elections, my 7 year old daughter asked me what “same sex couples” were. When I asked her where she heard that term, she said from President Obama on the tv that was on at the doctor’s office. I thought for sure that it was from an older kid at school, nope, it’s just all around our kids now. We have 3 girls and a boy, and my other daughter has asked me what “sexy” is (we tell them they can ask any questions and expect honest answers from us), among other things. My question is: how in the world to we raise kids who are ready for the world someday, and yet at the same time hold onto our treasured Christian values and beliefs?
    I was confused enough as a teenager, I can’t even imagine what they are going to go through! Thank you, Dr.Meeker for all of your posts and books on how to raise children in this culture. As parents in the trenches, we need these bits of wisdom to help us walk through it!!


    • Being Christian doesn’t mean living in a bubble – it means apply our beliefs and way of living consistently through the easy times and the rough times in a loving and considerate manner.

  2. Thank you for the article. Kudos to any school district who will draw a moral line to help prevent teens from falling further into a LBGT lifestyle. This news from NBC today hit close to where I was born and raised. I can’t believe any school districts are allowing this. “An openly gay Missouri teenager has won the right to attend high school prom with his boyfriend after threatening legal action, the district superintendent told Friday.”

  3. My daughter came to me 2 years ago and told me she was lesbian. We went through the whole talk, and no matter what, I love and support you. Now 2 years later, she has had no relationship female or male. She is still a virgin. We got into an argument and I accused her of being a hipster, where being a lesbian is a fad. She fights the cause of gays online, but not in person in marches. I told her I think, that just like the baby boomers that were into acid, a free love that became home owners and republicans she will realize when she is 30 she is not gay. I truly do think the kids today will turn around. Now I just don’t worry. The one thing she wants is for me to worry. I won’t . She has to actually get physical in a lesbian relationship, she has not done that. Not a lesbian at all.

  4. Wow, and this is so very timely, as I just got the courage to start blogging about this very topic. Thanks for your loving compassionate, commonsensical approach to such a difficult current topic. Dr. William Klein

  5. My daughter “came out” to us last night and i feel like i’ve been hit by a brick. The signs were all there in front of us…..hanging with many lesbian friends, she’s depressed lately and spending time in her room. Dressing like a hipster etc. She is 17 and i also am not sure you can decide at such an early age….although, part of me remembers myself at that age and nothing would have changed my mind from being heterosexual. My daughter has never had a boyfriend…only one date to a prom that the boy wasn’t exactly nice to her. I was devastated when she told me, but told her how proud i was of her to tell us and that we loved her more than ever. She didn’t want me to cry- she said “why would you cry”? I think we cried because it is sort of a loss…….a loss of everything we’ve imagined for her and for her future, sometimes, difficult gay life. Now i need help!

    • Hello,

      My daughter told me yesterday…. OMG… I felt like I was hit by a car…. NOOOOOOOO was I kept saying NO NO!…. I feel like I failed her… I have such dreams for her.. .Marriage, babies….. with a male…. I am so very very very very upset. I am taking her to counseling as she needs to know this is a major decision. She needs to know that she maybe confused or I am… either way I am so lost… She is my angel, I love to dress her up, she says that she is the girl in the relationship. She is 17, and now I do not allow girls to come over w/o me being home as this was the rule for boys… but ooooohhhhh now I am giving out to the girls…She has had sex with two boys… said she did not like it. I told her well no girl usually likes their first time. This is horrible. I am so upset. Thank you for sharing your story.

      • I know that our 17 year olds are going through a lot – and are so brave to come out to their parents (it says a lot about the families that they were raised in) – but it hurt us so much (the sense of grief and loss…the fears…the loss of control) and yet we are expected to be the adults….say the right things…act the right way….be mature and supportive. I did all of those things…and even convinced myself that I believed every positive thing that I said….but my daughter still ran away (I know where she is thank God…and have SOME contact with her)….but she thinks that she knows more than me – as every 17 yr old does – but how am I supposed to be there to support her and help to guide her and protect her….if she won’t come home? She is obsessed with sex (I read her Twitter…I know I shouldn’t….but when you don’t have contact….you will do ANYTHING to be closer to her)…I try not to let it bother me so much. But a year ago she was still my innocent little girl…….listened and did as she was told……..communicated with me……she seemed to be on the “right path”…..whatever that is…..I question everything now. I just want her home. You seem to have your head on straight…..I thought that I did too….let her be who she is…..just love her……that’s all……….just love her – no judgments…….and hopefully, you won’t lose your daughter like I feel has happened to me. Would appreciate any prayers to bring my baby back home to me……..exactly the way she is.

      • It’s not horrible. Teens have no clue as to whether they actually are gay or not sometimes. They can’t even make a decision on what they want for lunch. Chances are she is just bicurious.

        You didn’t fail your daughter unless you vocalize to her exactly what you just posted. Grandchildren are easy to obtain and marriage between two responsible people, gay or straight is a beautiful thing. This is her life; not yours. We all have to live our lives as we choose to be happy. Life is too short to worry about what the “jones” might think. Grow a set of ovaries and stand by your kid and love her unconditionally. Your negative self centered reaction is not what she needs. Try a hug and an “I love you” and a smile. Accept her completely. Life is short. Screw everyone’s opinion of what is normal and “right”. The only one that counts is yours of her and it must be a loving accepting one.

        Be accepting, too many kids commit suicide because their families reject them because they are gay…don’t let her be one of them. And get her some counseling to help her deal with this discovery. Peace to you and your family

  6. my 15 year old daughter “came out.” thanks for this article. I really don’t care if she is, but think she is seriously confused. just 2 weeks ago, she told me about a crush she had on a boy. and last summer, she had a boyfriend and kissed a lot. regardless of her sexuality, she’s said she’s so busy with school, she doesn’t have time for a relationship. just think she’s saying it to say it. Been through a lot the last few months. a friend committed suicide. she’s been depressed and questioning her faith.

  7. Interesting article and very much the case in my personal experience. I thought I was gay but didn’t know. By age nineteen I figured it out. It so happened that I was. I’m sure there are others who turn out not to be gay.

    Personally, I would think twice before telling any child “you can’t be sure” rather than “most people can’t be sure” they’re gay. The hardline tactics the author suggests are exactly what teenagers seek – something to rebel against. Think long and hard before taking this particular piece of advice. You may be sending your child deeper in.

    The STDs – absolutely! Straight, gay, in-between – anyone thinking of having sex from teenagers to geriatrics should know the consequences!


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