How to Support LGBTQ Adolescents

During adolescence, many teens begin to explore their sexuality. For all teens, this is a challenging situation, but for teens who are questioning their sexual orientation, or who identify as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, it can be a particularly difficult transition.

This is a crucial time for teens to get support and understanding from their peers, parents, and other adults when they have questions and concerns about sexual orientation.  Did you know that question 15 on the RAAPS survey addresses supporting sexual orientation?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued its last statement on homosexuality and adolescents in 2004.  The July 2013 issue of Pediatrics, a journal of the AAP, updates the policy written in 2004.  The policy begins, “Although most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are quite resilient and emerge from adolescence as healthy adults, the effects of homophobia and heterosexism can contribute to health disparities in mental health with higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation, higher rates of substance abuse, and more sexually transmitted and HIV infections.”

Some key recommendations of the policy include:

  • – Pediatricians’ offices should be teen-friendly and welcoming to all adolescents, regardless of sexual orientation and behavior; this includes training all office staff and ensuring that office forms do not presume heterosexuality of patients (or parents).
  • – Pediatricians who provide care to sexual minority youth should follow prevention and screening guidelines.
  • – All adolescents should have a confidential adolescent psychosocial history. Verbal histories and/or written questionnaires should use a gender-neutral approach. Screening and referral for depression, suicidality, other mood disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders should be included.
  • – Strengths, resources, and risks should be assessed, and targeted behavioral interventions should be implemented to allow the adolescent to maximize strengths and acknowledge and minimize risky behaviors.
  • – Pediatricians should be available to answer questions, to correct misinformation, and to provide the context that being LGBTQ is normal, just different.
  • – Transgender adolescents need to be supported and affirmed; they need education and referral for the process of transition and about avoiding the pitfalls of using treatments that were not prescribed by a licensed physician.

The full committee report with all of the recommendations is available on AAP’s website.

Interested in learning more about our screening tool and how it can help to address sexual orientation in adolescence while meeting the guidelines of the new AAP policy?  Contact us today!


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