The “Normalization” of Homosexual Experimentation
About the Guest
Do teens feel pressure to experiment sexually? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Richard and Dee Dee Stephens and some of their Teen Advisors about the growing issue of homosexuality and other sexual experimentation in today's high schools.
Do teens feel pressure to experiment sexually?
The “Normalization” of Homosexual Experimentation
Bob: Over the last several years, as homosexuality has become more and more normalized in our culture, a confusing message has been drifting down to high school students. Is this something to consider? To experiment with? How can I know if maybe I'm gay?
Liz: From what I'm hearing, it's not only accepted by a large population of high school students, but in some social groups it's even considered kind of exotic, like the way – I remember, we had a kid who was a foreign exchange student, and we just thought this kid was neat, because he had all these stories to tell and all this – he was so different from us, and I think that's the way some groups of friends are experiencing friends that they have who are homosexual – they're thinking, "Oh, this person is so different from us. This is fascinating, and let's watch him and be intrigued by him."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, 19th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk to some teenagers today about what high school students are thinking when it comes to homosexuality. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I remember a while back, Katie Couric did a prime time special – did you see this where she got a bunch of teenagers together, and she wanted to know what's life really like as a teenager today? And it was Katie and, I don't know, 20 or 30 teenagers, and they kind of pulled back the curtain and said, "Here's what's going on with the teenage culture today."
And we had a chance to do something very similar not long ago when we had three young people join us who are part of an organization in Columbus, Georgia, called "Teen Advisors." When I say they're part of an organization, they're just young people who have wanted to have a positive influence on their peers and wanted to stand for something in their high school environment.
Dennis: Yes, it's led by Richard and DeeDee Stephens, and Richard and DeeDee are not just a pair of parents who care about the future of young people, but, in my opinion, they're heroic parents who have stepped out of their comfort zone and formed an organization called "Teen Advisors" where they get teenagers together and form mentoring relationships of older teens or, in this case, as we sit down with a panel of teens, they were all in college, and they're connected with teenagers in high school and really help mentor them and coach them and encourage them through the traps of the teenage years.
Bob: We sat down with Richard and DeeDee and talked about the Teen Advisors program, and we also had the chance to talk with Liz and Kristin and Andy, three college students who got involved in Teen Advisors when they were still in high school and are still available today to interact with some of their younger peers. They still get involved in mentoring some of these high school students, and one of the issues that we talked with them about that I think some parents may be surprised about is the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism. It has become so common in the culture today that a lot of young people are growing up questioning their sexuality and wondering, "I wonder if maybe I'm gay?"
Dennis: You know, Bob, more than any generation that has ever grown up in America, today's teenagers don't just have a choice of being immoral with the opposite sex, they also have a choice of sexually experimenting with the same sex. And I think that's being encouraged by Hollywood, magazines, the Internet, and a lot of peers at school. And if I was a parent today, this was the conversation, this panel, with these three college-age young people would have been the discussion that I would like to have first heard as a parent, then, secondly, had my teenager here with me and then let us interact together as parent and child.
Bob: And, obviously, some of this conversation may not be appropriate for younger listeners. Moms and dads will want to make that decision on their own, but I think moms and dads need to be paying attention because this is what life looks like today in high school.
DeeDee: Another issue huge on the rise in high school is homosexuality and the acceptance of that. We just had this "Why Wait for Sex" training session. It's a two-day thing and probably 60 kids filtered through it, and we started talking about homosexuality in the high school – how the acceptance level of that, how many of them have friends involved in it. I was very shocked and surprised by the response how prevalent it is, how accepted it is, now confused these Christian Teen Advisors were about what they're supposed to say about that. They're not very educated about what to say back and what their response should be.
But in those two days, three of our Teen Advisors came and asked to speak to me separately, because they were struggling with those feelings themselves.
Dennis: You know, becoming a teenager is a time of emerging sexual identity and hammering out, becoming a young lady or a young man, and you think about the homosexual movement today and what's occurring on the major networks in terms of making it acceptable, seemingly like it being the cool thing. It's understandable how, among young people today, they begin to experiment.
Now, in terms of it being prevalent, which of you three wants to comment on how prevalent it is in junior high and high school concerning either sexual experimentation or just even discussion with young people. Kristin?
Kristin: I didn't really have a lot of experience in talking with people about it, but I just remember two girls on my cheerleading squad were bisexual. You know, a guy I knew from elementary school and then in high school, I figured out that he was bisexual and just kind of popping up everywhere, and you just hear about it a lot.
