LGBTQ+ Teenagers want Acceptance Just Like Other Teenagers

LGBTQ+ Teenagers want Acceptance Just Like Other Teenagers

Being a teenager in today’s world is very difficult. Besides dealing with mass school shootings and now the uncertainty of life due to the Coronavirus, they face other daily challenges. Many teenagers believe they must grow up and have jobs with fancy titles, make a lot of money and drive fancy cars to be a success as an adult. They face stereotypes about how boys must act if they want to be men and girls face stereotypes about how they must act to be considered women. I hear teens tell me everyday how overwhelmed and confused they are trying to fit into all the necessary stereotypes. They feel overwhelmed because at times they are not sure how to act and confused because at times they don’t agree with the stereotype. If they don’t, they are not sure what to do. This is a lot of pressure for a 13 year old child to be trying to cope with on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that many teens turn to drugs as a way to cope. It is also not a surprise that Cutting is at epidemic rates for teens and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for teens (CDC).

Many of these teenagers are struggling with their sexuality. Some teenagers are struggling with the feelings of being homosexual, bisexual or Transgender. For many of them these are feelings they have had for a long time. However, they have people in their lives telling them they are too young to know for sure. Maybe some may change their minds, however given the violence and discrimination they face with this decision, who would put themselves through all of that pain if they were not sure?

If you look around the Country, many states are passing laws making difficult for LGBTQ+ teenagers to live and go to school and be honest about their feelings. Violence against LGBTQ+ teenagers has significantly increased over the last two years. LGBTQ+ teenagers are five times more likely to commit suicide and to use drugs (CDC). They are also more likely to become prostitutes. They are making these choices because they feel they have no other options. They are afraid of being rejected by their families and many are rejected and are thrown out of their homes to survive on the streets.

So what are they to do when they don’t fit into the “normal” teenage stereotypes? What if they suffer from depression? If they have a learning disability too? What do these LGBTQ+ teenagers do? This is how they were born and they cannot change that fact. Many of these teens will struggle trying to fit the stereotypes and also try desperately to hide from friends and family that they do not fit the teenage stereotypes. Some are lucky and parents or a teacher intervene helping them to get the help they need. Many are not so lucky and often choose suicide, as I stated above. These teenagers are in a very scary and sad place.

The CDC found one in five teenagers are dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or stress. Some LGBTQ+ teenagers may think about psychotherapy but often quickly block that option. They are afraid that their parents are sending them to therapy, so the therapist will “fix” them. They do not feel broken and they don’t want someone trying to convince them that their feelings are wrong. Psychotherapists are not supposed to try to “fix” LGBT+ teenagers, but there are some who still do. The American Psychological Association has removed homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis so know therapist should be trying to fix a teenager.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers, I hear daily from teens that all they want is to be accepted for who they are and they don’t want to have to always hide. The teen with depression or the learning disabilities wants to be considered just as important as the star quarterback on the football team. They want this from their school, their friends, society and finally from their families. Teenagers who identify as LGBTQ+ only want they same thing. Is this too much to ask for? June is dedicated to Gay Pride. If you have a teenager who is identifying as LGBTQ+, before you say it is a phase, maybe you can do some research so you have a better understanding of your teenagers feelings.

These teenagers are not stealing or doing anything to be ashamed of, they are being themselves just the way they were born. Why can’t they be accepted and celebrated? The answer is they can! It is something I teach them in every session we have together. There are organizations such as Alive and Free in San Francisco and Challenge Day in the San Francisco Bay Area who work with teens and society so these teens can feel accepted being themselves.

Another organization addressing this issue is called Born This Way. It was started by Lady Gaga and her organization works with teens and society so all teens feel accepted for who they are just the way they were born. Lady Gaga explains the mission of her foundation this way, “Safety, skills, and opportunity. Number one, I want everyone to feel safe in their community: school, home, whatever city you live in. Two: developing the skills that are needed to be a loving, accepting, and tolerant person, and to also inject that sentiment into all the people around you, being a supportive human being. And the third is opportunity. I believe once you feel safe in your environment and you acquire the skills to be a loving and accepting person, the opportunities for you are endless to become a great functioning human in society.”

For people who do better by hearing something or seeing it, I have included a link to a YouTube video where Lady Gaga explains Born This Way, https://youtu.be/

The concept really is very simple. Why can’t we accept children and teenagers just the way they were born. Every person is unique and everyone has talents to contribute to the world. So why do we pressure boys into the stereotype the must have big muscles and play sports to be a man? Why do we tell girls that boys are smarter and if someone touches them in a way they do not like it is their fault because of the clothes they are wearing. This is insane!

