homophobia & youth homelessness FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 5 Jun 1998 00:22:33 -0700 (PDT)

Yahoo! News - Health Headlines - May 27, 1998


NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Intolerance of homosexuality can have serious
psychiatric affects for adolescents, both heterosexual and homosexual,
according to psychiatrists.

Gay and lesbian teenagers have increased rates of assault, suicide,
substance abuse, and homelessness. These can reflect homophobic attitudes
expressed by others as well as internalized feelings of self-hatred, write
Drs. James Lock and Brian N. Kleis.

Lock, of Stanford University School of Medicine, and Kleis, of Children's
Health Council, Palo Alto, California, discuss teens and homophobia in an
article in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Gay and lesbian youth experience frequent verbal and sometimes physical
assault because of their sexual orientation: In one study, 80% reported
verbal insults, 44% were threatened with violence, 31% were chased or
followed, and 17% said they were physically assaulted.

The term "homophobia," when used by psychiatrists, refers to irrationally
negative attitudes toward homosexual people. Homophobia can be internalized
in a gay person as part of an identity struggle caused by the emotional
stress of self-acceptance and the social process of "coming out," Lock and
Kleis explain.

Young adolescents, especially boys, are concerned about the physical
changes of puberty and may develop homophobia in association with anxiety
about their masculinity. At this age, teenagers may need nothing more than
information about sexual development, anatomy, and behavior.

If adolescents express homophobia with physical or verbal assaults, "it
will be necessary to work with families, schools, and police to contain the
behavior while its origins are explored in therapy," Lock and Kleis write.

Adolescents who have already determined that they are gay or lesbian can
become depressed or act out; they may be truant or run away from home, or
they may project hostile feelings onto family members.

Older adolescents are more independent of their families and more
interested in peer support groups. Those who are uncomfortable with openly
gay peers may do better with individual therapy, as well as literature and
films that "provide structure, privacy, and some psychological distance,"
Lock and Kleis comment.

Gay teens with homophobic attitudes "need assistance managing the effects
of persistent attacks by social institutions on their self-esteem and hopes
for a successful career," they write. SOURCE: Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1998;37:671-672.


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