Would you say that people today are feeling pressure to be gay? Peer pressure comes in all forms and, yes, everyday issues pertaining to homosexuals are in the news now more than ever before. Gay characters in movies and on television are becoming more common, and far fewer homosexuals are feeling the need to hide their identities from others.
However … “pressure” to be gay? Who exactly is feeling “pressure” to be gay? Despite their growing acceptance in mainstream culture, gay people today are still harassed, maligned, stereotyped in many ways, denied the ability to marry their partners, and are often the subject of hate and even outright violence by extremist groups and individuals. The words “gay” and “queer” are sometimes used as insults, and some people still confuse a homosexual, an adult who is attracted to another adult of the same gender, with pedophiles and child rapists.
So, again, who is feeling “pressure” to be gay, from their peers or from themselves? According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, teenagers of all people!
Note the above screen capture taken from their official site, JW.org (found here). Granted, I’m no sociologist or biologist, but I would agree that sometimes same-sex attraction can be temporary, and humans may very well have a wide range of feelings when it comes to sexuality without ultimately identifying as gay or bisexual; however, that’s not my point. My point is, who is feeling all this “pressure” to be gay? Why are we using that word and just how accurate is it, especially when it comes to teens and their feelings?
Also, why are we quoting a 16-year-old when it comes to the difficult nature of human sexuality and biology? Teens in the throes of puberty themselves are not exactly the first persons I turn to when I need mature, well-founded, well-researched, expert advice about any subject, especially sex, hormones, and science.
Who Wouldn’t Want to Be a Gay Teen Today?
Think for a minute of what it means to be a gay teen. According to an article on Live Science, “Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.” According to PFLAG NYC, the news is even worse. They state that gay teens are 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide, and:
- Are 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.
- LGBT youth who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence are 3 times more likely to use illegal drugs.
- Half of gay males experience a negative parental reaction when they come out and in 26% of those cases the youth was thrown out of the home.
- Studies indicate that between 25% and 50% of homeless youth are LGBT and on the streets because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBT youth are over-represented in foster care, juvenile detention, and among homeless youth.
- Nearly a fifth of students are physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth because of their gender expression.
- About two-thirds of LGBT students reported having ever been sexually harassed (e.g., sexual remarks made, being touched inappropriately) in school in the past year.
If this is how homosexual teens are treated at home and in school, why would teens feel “pressure” to be gay, either from other kids or from themselves? Why would they pressure themselves to be part of a group that is bullied, harassed, suicidal, and often the subject of violence and rejection even by their own families?
The Real Pressure Faced by Teens
The negative treatment that homosexual teens face would be reason enough for them to actually try to avoid being gay if that were possible, but remember that we’re talking about teenagers. Most teenagers want nothing more than to blend in, to be just like their peers so they’re not rejected in the least way, much less so that they’re the subject of bullying and harassment. The site Family First Aid says, “Often, teenagers do what others are doing so that they can fit in – or at least not stand out. Teens like to do what their friends are doing, and be accepted.”
In doing a bit of research, I found a 2012 article by CBS News that talked about how “digital peer pressure” was fueling the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes by teens; an article from Love to Know talked about peer pressure when it comes to drug and alcohol use, sex, driving (i.e., texting and driving), self-harm and suicide; an article on WebMD talked about drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Not one article I found said that teens are feeling “pressure” to be gay.
I also find it somewhat confounding that this sentence actually contradicts itself; they are saying that being attracted to the same sex is just a passing phase, but once a teenager feels that attraction, they will then decide to be gay and pressure themselves to stay gay, ignoring their attraction to the opposite sex once this phase is over. “Well, I found James attractive for those two weeks so that’s it, I just need to be gay for the rest of my life. Sorry Jennifer, you’re cute and all, but I need to force myself to go and live my life as a gay man even though for some reason my attraction to men has now faded.” Think about it; you “pressure” yourself to go to the gym when you’re feeling lazy or “pressure” yourself to go to work when you’d rather not, but how or why would you “pressure” yourself to be gay when that phase is over and you now feel attracted to the opposite sex?
Dishonesty is Needed to Prove a Point
If there are no official reports or statistics to show that teens feel “pressure” to be gay, and so much information available about how difficult it must be for teens who are gay, why is this statement on the website of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Like many fundamentalist Christian religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that homosexual acts are sinful and, in their religion, they are cause for disfellowshipping (excommunication). Their message against homosexuality is one thing; a religion is allowed to say that homosexual acts, masturbation, fornication, divorce, birth control, or anything else is “sinful” if that’s their beliefs.
However, calling something sinful is one thing; saying that people and especially teens are feeling “pressure” to be gay just smacks of outright dishonesty. This dishonesty is then being used to support their belief that a person can choose to simply ignore their sexuality, as the article goes on to state:
“The fact is, millions of heterosexuals who wish to conform to the Bible’s standards employ self-control despite any temptations they might face. Those with homosexual inclinations can do the same if they truly want to please God.”
This statement is obscenely shortsighted; a heterosexual person can fulfill their need for sexual expression within a marriage, according to the standards of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Homosexual acts are sinful, period. Even if homosexual marriages are legalized by the government, homosexual acts will get you expelled from their religion. A heterosexual person would simply need to exercise “self-control” until they get married, whereas a heterosexual person needs to deny their sexuality altogether, for the rest of their life.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, they can do this if they would just understand that their same-sex attraction is probably a passing phase anyway, and they shouldn’t be so quick to give in to all that “pressure.” You know, all that pressure from the parents who kick them out in the streets when they come out as gay, the pressure from those kids who beat them up after school or in the locker rooms, the pressure from all those extremist groups blaming them for breaking up marriages and those calling them pedophiles, the pressure of their suicidal tendencies and depression when they see the gross lack of support and outright rejection they get from friends and family … that pressure.
The stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses when it comes to homosexuality is not my concern; it is not my religion any longer so they don’t dictate my beliefs, opinions, or friendships. However, their somewhat sly dishonesty with this statement is my concern. It’s insulting to teenagers, to the homosexual community at large, and to anyone who is looking for honesty from their religion. To imply that there is any type of “pressure” to be gay, especially for a teen, overlooks all the horrific treatment they actually go through, and dismisses their mindset and their nature. It teaches their followers to do the same and, in turn, they too victimize teens who really do struggle with their sexuality or who know they’re gay. Their sexuality is dismissed as hormonal changes and something they’re simply forcing upon themselves, and something that will be “outgrown” just as easily.
It also teaches them that apparently it’s okay to make up statements in order to support your own opinions, and I’m not sure which one bothers me more.
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