If we do away with the stereotypes and focus on teenagers liking their own personalities and bodies, we would have less cutting, suicide and drug use. We would also have many more teenagers who are happy and successful at life. Being happy is a successful life not a big bank account. Therefore, let’s get started on helping teens. We need people to support more organizations like the ones I named above. If we do we can eliminate the stereotypes and stigma of not fitting a stereotype. We also need to make psychotherapy more accessible to all teenagers and remove the negative stigma associated with mental health care. Now some people may think what I am proposing is impossible and just a dream. However, you are seeing more groups like the ones I mentioned open every year. We are seeing teenagers and parents being attracted to them. It is possible to improve the lives of children and teenagers. It may need to start with a dream. Dreams do come true look at what Walt Disney created with his dream.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience working with children and teenagers. He is on the nations advisory board for Alive and Free. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Laws Creating Isolated, Ashamed and Embarrassed Kids

Laws Creating Isolated, Ashamed and Embarrassed Kids

We live in a competitive world and for children to be able to succeed or feel good about themselves they need to have healthy self-esteem. With the competition between kids regarding the kids they are getting or clothes they are wearing this can be difficult. Some kids have learning disabilities and their families cannot afford tutors. Additionally, since inflation is rising many families can barely afford rent, they definitely don’t have extra money the name brand clothes.

Now our government has found a way to make it even harder for children to grow up with healthy self-esteem. In fact, due to many new state laws, we are more likely to create children who tend to isolate and feel embarrassed and ashamed of themselves and families. This is very serious because these kids will be more likely to use drugs, become sexually active at an early age and be less likely to graduate from high school according to our research on children.

What are these new laws? Many States, such as Florida, have passed laws where teachers cannot say anything that relates to homosexuality or transgender issues to children in elementary schools. These misguided states believe that second grade teachers are teaching second grade students about being homosexual or transgender. The idea is crazy because teachers do not teach children about being heterosexual or sexuality in the second grade. They are too young and not ready for these subjects yet.

However, many children may be being raised by homosexual parents or parents who are transgender or transsexual. Based on these new laws many teachers worry how do they acknowledge the family situation that a child is living in. These laws don’t allow teachers to acknowledge different family situations.

Therefore, if you are a second grader and you cannot mention anything about your parents because they are homosexual or transgender or transsexual, how would that make you feel? Most likely it would make you feel like there is something wrong with your parents and thereby make you feel like there is something wrong with you. If there was nothing wrong with you, you would be able to talk about yourself and your family in class like other kids who have heterosexual parents. However, the new laws prevent the students or teachers from discussing families where the parents were homosexual or transsexual. Many teachers were very upset by this restriction because they were concerned about how it would make the children feel about themselves.

Also what if you were in 3rd or 4th grade and you were nothing that you were homosexual or bisexual. Many children are aware of their sexual feelings at this age. I have worked with many gay and bisexual teenagers who can report noticing their sexual feelings as young as 3rd grade. However, if you are a 3rd grader noticing these feelings what do you do? Because of society stereotypes most children are already struggling with these feelings, but now we add a law that you cannot discuss these feelings and it’s wrong to talk about. All we have done is to make that 3rd grader feel even more uncomfortable and increasing the feelings they have that they must be quiet because there is something wrong with them.

We need to think before we enact new laws. No child chooses to be gay or transsexual especially with the bias and harassment they have to face by society and even from their families. If we look at the research, sexuality is a biological issue. For some people it may be a choice, but overall for most people it is in their genes it is not a choice. These laws that were recently passed will only end up creating children who are ashamed and embarrassed about themselves and feel like they need to isolate. Additionally, the suicide rate for LGBTQ+ kids is extremely high. These laws will only serve to increase the suicide rate. Instead of passing laws which separate us from each other, we need a culture which unites us. We are all people and we all deserve to be treated with dignity regardless of race, creed, sexuality or economic status. The United States Constitution states that we are all created equally. Maybe we may want to try living our lives that way.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work and private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

The Prom in Today’s World

The Prom in Today’s World

Yes it is that time of year again — Prom Season. Since there has been a significant decrease in Coronavirus cases, many schools are having Junior Proms and Senior Balls again. However, there is a difference in the junior or seniors currently in High School. Many are not sure about attending the dances due to the fact that the pandemic has not ended yet and some are worrying about being able to afford the prom. However for those students who are deciding to go the common issues are coming up such as, who will I go with, what dress to wear and how much can I spend, where to go to dinner, can we afford a limo and can I go to the after parties? Hopefully, you and your teen have already discussed issues around dating and have agreements regarding dating. If not, Prom may be a harder issue because now you have to deal with issues regarding dating and Prom.

