The difficulties of being open about alternate sexual lifestyles, alternate meaning not “straight,” are dependant on many factors. The country, state or town you live in may dictate how easy it is to be open. Your “status” in society, your “class” and many other social categorizations may make it more difficult or easier to be open about being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Another factor that determines the ease with which one may be open about their sexuality is age. Even in countries where homosexuals, lesbian and bisexuals are generally accepted by society, it can be different for a young person to be open as opposed to an older, adult, person.
As is evidenced by the great number of horrific hazing cases, teenagers can be horribly cruel. Therefore, if a teen lives in a community where there are other teenagers who do not understand alternative sexuality, it can be very hard to be open about being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Who would want to be open about their sexuality if it meant being teased relentlessly in front of years? Without a great support system, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens who are abused in this way are at risk of becoming depressed, suicidal and/or anxious. It is certainly not conducive to openness.
Adults tend to be more forgiving (as if that is necessary) of other people’s sexual preferences. Most, not all, of them are also of the correct opinion that it is none of their business. Therefore, an adult is far less likely to be teased relentlessly about being gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. Adults are also more comfortable with their sexuality, in general. It is easier for most gay, lesbian and bisexual adult to be open about their sexuality because they are not going to be hurt as badly by negative reactions, in most cases.
Teens may also find it difficult to be open about being bisexual, homosexual or lesbian because people who do not understand alternative sexuality tend to dismiss it in younger people. Quite often, these impressionable teens hear that they are going through a “phase.” It is true that teenagers are often uncertain about their sexuality and must “experiment,” but dismissiveness is not a comforting reaction. Some, if not most, of these sexually alternative teens will go on to adult gays, lesbians and bisexuals. It is probably easier for them if we just accept it when they are still teenagers.
It would be an odd thing indeed for an adult to dismiss another adult’s sexuality as a “phase.” This problem is virtually non-existent for gay, lesbian and bisexual adults. It is assumed that a person is aware of their sexuality by the time they reach adulthood. When you are expected to be open, it tends to become a bit easier.
Teenagers are unable to choose where they live, what school to go to (for the most part) and many other things that may or may not make openness regarding sexuality easier. Once they reach adulthood, they can decide if they want to go to a more liberal school, live in a more accepting town, etc. Many adult gays, lesbians and bisexuals choose to live in communities where there are a lot of similar people because it makes having an alternative family unit, holding hands with someone of the same sex, etc. much easier. Being open is just a matter of being yourself when you are an adult. The choices are yours.
*The GLBT has a national hotline for gay, lesbian and bisexual teens out there who just need someone to talk to. The number is 1-800-246-PRIDE. They are happy to point you in the right direction for any additional help you may need.
GLBT National Help Center, retrieved 9/19/10, glnh.org/talkline/index.html