Bob: What goes through your mind when you hear two girls on the cheerleading squad and somehow you hear that not only have they had sex with boys, with boyfriends, but they've experimented with sex with girls. What do you think is happening there? What goes on in your mind?
Kristin: I guess when I went through high school I was kind of naïve, and when some of these things started popping up as really surprising to me to hear all of this, and, I don't know, I just took it and thought, "Well, I guess that's how it is. I guess that's what's going on."
Bob: Did you think that's how they are? That's how they were made?
Kristin: It feels more like they were just trying stuff out. They didn't really know what they were doing. They were just confused and …
DeeDee: On this day, two girls came. They were sophomores in high school; they were 15. They asked to just speak to me, and they said, "You know, we were just really, really good friends, and we do everything together, we talk, and we share everything, we really love each other. Do you think we're homosexual?"
And it was so sad to me because I've raised daughters. They were just best friends; that's all they were. They were two girls who were best friends and sharing their lives together and cared about each other, and because of what they're seeing now on television, where they went with that was thinking, "Well, maybe we're homosexual."
Dennis: In some cases, the public school will even be promotional about the subject of homosexuality, and here you have young people who are so insecure, who haven't fully emerged into adulthood.
Bob: They're confused.
Dennis: They are, they're like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon, okay? And they're going to come out okay. But, all of a sudden, as that caterpillar is struggling to come out as a butterfly, in the midst of that it's pounded with messages and images and acceptability of same-sex relationships. Now, all of a sudden, you've taken a very innocent struggle with sexual identity, you've sexualized relationships where the average parent is at home, and they watch their teenager come in the door, they never even think to protect their child against homosexuality. They've thought about protecting their child from sexually transmitted diseases, how far to go with the opposite sex, but, I'm telling you, one of the major battlefronts parents must prepare their children to think correctly about is this area of homosexuality including what you just said very quickly – but how to answer the questions.
Liz: Honestly, in my high school – it wasn't that way when we were there, I don't think, as much. But from what I'm hearing, it's not only accepted by a large population of high school students, but in some circles or in some social groups, it's even considered kind of exotic, like, the way – I remember, we had a kid who was a foreign exchange student, and we just thought this kid was neat, because he had all these stories to tell and all this – he was so different from us, and I think that's the way some groups of friends are experiencing friends that they have who are homosexual – they're thinking, "Oh, this person is so different from us. This is fascinating, and let's watch him and be intrigued by him."
Bob: Do you think it is – is it more prevalent that kids would consider themselves to be homosexuals or lesbians or bisexual, as you mentioned? Do you think kids are struggling with their sexuality, and they go, "Gee, sometimes I have feelings for guys, and sometimes I have feelings for girls. I wonder if I'm a bisexual?"
Andy: I think that's the case a lot of the times, yeah, because you'd be more accepted if you're …
Bob: … if you're bisexual …
Andy: … if you're bisexual than if you were strictly a homosexual. You know, you'd be more accepted.
Kristin: It does seem like you're more accepted to be bisexual than homosexual. I think, like Liz said, it's almost like fascinating to watch and be friends with these kind of people to see, you know, because it's kind of weird to them, and they're curious and everything, and I think that it is like it's more …
Liz: … exotic?
Kristin: Yeah, exotic, or something kind of cool.
Liz: It's just something you've never seen before. You've never experienced this before, you've never experienced being friends with someone who is homosexual before, so it's like, you look at it, and you're kind of, like, wow. And you don't know what to think about it because you've never had anybody talk to you about it. You've never heard anything about it.
Bob: Well, you know, the dominant message in the culture is if you have feelings for someone, the natural progression is to take those feelings and sexualize them, right?
Liz: I think that sometimes high school students, because they're not getting what they need at home and because they're not really getting what they need from their groups of friends, really want some kind of intimacy with someone as a friend, like two girls or two guys, and they get that confused with a sexual relationship. They don't understand that that's okay, that kind of friendship, that close friendship with intimacy where they share a lot and spend time together is not necessarily homosexual, it's just a friendship.
Andy: Liz hit on something that I think is very important – that a lot of times you don't know how to take it if you find out somebody is homosexual. You don't know what to say, you don't know what to do around them, and I think that the reason is because it's not being taught to young people how to deal with people that you know that are homosexual.
Bob: So what would you say?