As a parent, the first thing to do is to contact your teen’s High School and see what rules and guidelines the school has already established. Many High Schools have rules regarding who can attend, such as only students of that high school can attend, a dress code (such as how low cut a dress can be or colors for tuxedos) and some high schools require you to inform them if you are going and your date’s name and the telephone numbers for both set of parents. They do this so if your teen fails to arrive by the designated time or if there are any problems at the Prom, they know who to call. If you have a teenager who wants to go without a date and just go with friends you need to ask if this is acceptable. If you have a teenager who belongs to the LGBT+ community, you will want to enquirer about what protocols the school has established so your teenager can attend the dance safety and enjoy it.

Another reason to contact the school is to find out where the Prom is being held. Due to the number deaths associated with alcohol or drug use, and now with the concern about the virus, a number of high schools have decided to have the entire Prom on the school campus. They serve dinner and have the dance at the school. Once you have the details then it is time to discuss with your teen what your expectations are regarding the Prom. This is also the time where you will set the rules for the Prom and make your agreements with your teen.

Assuming the Prom is not being held at the campus and instead being held at a Hotel, there are a few items to discuss. The first issue is price. Most teens want to go to an expensive dinner, hire a limo for the night and for the girls there is the Prom dress. I have seen teens spend over $2,000 on their Prom dresses. A limo for the night can cost $2000 and dinner can cost $350. If you have this money and are willing to indulge your teen then there is no problem. However, most parents don’t have this extra money so you need to agree on a budget. For example, a limo is not a necessity for the Prom. As a parent you may feel safer with a limo because your teen is not driving. Also there is a law and limos cannot carry liquor when they are driving for Proms and they must card anyone consuming alcohol in the limo and passengers must use seat belts. You can bring the price down by having your teen split the cost of the car with 2 to 3 other couples. However, you will want to talk to the parents of your teen’s date and any friends they are going with to ensure all the parents agree.

Another option is letting your teenager pay for part of their prom. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to contribute to the cost of their prom. In fact, it is a good way to educate them about money. If they are having to spend their own money, they may choose some cheaper options. This is a good way to start teaching your teen about managing money. You can have your teen purchase the prom tickets, pay for the dinner, girls can pay for part of their dress and boys can pay to rent a tuxedo and for a corsage for their date. As a parent you may want to help with the limo, if they are using one, and the Prom pictures. Some teenagers may need some help budgeting money and parents can help teens with figuring out ways to budget and less expensive options for some items. For example, parents can suggest a very nice restaurant that is not very expensive.

If you have a daughter you need to negotiate the cost of the dress or consider renting a dress. In my opinion she does not need to spend $500 on a dress or more to look good. The same rule goes for her hair. She does not need to spend $300 on styling her hair for one night. She can rent a dress and there are beauticians who do not charge as much but still do an excellent job.

You also need to talk with your teen regarding your expectations about consuming alcohol, using drugs and sexual activity on Prom night. Many teens plan After Parties for their Proms. Quite often at the After Parties is where the drinking, drug use or sexual activity occurs. This is another reason why it is important to know who your teen will be going with to the Prom and their parents. You should never allow your teen to go to an After Party where there is no adult supervision. If the party is at a friend’s house with adult supervision and you have spoken with the adult, there should be no problem. If your teen wants to rent a hotel room so their date and their friends can have a party, this is a huge problem and should not be allowed. There are too many incidents where teens overdose, drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, get pregnant or trash the hotel room. Most hotels will not rent a room to someone under 18, but many teens find away around this rule using friends or cousins who are 18 years or older. Also some parents will rent the room for their teen because they want to be viewed as the nice parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest and some times you need to make an unpopular decision because that is what is best for your teenager. This is also a reason why you would want to talk to the parents of the friends your teenager is going to the Prom with. You may want to ask if any of the parents agreed to rent a hotel room.

Another issue to discuss is curfew. Yes it is their Prom and you want them to have a good time, but there is no reason why they need to stay out the entire night or for the entire weekend. If there is adult supervision the entire time it may work. If there is not adult supervision it is a recipe for disaster. Yes some parents plan a breakfast for the morning after the prom. They may serve breakfast at 4 am. If there are plans such as these, your teen could simply text you at some point that everything is going fine. No one needs to know that they checked in with you.

