LGBT Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello,

    I'm looking for an Oakland (or nearby) therapist experienced in working with LGBTQIA teens with a history of severe anxiety, vegetative depression, disordered eating, self-harm, and school refusal. They are in the Kaiser intensive outpatient program, but they just don't have the resources to meet my kid's needs. 

    In-person would be WONDERFUL. My kid hates Zoom & will not do groups because of it. 

    Thank you

    I highly recommend you check out a therapist with a dialectic behavioral therapy background as those are great skills for addressing the root causes of the issues your teen is struggling with. Though they are zoom only right now, Caitlin Burnham is excellent, works primarily with/in the LGBTQI community, and is skilled in DBT work. She is the first therapist my teen has bonded with and they have come a long way together in the last year. You could also check out the Oakland-based Clearwater DBT clinic--they often have queer interns/staff, are very QT friendly and also do great work with kids (and parents, since that in my own experience is definitely part of the work to be done) with similar issues. Good luck.

    My kid sounds a bit like yours.  They like Kay Guyer, who is an art therapist. Kay is non-binary and young.  Which has been very helpful for getting my kid to talk in therapy. 

    Also, we are about to start a 6 week DBT session with Clearwater in Orinda.  DBT is known to be effective for self-harm.  I have given up on Kaiser's mental health program because they do not have enough resources.  kay [at]

    Hello - Our teen/family had a really positive experience with both the intensive outpatient program and the individual therapists at Bay Area Clinical Associates (BACA) in Berkeley (  They specialize in working with youth, and services are being provided in-person again.  There may be a waitlist, but they are most definitely worth a try.  Good luck!

  •  I’m looking for peer to peer support and friendship for my trans non binary lesbian child who is 18 (almost 19) years old. They are going to community college in the east bay this year and are finding it hard to find peers and friends (they were @ college in another state last year). They plan on transferring to UC Santa Cruz next fall. Wondering if there is peer to peer support or other resources for their age group out there so they can socialize. They have a significant other…they are just looking for friendship.  

    In person try The Pacific Center and/ or the Oakland LGBTQ Center  . Online try Gender Spectrum. 
    you're an awesome parent!

    We found a  program for both our daughters, (ages 13 and 18 years old.). Quetzal and Emily are both skilled and attentive group leaders who offer support to college age young women as well. I know many young women "graduate" from their group when they are done high school and continue on with their young adult offerings. It's all about friendship and a well facilitated social space for them to learn and grow in. Their website online gives more information.  Good luck with your search and to your teen!

  • Age-appropriate gay romance movies or shows

    (10 replies)

    Our young son enjoys classic "happily-ever-after" feel-good shows and movies, like those on the Disney Channel. However, since he is pretty sure he's gay, he has been searching for heartwarming romances/family movies featuring gay leads. There seem to be no end to lite high school shows with heterosexual dating and kissing, but not boy-boy couples. I'm aware of a few gay "coming of age" movies, such as "North Sea Texas," but I'm not sure he's ready for that level of pain and angst. His taste is more "Leave It to Beaver" and less "The Matthew Shepherd Story." Is there no such thing as a fluffy homosexual teen romance? Or a Hallmark Channel-style love story between men? As he matures, he will be ready for more complex content, but for now...any suggestions?

    Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan -- it is a book, but light and enjoyable. I would talk to the teen/children's librarians at the Berkeley Public Library about both books and videos.

    You don't say how young your son is, so these may or may not interest. But here are some recommendations from my teen:

    Ugly Betty- has a great character who is a pre-teen and then teen navigating his sexuality. He finally gets his boy kiss in the later seasons when it is age appropriate. The family and friends are supportive. It's pretty sweet and a totally fun show (and campy in a good way).

    Web series are much more diverse in their inclusion of LGBTQ characters. 12th grade or Whatever is pretty much all queer (my daughter says its her fav right now) and a very cool show from New Zealand called Nothing Much to Do (based on Much Ado about Nothing) has some gay boys navigating their crushes, as well as other romantic follies. Web series are great because there is a whole community watching and commenting, so you get recommendations for other series, tv, movies.

    Movies: Stardust, Get real, Priscilla- Queen of the Desert, Curiosity of Chance, Geography Club, In and Out, GBF 

    Other TV shows- Modern Family, Will and Grace, and That 70's Show

    I highly suggest that you watch a little of whatever you are going to recommend (or check out Common Sense Media reviews to assess age appropriateness, they have kid and adult opinions which I always appreciated). I've always really appreciated the opportunity to talk about where things succeeded with representation and where they failed. 

    Have fun watching!

    And P.S.- my daughter says that the glut of gay angst and tragedy is referred to as "Dead gays for the straight gaze", which I thought was pretty apt and funny. So kudos to you, mum, for wanting a little gaiety with your gay.

    Two additional possibilities: Brooklyn 99 (very funny) and Shadowhunters (the show, not the movie).

