By: Artessa Lianna
Tommy is a 14-year-old teen, struggling with his identity and sexual orientation. He is a patient at a local primary care clinic. Recently, he was seen by his doctor and expressed concerns around exploring his sexuality. Tommy also shared with his doctor that he is interested in talking with his parents about this, but isn’t sure what their reaction will be. Tommy’s doctor provides him with resources about sexuality, identity development, and tips for discussing these topics with parents.
Tommy has recently come out to his close friends as gay and they have been extremely supportive. This, however, was not the case with his father. Tommy grew up in a household as the youngest of four children, and only son. The hours leading up to their conversation were filled with nerves, anxiety, and fear. Tommy was anxious that his dad would be angry and ashamed. Tommy also feared his dad would not love him if he knew he was gay.
During their conversation, Tommy’s dad asks him about sex. He asks Tommy if he has a boyfriend, or has had any sexual partners. Tommy nervously shares with his dad, that he has indeed had more than one sexual partner, and has not always used protection. In fact, Tommy shared that he contracted an STD and doesn’t know what to do about it. Tommy’s dad becomes enraged, sharing that he is ashamed of his son, and grounded him for weeks. Tommy’s dad tells his son he doesn’t want to talk with him about this ever again, and to keep his sexual life private. Tommy and his dad have always been very close but since his disclosure, Tommy has noticed a significant difference in their relationship. Tommy believes that the way his dad responded can be attributed to his dad’s lack of understanding on what it means to be gay. As Tommy would say, “My dad has never been around gay people and I worry he won’t ever accept me.”
- Here are some questions for you to consider:
- Given that the research encourages parents and teens to have open, honest and healthy dialogues about sex, how could Tommy’s dad have approached this situation and conversation with his son differently? Was there anything his dad said that could have been reframed or said in a more supportive and empathetic way? Knowing that Tommy is exploring his sexuality and identity, what is something that a parent could say to him that might make him feel safe and comfortable being open and honest?
- Tommy explained that he did not know what to do about the STD he contracted. If a teen has contracted an STD, what are the safe and healthy options for addressing this and receiving adequate treatment?