One other issue you need to be prepared for is if your teen does not have a date for the Prom. This can be devastating to a teenager. If this occurs reassure them that it means nothing about them as a person and allow them to express their feelings. Many schools are realizing how much pressure having a date is placing on teenagers and some teens are not ready to date in High School. Therefore, a number of High Schools have changed policies regarding the Prom. Many schools allow teens to make a choice. If they want to take a date they can or if they do not want to take a date and just go with friends that is fine. So if your teen does not have a date and the school does not require one explain not everyone is ready to date in High School and there is nothing wrong with them. Reinforcing their self-esteem can be very important because as a teen many teenager’s self-esteem are fragile and they need your support.

As I stated above for teenagers who are questioning their sexuality or who have decided they are not heterosexual, the prom can present additional challenges. Some High Schools have LGBT+ clubs so there probably won’t be an issue. However, many high schools do not have LGBT+ clubs. If your teenager has decided they are not heterosexual, then I suggest you call the High School and see what arrangements have been made for LGBT+ students. They have the same right to attend the Prom as the other students.

Finally, you need to have a discussion with your teen regarding acting responsibly and to have self-respect. The Prom is a major event and it is another step that your teen is taking into the adult world. They need to remember if they want to act like adults, they have to be willing to accept being treated like an adult. So if they violate the rules that their school has established for the Prom, they may be giving up their right to graduate with their class. The Prom should be a happy event that you and your teen both remember for a long time. If you discuss the issues before the Prom and come to agreements that you both accept then it should be a safe, happy event for all. Good luck!

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teenagers, their parents and high schools. He has been treating teenagers for over 25 years. For more information on his work visit his website www.rubinocounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Teaching Teenagers to Respect Everyone

Teaching Teenagers to Respect Everyone

In past years there have been debates between people saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. The United States has people from various ethnic backgrounds and religions living in our Country. There are also many people who have no religious beliefs. Our Country is suppose to be the “great melting pot.” Therefore, we are suppose to all live together peacefully and respectfully together.

Unfortunately, it does not appear we are living up to the goal of being the “great melting pot.” We have people who are singling out certain nationalities and trying to prevent them from immigrating to the United States. We have also seen a 57% increase in crimes against people of Jewish decent. For example, last year the largest amount of Jewish people in the United States where killed at one time as they were worshiping in their Temple. This type of violence has not occurred for decades, but it is back. Freedom of religion is one of the core beliefs of the United States. However, it does appear that core belief is eroding and possibly disappearing.

In addition to increase discrimination towards ethnicities and religions, there is an increase in the discrimination towards people who are homosexual or identify as anything other than heterosexual. The United States Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These are the beliefs that our Country is based on and what our Country represents. It states “all men” not just Caucasian people, not just Christian people and not just people who are heterosexual.

The Declaration of Independence and Constitution assume that we may have differences in our cultures or religious beliefs, but that we can all live together peacefully and respect one another. Unfortunately, when we see a 57% rise in hate crimes towards people who are Jewish, and an increase in crimes against Asian Americans, we are not living together peacefully or respectfully.

This brings me to the debate between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I am a proud Italian, Catholic, American, however, my family taught me to respect people regardless of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Therefore, I always wish people Happy Holidays. In the United States during this time of year we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa (I am sure there are some religious celebrations I missed) and New Years. If I am going to be respectful, Happy Holidays is the most appropriate saying not Merry Christmas. Some one may not be Christian and they may have no religious beliefs at all. However, most likely they celebrate Thanksgiving and New Years. Happy Holidays covers this without imposing my beliefs on someone else. Everyone who is Christian think about this point, what if you were not allowed to say Merry Christmas or if the entire Country acted like Christmas did not exist? How would that make you feel? You probably would not like it.

Therefore, I think we need to return to our roots: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a very powerful statement and in order to honor it we must respect all cultures, religions and sexual orientations. This statement is what makes the United States so different from every other country in the world. If we are going to honor our Country then Happy Holidays is the appropriate greeting during this time of year not Merry Christmas. If you are Christian it is appropriate to say in your home and at your Church not at work or out in public.

We also need to look at the amount of violence that is occurring in our Country. Besides fire drills at schools, now children are having to do mass shooting drills. Schools are actually practicing and teaching first and second graders what they need to do if there is a mass shooting at their school. Many children are frightened by these drills. They do not know if they are practice or real and they are afraid that they will be killed at school. There are a number of reasons why we have these mass killings, but the lack of respect we show to each other cannot be helping the situation. Therefore, out of respect for everyone when you are in public try using Happy Holidays. When you are at home or among family and friends use the greeting that works for your family.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.