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When teens feel or fear they may be gay

There has been considerable controversy over school-based Project 10 counseling services in the past few years. Started by Virginia Uribe at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, the Project 10 model is now being used at high schools across the nation to give counseling and emotional support to students who know or feel that they might be gay and/or who are experiencing difficulty at school because they are perceived by peers to be different.

Many parents fear that such services encourage students to be gay by causing students to prematurely label themselves as homosexual or by glamorizing the homosexual lifestyle. The fact is, however, that far from idealizing the gay life, these services perform a valuable front-line defense against a growing crisis among high school-age youth–ant that is the risk of suicide.

Most of us are aware that teenage suicide is a tragic and growing problem in young people today with the number of suicides among U.S. teens quadrupling in the past twenty years.

What many people don’t know, however, is the fact that young people who feel different, those who know or feel that they may be gay, are at much greater risk for suicide than other teens. A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that almost one-third of teenage boys who thought that they might be gay had attempted suicide and half of these had made multiple suicide attempts.

Many teens–quite often those who are actually heterosexual–may experience fears about their sexuality as they go through adolescence and some of the crushes on and idealization of same sex role models and friends and the variety of sexual feelings and fantasies that people of all sexual orientations tend to have,

Whether teens turn out to be heterosexual or homosexual, they need reassurance from parents, teachers and counselors that they are intrinsically valuable as people, that being different is not synonymous with being bad. Sensitive counseling and emotional support at school and, most important, good communication and unconditional love from parents can, quite possibly, prevent a life-threatening crisis.

Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.


1 thought on “When teens feel or fear they may be gay”

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote ann very long comment but after I clicked submiit my comment didn’t
    show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all thaqt over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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