Various studies indicate that 6-11% of girls and 11-14% of boys report having experienced same-sex contact during their adolescent years (Haffner, 1993; Hass, 1979). A recent survey of more than 17,000 adolescents found that about 1 in 10 teenagers report having experienced sexual contact with same-sex partners (Pathela, 2011). Most of these contacts took place not with older adults but between peers. These data, or the behaviors they describe, do not entirely reflect later orientation. Same-sex contact with the intent of sexual arousal can be either experimental and transitory or an expression of a lifelong sexual orientation. Many gay and lesbian adolescents do not act on their sexual feelings until adulthood, and many people with heterosexual orientations have one or more early homosexual experiences.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers frequently encounter adverse societal reactions to their sexual orientation (Savage & Miller, 2011). Consequently, they may find it especially difficult to become comfortable with their developing sexuality. Unlike many other cultures in the world community, American society is not noted for embracing the fact of adolescent sexuality, even the often assumed heterosexuality of its young people. American teenagers who are at variance with the dominant heterosexual script can therefore experience a double societal rebuke of both their sexual orientation and the fact that they are sexually active.
For most gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents the process of reconciling their sexuality with the expectations of their peers and parents can be a difficult and often painful process that can create severe problems, including unusually high incidences of depression, loneliness, hostility toward others, substance abuse, and suicide attempts (DiFul – vio, 2011; Hatzenbuehler, 2011; Pathela, 2011; Russell & Toomey, 2012). Not being "part of the crowd" can be emotionally painful for teenagers, who often find themselves scorned by their peers (Poteat, 2008; see the Sex and Politics box, ‘Antigay Harass – ment/Bullying of Teenagers"). Adolescents who are suspected of being homosexual are sometimes verbally abused, bullied, sexually harassed, or physically assaulted (Poteat, 2011; Rivers & Noret, 2008). Many lesbian and gay adolescents are unable to talk openly with their parents about their sexual orientation. "Coming out," as discussed in Chapter 9, is often a complex and difficult process. Those who do reveal their same – sex orientation are sometimes emotionally (if not physically) forsaken by their families (Dempsey, 1994; Frankowski, 2004), and they may eventually leave home, voluntarily or otherwise, because their parents cannot accept their sexuality. Some gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers even experience antigay violence at the hands of family members (Saewyc et al., 2008; Safren & Heimberg, 1999). Even though parents often react with disapproval and anger when they first learn that their child is homosexual, many parents "eventually recover to the extent that they are able to maintain supportive relationships with their children" (LaSala, 2007, p. 50). Young people with a homosexual orientation often find it difficult to find confidants with whom they can share their concerns or find guidance (Espelage et al., 2008). Parents, ministers, physicians, and teachers often are unable to offer constructive help or support. In addition, a society that generally fears and rebukes same-sex orientations has traditionally provided few positive role models for gay, lesbian, or bisexual teenagers, though that has been changing in recent years with more prominent and positive gay and lesbian representation in the mass media.
It is apparent from this brief discussion that American gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents often must achieve self-acceptance of their sexual orientation within the context of powerful societal pressures not to accept and/or act on that orientation— not an enviable task. Fortunately, people in the United States have gradually become more accepting of behaviors that vary from the dominant scripts for sexual and gender behaviors. Information about homosexuality is becoming increasingly available, as