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Parents Everywhere Struggle to Talk to LGBTQ Kids About Sex

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Apr 13, 2018

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Every parent prepares (somewhat awkwardly) for the ‘sex talk’ they’ll have with their kid. But for a lot of well-meaning straight parents, a sex talk for LGBTQ teens children feels a bit beyond their grasp.

“My challenge around talking about sex is that I have no idea what sex is really like for men, especially for gay men,” said one mother from an online focus group within a study examining the attitudes of parents when it came to talking about sexual health to their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer teens (LGBTQ).

“Parents play an important role in helping their children learn how to have healthy sexual relationships, but they really struggle when discussing this with their LGBTQ teens,” said lead author Michael Newcomb, from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

The parents in the study expressed the desire to make sure their children had accurate information about healthy sex and relationships, but faced the dual challenge of feeling generally uncomfortable talking about sex (as many parents of heterosexual kids also feel), as well as feeling ill-equipped to provide accurate information about LGBTQ sex.

“I felt challenged that I’m straight, my daughter is dating a gal, and I didn’t know anything about that,” the mom continued. “All my sex talks were about how not to get pregnant and how babies are conceived.”

Another parent talked about how she feels isolated, when it comes to handling sex talks with her gay child, and lacks a community of other parents of LGBTQ kids who can relate and help.

Yet another parent in the study connected her bisexual daughter with a lesbian friend to talk about “gay sex.”

The study, published in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy, was admittedly very narrow, with only 44 participants who were parents of LGBTQ youth between ages 13 to 17 — yet the well-meant parenting fumble sounds fairly universal.

Also universal? The desire for communication, from the teens’ side (even if it often doesn’t seem like it). A related study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, asked boys, between the ages of 14 and 17 who identify as bisexual or gay, about relationships. The study found that many wanted to have a closer bond with their parents, where they could talk about sex and dating, said lead author, Brian Feinstein. “However, most of them said that they rarely, if ever, talked to their parents about sex and dating, especially after coming out,” he said. “And, even if they did talk about sex and dating with their parents, the conversations were brief and focused exclusively on HIV and condom use.”

Which is unfortunate, because “having a healthy and supportive relationship with parents is one of the strongest predictors of positive health outcomes in teens, and this is true of both heterosexual and LGBTQ teens,” Newcomb said.

“Many parents and their LGBTQ teens want to have supportive relationships with one another,” he added, but, left to their own devices, don’t really know how.

But it’s important to figure out, particularly in India, where formal sex education — let alone LGBTQ sex education — is virtually non-existant. As Tanya Vasunia wrote last year on The Swaddle, “Parenting that creates a home environment of acceptance, identifies safe and supportive resources and strategies, and helps spread awareness can give LGBTQ kids in India and elsewhere a guiding light, even if there’s no way to fully drown all the messages of hate.”

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Written By Angelina Shah

Angelina Shah is a staff writer with The Swaddle. In her previous life she was a copywriter in advertising. She has a penchant for reading, singing, travelling and being obsessed with superheroes.

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