    I am a 30 something year old mom of young kids, but my guilty pleasure is "happily ever after" teen shows and movies, so I have more suggestions than I'd care to admit! 

    One of my favorite feel good family TV shows right now is The Fosters (ABC family/Netflix) which features a young (middle school?) aged gay boy. The storyline regarding his sexuality is kind of slow to develop, but in the second or third season there is a sweet little romantic plot that seems to be developing for him. And the entire show is about a family that has two awesome lesbian moms and a bunch of foster/adopted kids, so it shows a lot of positive homosexual relationships and role models.

    The other thought I had was Glee. I stopped watching after a couple of seasons because the singing got to be too much for me, but one of the main characters was gay and I seem to recall him having a cute romance with a boy from a competing glee choir at some point. 

    Good luck! 

    You might check out the movie "But I'm a Cheerleader."  Another movie option would be "Big Eden" - it's a very sweet gay romance, but unfortunately the leads are about 35 rather than teenagers. 

    The GSA Network put out this list with ratings, not sure how current it is: There are lists of youth-oriented movies on, but no indication of age-appropriateness so you'd have to review each one.  "Ready? OK?" fits your description, very cute. The public library probably does keep lists as well!

    Totally second The Fosters recommendation. My daughter and I watch it religiously. It's not light and fluffy -- but I don't associate light and fluffy with teen genre stuff, generally. It is very warm, but mostly serious.

    Over the years Degrassi has had several gay characters/romances/arcs. I'm not up to date, so can't comment on the current episodes but there's a slew of seasons. (The 80's ones didn't have much in the way of gay characters, if I recall correctly; I'm talking about the rebooted one.)

    Does he like comics? Lots of queer comics - for teens, young adults.. "Honor Girl" "Drama" ..

    And yeah, again, I guess a lot of the gay teen stuff I'm thinking of is concerned with heavyish stuff like coming out - not always fun and light. There's also the autobiographical comics by Ariel Shrag (She went to Black Pine Circle, then Berkeley High, is gay, and wrote a comic each year of high school.)

    From the 90's -- The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love was not fluffy by any stretch of the imagination, but was a romance, and not intensely painful.

    My So Called Life's Wilson Cruz was an amazing character - not light but a must see (imho!)

    If he likes sci-fi stuff.. there's Torchwood - the Doctor Who spinoff starring John Barrowman, who's a time traveling immortal bisexual, who mostly has relationships with men. Not fluffy (esp in later seasons) but the heaviness is more on the sci-fi front aliens are killing us angle than 'real life' pain.

    Lastly - Skins - the BBC version - has a number of queer characters but it is dramatic/melodramatic and more explicit than network TV here.

    Not sure if any of this will be useful, good luck. 

    You don't mention your son's age, but I recently watched a film that would probably be appropriate for middle school up (take that with a grain of salt--I wasn't thinking in terms of age appropriateness when I watched it). The Way He Looks is a Brazillian coming-of-age film about a blind teen struggling to assert his independence and navigate his first (gay) romance. Wikipedia has an uber-detailed plot summary.

    Maybe the tv show Glee? Here is a quote I found: 

    The biggest gift Glee gave the gay community was, of course, Kurt Hummel. Played with sweet charm by Chris Colfer, the fashion-forward soprano singer glided into the hearts of America in season one. He was the rare gay character that wasn't a sidekick

Archived Q&A and Reviews



13 year old daughter is Gay/needs a peer group

April 2013

Hi, My daughter, who will be 13 in one month and is in the 7th grade, just told us that she is gay. We are not surprised and totally support her. The problem is that she is in middle school where conformity rules and she goes to school in Lafayette where conformity rules. She is really lonely and would like to find other gay peers. There is not GSA at her school. If anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate it. I have called around, but there does not seem to be groups for kids her age, only for high school. Thanks for any help you can give. desperate to help my daughter

When I was a gay teenager in San Francisco circa 1980, I used to come over to Berkeley to attend ''Young Lesbian Rap'' at the Pacific Center on Telegraph. (Anybody else remember when being in a ''rap group'' meant you gathered together to talk about your feelings?) Your post prompted me to look them up on the web, and lo and behold, not only is the Pacific Center still there, but they still have youth groups, for kids starting at 13, and even a Youth Program Coordinator. Good luck -- your daughter is lucky to have a parent like you! Teresa

My daughter also came out when she was 13 (she is now 15). We weren't surprised and it was never an issue at home or at school. The difficulty was that she knew only one other out kid her age, and she felt very lonely. She watched the straight kids in her middle school ''date'', and really wanted a girlfriend. She did start going to LYRIC meetings (we live in San Francisco) and that helped, but she was the youngest kid there by a couple of years so she didn't have any dating options there, either. She was, however, welcome and felt like she was part of the group. She also took herself to the Dyke March on the Friday night of Pride Weekend, and had a great time - all of the women were excited to see this young out woman and wanted her to feel like she belonged. It was one evening, but she was pretty pumped from it.

