Many LGBT+ young people find an adolescence that isn’t filled with joy, sexual firsts and being themselves with the people important to them. Many LGBT+ youths face an adolescence of fear, hiding who they are and trying to manage the constant harm of anti-gay speech and actions in the world they live in. In this developmental psychology podcast episode, we explore the harm and impact this has on young people and most importantly what they can do to heal, thrive and recover an adolescence that was basically stolen from them because of the world we live in. If you enjoy learning about developmental psychology, mental health and LGBT+ experience, you’ll love today’s episode.
Note: please note that for the rest of the podcast episode I’m going to use the terms gay and LGBT+ interchangeably and to mean the same thing. I’m doing that because saying gay is so much easier to type on the blog post and say on the podcast, so if I offend you I’m sorry.
Today’s episode has been sponsored by Developmental Psychology: A Guide To Developmental and Child Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Why LGBT+ People Don’t Get Access To The Same Adolescence Heterosexual Peers Do?
Let us imagine the typical adolescence for a moment. It is filled with excitement and firsts. Our first crushes that we giggle and laugh about with our friends, we have our first kiss and sexual experiences and we learn that can be who we want to be with everyone that matters to us no matter who we are.
Overall, in adolescence, people don’t suffer from constant hateful messaging about the wrongness about how they feel and they don’t have this hate constantly swimming about inside them.
In addition, from developmental psychology, we all understand the sheer importance of adolescence in the development of a person. Since our identity gets formed here as well as we’re now starting to understand that adolescence does actually stretch into a person’s early twenties.
Also, looking beyond the puberty factors and the other physiological changes that happens to a person during this time, there are immense social and psychological parts of this teenage development too.
On the whole, all teenagers have so much developmental potential and these social and psychological changes can be immensely powerful in forming a person. Unless something massive, evil and awful gets in the way.
This happens to gay people all the time in adolescence and I hate it. It is disgusting and we need to change this.
How Many LGBT+ People Have a Negative Adolescence?
As you found out during your own adolescence, all of our romantic and sexual identities are a critical part of teenage development, and this is normally a wonderful experience for heterosexuals. They aren’t judged, they aren’t condemned and they can enjoy the experience. Of course, like everyone, mistakes will be made and hearts will be broken but they aren’t hated for it.
On the other hand, when gay people want to develop their romantic and sexual identity, this becomes very complicated because we realise that our interests are different from everyone else’s and we live in a society that thinks these interests should be stopped outright.
Therefore, many gay people grew up in a social world filled to the brim with both direct as well as indirect messages about how wrong, sinful and flat out disgustingly weird they were because they weren’t heterosexual.
Of course, I will admit that times are extremely slowly changing, but the fact is we still live in a world where anti-LGBT+ bias and heterosexism (two things I spoke about in the last podcast episode) are embedded into the very fabric of society. Proof of this can easily be seen in the past and present religious belief systems, how humans and relationships are played out in the media and the sheer amount of current and past anti-gay legalisation.
What Impact Does Growing Up In An Anti-Gay World Have On LGBT+ Adolescence?
With many gay people growing up in this social and cultural context, we flat out don’t experience the typical adolescence that heterosexual people do. Due to we simply aren’t able to live safe and full lives at this age.
And on a personal note, I will admit that I can even take years after typical adolescence for this feeling that you are safe and able to live full lives. That is just a sad truth of the world.
As a result, many gay people experience an adolescence filled with major disruptions to our healthy development so this results in two main outcomes for child development. Firstly, gay people suffer from the trauma of chronic shame caused by anti-gay biases. Secondly, gay people miss out on integral psychosocial developmental experiences.
And I don’t know if I was going to get personal in this podcast episode, because I will admit because of life circumstances, I do need to be extremely careful what I say. However, I will admit that I do suffer from trauma and at times I do have extremely negative automatic thoughts that do bias how I look at the world. I am very reluctant to talk to anything about my experiences, life or just general love life things you talk about with friends because what if?
What if they abuse me? What if they hurt me? What if they beat me?
