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Ages & Stages

Health Concerns for Gay and Lesbian Teens

Sexual activity

Most teens, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight, are not sexually active. In fact, not having sex is the only way to be completely protected against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But if you choose to have sex, make sure you know the risks and how to stay safe.

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  • Always use a condom. HIV, AIDS, and many other diseases are spread during anal, vaginal, or oral intercourse. Gay males and bisexuals must be particularly careful and should always use latex condoms to protect against these diseases. Lesbians should use latex dental dams to help avoid STIs.

  • Avoid risky sexual practices. Using alcohol and drugs before or during sex, having unknown sexual partners, or having sex in unfamiliar or public places can spread STIs and other serious health problems or lead to unwanted pregnancies.

  • See your doctor. Regular checkups are important to make sure you stay healthy. They are also a great opportunity to talk with your pediatrician about any questions or concerns you have about STIs or other health issues. If you’re more comfortable talking by phone or a video call, ask if they offer telehealth visits.

  • Make sure all of your immunizations are up-to-date. Check that you have had 3 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis B is a virus that can make you very sick. It can be spread through contact with body fluids.

Substance use

Avoid using drugs or alcohol to relieve depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Doing so can lead to addiction. Drug and alcohol use can also lead to unsafe sex.

Mental health

Isolation, rejection, ridicule, harassment, depression, and thoughts of suicide—any teen may feel these things at some time. However, gay and lesbian youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than straight teens. About 30% of those who try to kill themselves actually die.

Counseling may be helpful if you feel confused about your sexual identity. However, avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change your sexual orientation, or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness.

Discrimination and violence

Gay and lesbian youth are at high risk for becoming victims of violence. Studies have found that 30% to 70% of gay youth have experienced verbal or physical assaults in school. They also may be called names, harassed by others, or rejected by friends and family.

There are things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of violence, especially at school.

  • Talk with someone you trust. A trusted school counselor, administrator, or teacher should be told about any harassment or violence you have experienced at school. You have the right to attend a safe school that is free from discrimination, harassment, violence, and abuse.

  • Get involved in gay/straight alliances at your school (or help form one). These groups can help promote better understanding among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth, and other students and teachers.

  • Join a gay youth support group in your community.

  • Encourage your parents to join a support group.

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Last Updated
Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Teens: Facts for Teens and Their Parents (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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