Gay Okay? 3 Helpful Responses When a Student Says they’re Gay

If you have a trusting relationship with your students, eventually one of them will confess to you, “I’m gay.” How you respond in that moment is going to determine what future role you are going to play in their life. Here are a few helpful ways to respond.

1. Listen compassionately, seeking to understand without panic or judgement

The main skill required to help teens is active, non-critical, empathetic listening. A student who has grown up in the church may be gauging your reaction to their “coming out.” If you are calm and help them to share why they think that they may be gay without judgement the more they may be willing to open up to you about their thought process.

As I shared in a previous post, What to say to a student about same sex attraction, sexual identity takes time to grow. Telling a student that they are not gay, or reacting against what they have shared with you is not helpful in the long term.

2. Demonstrate Patience and Willingness to Journey with the Student

What the student is really asking you is, “will you still love me if I am gay?” Your non-critical acceptance will determine whether or not you will be able to walk with them down this road of sexual identity development or someone from the LGBT community will help them out.

As the Washington Post reports, the CDC found, less than 2 in 100 adults will self- identify as gay later in life. So this may be a phase in their development that most will grow out of. Some may struggle with bi-sexuality during this time as their sexual identity forms. Your patience and willingness to continue the discussion will have an impact on how open they will be to the bible, the Christian community, and to God.

3.Guarantee Confidentiality and Unconditional Love while Holding your Stance

A big concern for a student is that you are going to go straight to their parents with this big news. Unless the student is sexually active, same sex attraction may not be something you want to go to their parents with immediately.

Eventually a student should share with their parents that they are same sex attracted but it would be best to evaluate the student’s certainty of their orientation and the parents’ ability to help in the situation rather than drive their child away.

Along the journey with this student always express unconditional love. Always take their concerns seriously. Never make fun. Always be sensitive to their gender issues and questions about sexuality.

At the same time you can continue to take a strong stand that God wants to protect us from all sexual activity before marriage. Gay or straight, students need to also shun images or videos of sexuality.

If they have been around you at all, the student already knows your stance of homosexual relationships. They may want to change that but changing that is not going to help them. Dishonesty about what you believe is not going to help the student or the other students that you work with.

There’s so Much More to Know

Clearly, this is just the quickest introduction to this topic. There is so much more we all need to know to work with a student is same sex attracted, or has gender confusion. Things like: when to have the student talk with parents? When should we refer a student to a counselor? When is this causing a student emotional health issues like depression or suicidal thoughts?  It is worth learning more about all of these things.

More than anything else it is essential the student is assured of your unconditional love regardless of their thoughts, or actions..

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Ron Powell

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Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com