Accepting one’s homosexuality is the next important step after realizing it. Self-acceptance is often difficult, because it involves overcoming the internalized negative and homopho­bic societal view of homosexuality. When individuals belong to a socially stigmatized group, self-acceptance becomes a dif­ficult but essential challenge (Ryan & Futterman, 2001).

Coming out can be especially problematic for teenagers. Most gay and lesbian teens experience confusion about their feelings and have few places to go for support and guidance. At a stage of development when a sense of belonging to their peer group is especially important, almost half of gay and les­bian teens lost at least one friend after they came out (Ryan & Futterman, 1997). Especially if they exhibit gender nonconfor – | mity, they may encounter considerable hostility, bullying, and g rejection that can negatively affect psychological well-being g (Rieger & Savin-Williams, 2011). Prompted by media reports ^ of teen suicides from bullying, sex columnist Dan Savage I launched the “It Gets Better" project on YouTube in 2010. The & project shows LGBT adults telling their personal stories about the president of a high school Gay Straight alliance holds a overcoming stigma during their lives.

badge she wears at a White House LBGT Conference on Safe Judgment from their own families is another source of

Schools and Communities in 2012. stress for people who come out. Some parents throw their gay

children out of the house or stop providing support for their education. A study of 60,000 high school students in Massachusetts found that 25% of gay and lesbian students were homeless, compared to 3% of heterosexual students (Lazar, 2011). In addition, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who experienced fam­ily rejection during their adolescence due to their sexual orientation were over eight times more likely to have attempted suicide, almost six times more likely to report high levels of depression, and over three times more likely to have used illegal drugs and to have engaged in unprotected intercourse compared to peers who experienced little or no family rejection (Ryan et al., 2009). Conversely, research has found that a positive reac­tion from the mother to the youth’s coming out serves as a significant protective factor (Padilla et al., 2010).

chapter 9

Despite the discrimination that homosexual adolescents face, many of them can cope effectively and develop an integrated and positive identity (Savin-Williams, 2005). Sexual orientation itself is not correlated to poor psychological well-being of high school students (Rieger & Savin-Williams, 2011). It is helpful for gay and lesbian adolescents to find at least one supportive, nonjudgmental adult with whom to talk. The Internet provides teens with sexual health education and connections to others to help reduce their isolation (Mustanski et al., 2011). Support groups and gay teen organizations are emerging to help teens deal with the difficulties they face. More than 3,600 high schools sponsor gay-straight alliances to foster accep­tance of sexual minority students (Setoodeh, 2008). The first accredited public high school for gay students, Harvey Milk School, in New York City, opened its doors in fall 2003 to provide students with a safe and supportive learning environment (Henneman, 2003).