Andy: Well, I think it's vital that parents realize that homosexuality is a very – it's a big issue. I mean, it's become just as prevalent as doing drugs is, and parents will sit down and talk with their kids about doing drugs, but not about how to deal with a friend of yours that's a homosexual.
Dennis: I wanted to ask you, DeeDee, you've trained these Teen Advisors to be positive in their peer pressure on their younger peers, how are you training them to deal with this subject of homosexuality?
DeeDee: When our Teen Advisors are talking about waiting for sex until marriage with members of the opposite sex and why they believe that they should wait. To me, it's the same reasons when you're talking about homosexuality. So they don't hate and despise their friends who are having sex with their boyfriends. They don't agree with what they're doing. Given the opportunity, they will share with them about why that is wrong and how that could hurt them not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. That's the way I hoped they would respond to a homosexual.
Liz: I think that one of the most beautiful things to me about Teen Advisors is that the way we approach people who haven't decided the same things that we do is with acceptance. Like, we have all signed a contract, and we have all made certain decisions that are important to us, but while we don't accept the actions of the people as okay, we don't condemn them for it. We just want to love them and show them that there is more for them than the life that they're leading.
Andy: I think a lot of time, we, as Teen Advisors, do put a lot of responsibility on ourselves for, like, giving advice and telling people, "This is what to do and this is what not to do." But I think if I were in that situation that I would just, "Okay, let's talk about it. Let's just talk about what's going on and why you're feeling the way you do." Like, be open to listen to them, because I think that's what a lot of kids just want to have is somebody that just cares about them.
Dennis: Sometimes a teenager will say something just for the shock factor.
Andy: Right, yes, just to get you to listen.
Dennis: And they're not really serious, they just want to see what you say, and if you somehow can keep from overreacting and just, as you said, Liz, love them, and as you said, Andy, listen to them, I think that's a great response. And then after you've loved and listened to them for a while, go ahead and maybe talk to them about sexual immorality, that there are standards, and that this is a behavior that is not in your own best interest.
DeeDee: Another advantage to empowering older students to work with younger students is that younger students will come to their peers quicker with those kind of issues than they're going to go to their parents with. Kids are not going to go home and say, "I'm thinking about sleeping with my boyfriend" to their mom, but they'll talk to their best friend about it, probably, first, but as these kids have made themselves available, they'll go ask them what they think.
Dennis: You know, this was maddening to us, as parents. Barbara and I, as hard as we tried to be on the inside with our young people as they grew up, our six children – there were times when they just wanted to talk to a peer. And that's what makes Teen Advisors such a positive influence in the lives of these young people.
What would you say to parents who are listening right now, and they're saying, "You know what? I've got some children who either already are teenagers or soon-to-be. I like what you're talking about, and I'd like to get this started in our school," whether it be a Christian school, a private school, a public school, we'd like to get some older peers who would begin to take responsibility for younger students, to mentor them and coach them and encourage them. What would you encourage the parents to do? Where should they start?
Richard: We have a lot of resources. They could go to our website, which is TeenAdvisors.org, and we have a lot of material that we've developed over the last 19 years that is inclusive of videos, printed material, lots of how-tos, and this program really has a lot of diversity to it. There is really a lot of ways to accomplish the same thing, but we do have a lot of guidelines. We have a national staff director that can help answer questions that can help people get through the beginning of a program. If they have some problems, she can help with those. So we have a lot of resources.
DeeDee: I would like to say this – that what started in Columbus, Georgia, back in 1987, it was so simple. It was just for students that we sent into a classroom to answer questions. That's all it was. It didn't take any money, it wasn't a fancy program. Now, I would give more instruction to somebody than that, if they called to say how to do it, but it doesn't have to be a complex type of program.
Dennis: You just had four students who had been raised in homes where they'd been taught enough of the truth from Scripture so that when the kids asked the question, they had a frame of reference from the Bible to be able to answer their questions.
Richard: And a platform to do that.
DeeDee: The other thing was they cared. They really cared about those younger students. I remember when we moved from four to 12 students. It was so successful we wanted to go to other middle schools and do exactly the same thing. We needed more students to be able to do that. So I called up eight other students and asked them if they would be willing to do that, to go and speak not only about waiting for sex until marriage but also about the pressures of drugs and alcohol. And ask them if they were going to speak about that, they would need to sign some kind of contract that they committed to some things.
