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Ask The Expert: I Think My Teen Nephew is Gay. How Do I Help?

Dear Your Teen:

My teen nephew seems like he might be gay, although I am not sure he knows it. His parents are religious people and homosexuality is against their beliefs. Do I broach the topic with him? He’s going into his senior year in high school and plans to go to college far away from home.

I love my nephew and I just want him to be happy and comfortable with himself. I’m just not sure how or whether to broach the subject. To tell him we all love him no matter what sexual orientation he has. To tell him that he can live his life as he chooses. What should I do? How should I talk to my potentially gay nephew?

EXPERT | Henry Ng, M.D.

How do you know your teen nephew is gay?  If he has not disclosed his attractions or feelings, it may still be premature to assume his sexual orientation. However, you can demonstrate your support and love for him in a number of ways.

My Nephew Might Be Gay: Being Supportive Without Being Invasive

You can use language inclusive of LGBT people in common dialogue—privately asking about his “dating or relationship” as opposed assuming “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” You can also create an open atmosphere to discuss recent events relevant to LGBT people—the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 or LGBT Pride festivals and events during the month of June. You may even consider bringing up more emotionally charged topics. Mention organizations like Exodus International, a faith-based organization which previously recommended reparative therapy. They have changed their position on reparative therapy for homosexuality and has apologized to the LGBT community for the harm it has done. Most of all, you can leave the door open so that he can talk to you about anything anytime. When he is ready he will.

From studies of LGBT youth, we know that teens who do not have the support of their families tend to have worse health and mental health outcomes. It seems your nephew has the good fortune to have your support and acceptance.

Henry Ng is an Internist-Pediatrician at MetroHealth Medical Center and also serves as Clinical Director of Metro’s PRIDE Clinic, Ohio’s only medical home for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) patients. 

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