All normal things that a lot of gay people can relate with because this is just what happens when you’ve experienced a lot of anti-gay abuse in your adolescence.
In addition, I would have loved, absolutely loved to just have one or two experiences during my adolescence. I admit there were probably one or two chances where I might have had a shot to experience something, but again I wasn’t safe. I did not feel safe enough to do anything or try anyone, because what if?
And like I said back in the coming out podcast episode, your safety is the most important thing ever. Don’t do something if it risks the risk to your life. So I didn’t have any experience.
Overall, the impact of this negative adolescence is very simple and heartbreaking. In the years after coming out, we all find that we are stunted, underdeveloped and we are sort of lost in comparison to our heterosexual peers. A lot of gay people wish they could be adolescents again so they could have a better experience and they could develop the skills needed for healthy relationships and dating experience that we all need as adults.
Personally, I completely agree with this finding because I know I simply don’t have the headspace or the knowledge about how to date right now. And I know I probably need therapy to help get over some of the things that have been done and said to me in the past. The clearest example was when a straight friend of mine said “he cared about how I was” earlier in the year and that just confused me more than I ever know how to put into words. Because I later found out that I believed that because I think I am nothing and I don’t know why anyone would care about me deeply.
Again, something nothing short of therapy could help me with.
So how could solve this problem?
How Could LBGT+ People Get A Second Adolescence?
When gay people move from an anti-gay adolescence into adulthood they experience something known as a Second Adolescence and this is the framework for healing and having the freedom to explore what being gay is to that person and they can understand what happened to them and how they can move on in adulthood.
Everyone goes through this differently but it is made up of two critical sections. Firstly, a person has to address the experiences that their younger self missed out on. This includes gaining missed experiences (in the form of first kisses, dates, relationships, sex and more. As well as acknowledging what it means to us to miss out on those experiences. Basically, making ourselves deal with the grief that we experience.
In my experience, this is something I am extremely looking forward to and when I was writing out the above paragraph (and even now) I couldn’t talk myself from smiling. I badly want to go on a date, kiss a guy and do so many times that I have missed out because anti-gay messages. That is something I cannot wait for and it does mean that I am looking forward to the future.
Secondly, we have to admit and address the internalised homophobia we have. We can do this by exploring how our exposure to anti-gay messages impacted our former selves and by examining the ways that we internalised this homophobia we can understand how this influences our decisions and more. As well as we can begin to undo the evil work of this internalised homophobia.
Personally, this is something I am always working on because whenever I think “that’s wrong” I make myself take a step back and I always realise this is just my anti-gay messaging talking. It isn’t what I actually believe because all that stuff is actually harmless. And it’s like when I was talking to a trans friend of mine a few months ago and he said that I might as well start dating or trying to get some of these first experiences done. But I couldn’t because I said that my life circumstances just weren’t fair on this future person but now I am wondering if it was the shame that I internalised during my adolescence a factor here.
It is always something to work on now and in the future.
Social Psychology and Developmental Psychology Conclusion
Overall, a lot of gay people do grow up in a social world that hates them and sends them very firm direct and indirect messages that they are wrong, sinful and shouldn’t exist. But there is hope because once a gay person starts to realise that things don’t have to be this way then they start to have a second adolescence by freeing and healing themselves of all the hate they’ve experienced.
And then they can start to find love, have their first kiss, their first relationship and so many more wonderful things that they never ever thought possible.
There is always hope in the world and if you’re a heterosexual person listening or reading this, then please help to fight back against some of this anti-gay messaging because everyone deserves the same adolescence regardless of their sexuality. And if you’re a gay person listening to this, then you can have all your firsts. It might take a few years longer and there will be a lot of trauma, shame and hate to unpack inside yourself but you will get there.
We can all get there if we simply have the patience, self-compassion and hope to drive us into our second adolescence and beyond.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s social psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Developmental Psychology: A Guide To Developmental and Child Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Have a great day.
Developmental Psychology and LGBT+ Psychology References
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