It made a difference to those young people that they could make a difference in other people's lives by doing that. You know, their motive for doing that wasn't that they were going to get a grade or they were going to get paid for it or that they were even going to get very big pats on the back. They were motivated to do that because they wanted to help those students that were younger than they did. It inspires me about this generation. It is a beautiful thing that as bad as the evil is out there, there is some amazing good, and these kids are so willing to give up so much to help younger students.
Bob: Well, again, we have been listening to DeeDee Stephens and her husband Richard. They head an organization called "Teen Advisors," and we've had three of those Teen Advisors joining us this week – Liz and Kristin and Andy. And I'll tell you what I've thought about – in your book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," you talk about challenging teenagers about whether they're going to be missionaries or a mission field in their high school, because they're going to be one or the other, right?
Dennis: And, Bob, I even – I kind of smirk as I think about it because I concluded my sixth grade Sunday school class with a lone chair in a room that had two doors. And we put the 11 or 12-year-old young person in the middle of the room by himself or herself, and the door on the right was the choice of the easy road, or conformity to the culture, and it was a clear path all the way to the door. All you had to do was get up out of the chair, walk through the door, and you're out of there.
The other door had about 50 chairs stacked in front of it, and the young person had to crawl and wiggle and squiggle their way through to get to the door that represented being a missionary instead of being a mission field, the door on the right.
Bob: Now, did any of those church kids pick the door on the right?
Dennis: You know, that was the thing that always got me about this – no matter how much I told them to be honest, there was always just a couple of kids who chose mission field. "I'm going to be a mission field, I'm going to be in need of somebody coming to me and telling me about Christ." And I honestly had greater hope for them, some of them, than I did for all the …
Bob: All the Sunday school answers you were getting out of the other kids.
Dennis: Yeah, well, you really wondered – are you really shooting me straight at this point? And, you know, as we've talked about a very tough subject on today's broadcast, a subject about gender issues and the temptation of homosexuality, becoming a lesbian or practicing those sins – I just think every parent needs to grasp a couple of key points. Number one, you do need to train your son or daughter to choose right and not wrong; to fear God and turn away from evil, because it's going to come at them. The temptations will be there. So, in a very real sense, they're going to have to make that choice – am I going to be a missionary or a mission field?
A second thing that I think is equally as important as we give our kids standards is train them to know how to love other young people who are broken and, you know, there are going to be those classmates that they go through high school with who are going to fall into sin, and it may be sin with the opposite sex, it may be sin with the same sex, but as a Christian community, we must be known by our love. Jesus Christ redeemed us out of sin. We are all broken. There is none perfect. But if there has ever been a time when we need to go to a group of young people, teenagers, with open arms, ready to embrace them and welcome them to the grace of God, it's today, because many of them had experimented with sex, some with the opposite sex, some with those of the same sex, and they want out. They desperately want out, and our homes and our churches and our youth groups need to welcome them – welcome them away from that lifestyle of sin.
Bob: This is an issue that we have addressed before on FamilyLife Today, and on our website at FamilyLife.com, we've got information about resources that are available to help parents who are wrestling with this issue. I'm thinking about the book by Anita Worthen whose son got involved in the homosexual lifestyle. She wrote a book called "Someone I Love is Gay." There are other resources that we can recommend to you if this is a specific issue, and that you're either concerned about with your son or daughter or if you know someone who might need help, we can point you in the right direction.
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the button that says "Go" on the screen, and that will take you right to a page where there is more information about help for this specific issue, resources that are available, articles that available online. And there is information about the book that you and Barbara wrote for teens a few years ago called "Parenting Today's Adolescent," that deals with a variety of issues that teenagers are facing today. Issues like sex and peer pressure and drugs and dating and media and anger and pornography – many of the issues that are right in front of our young people as traps that can grab them and pull them down.
Again, go to the website, FamilyLife.com. You'll find resources available there to help parents of teens, and if you're not yet a parent of a teenager, but you have one who is on the way, this is a good book to get and to ready before your child passes through adolescence and becomes a teenager. You want to be proactive in regard to these issues rather than waiting until they're upon you.
Again, the title of the book is "Parenting Today's Adolescent," it's one of many resources available on our website at FamilyLife.com. Again, click the "Go" button, the red "Go" button in the center of the screen for more information about these resources or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can get these resources sent to you. Again, the number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back here on Monday when we're going to talk about the critical success factors that go into a marriage and how you can spot some of those success factors before you say "I do." I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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