I wish I had more to offer besides empathy, but it does get better as they get older. Our daughter is now a freshman in high school, active in the GSA at her school and a woman's group the students have organized, and is feeling secure and supported - though still single. Another Mom of a young out woman

24yo son says he might be queer or trans

Jan 2012

My son is 24. To the best of my knowledge, he has always had male and female friends, has had several girlfriends with whom he has been sexually active. Recently he informed me that he thinks he might be queer or trans. He commented that hadn't I noticed he'd been wearing leggings lately....(which he buys from a women's store). I had noticed but people dress so many different ways it meant nothing to me. He told me he has been taking androgen blockers and considering taking birth control pills. I was extremely upset, particularly over his ''self medicating'' although he assured me he is being very cautious and researching everything very carefully. I am worried that some of what he does maybe irreversible. He also has discussed having his facial hair removed. I have suggested his seeing a therapist but he isn't interested. If you met him you would be shocked since he is so ''male'', in appearance and in his interests (a sports fanatic). I don't know if he is saying all this to provoke me or if it is a phase (24 seems kind of late to come to this kind of decision), or even a political statement on his part. He has never given any previous signs of anything like this before. Has anyone ever gone through something like this with a young adult? Or have any suggestions about what, if anything, I should do. Worried mama

It sounds more like your son is transgender than gay, as he is taking steps to become more ''female.'' This is a pretty huge topic to bring up to parents, so maybe he's finally feeling ready to tell you. You can't really look at his past for answers as he may have been using those girlfriends to hide behind, and an interest in sports doesn't really determine gender. I'm pretty sure if he stops taking androgen blockers and the pill, his body will go back to its former self. Surgery is really the thing that would be hard to reverse. I would encourage your son to talk to someone, and he's probably already in some sort of network if he's using trans medication already.

You might want to ask him to tell you more about what's going on with him, letting him know you're confused but you want to support him, asking him to share some resources so you can be better informed, and seeing if he needs anything from you.

You might want to check out an organization for parents called PFLAG: There also the Gay Lesbian Bi Trans National Help Center hotline you could call if you just want to talk to someone: 1-888-843-4564 I have a trans kid who is much younger, so I don't really have resources to suggest for a parent of a young adult. I can share that it's been a hard road for me, but I love my child and am trying to do what ever I can to help and be an advocate. Mom to a trans kid

Start by calling PFLAG for advice and perspective. From your perspective, your son's feelings are new, but perhaps from his they've been going on since childhood and he didn't share them. You need some help understanding what he is feeling. Sounds like your first talk was confusing. Maybe he was nervous. Maybe he is confused himself. I agree that self-medicating is a bad idea. But I think this must be very real and serious for him if he is attempting it. Do not assume that what he has told you has anything to do with you, or a phase. That can be very hurtful for him. Tell him you accept him, and want to know more so you can be of support. Regardless of his gender, he is your child and that has not changed.

Wow this is a lot for you and your son right now. The first thing I suggest is that you get support from a therapist who specializes in gender identity. No matter whether your son ends up identifying as male/female gay/straight or somewhere in between either what he needs most now is your acceptance. Family Acceptance Project has published research saying that family acceptance of LGBT youth leads to LGBT youth leading better lives. They are also a good resource for you to get more information. It shows a lot that your son felt safe enough to disclose this to you. If you than reframe therapy to your son stating you want him to have support as he goes through whatever transition he is going through he may be more open to it. Many times LGBT people resist therapy because they feel like it pathologizes them. If he indeed identifies as a woman it is part of the Standards of Care to get some therapy to assure that the person is sound in making the decision. It is best if he gets hormones from a reliable/safe source. Lyon Martin in San Francisco works with transgender woman and prescribes hormones. Try and talk to your son about what research he has done and what he has learned. Ask him to teach you more. This will open the dialogue so that if you later work on the issue of getting hormones safely he will know that you understand where he is coming from. I do not think this is acting out or a stage at age 24. Just because his outward appearance is very male doesn't mean that resonates internally for him. Sometimes with clients I have worked with it makes it even more challenging for them. Younger people are also often less invested in a clear male/female identity so sometimes they identify somewhere in between. Your son could probably use some support in working through that. Pacific Center in Berkeley also has groups for gender non conforming and transgender people. I will attach links to the places I mentioned at the end. I do work as a therapist with gender non-conforming and/or transgender people so please feel free to contact me if you need more information. I am also attaching a link to a book Transsexualism that is how he identifies. I wish you good luck

Family Acceptance Project
Pacific Center Lyon Martin
Cathy, LCSW

It sounds like your son is trans, not gay. A friend of mine came out as trans just recently, as an adult. Coming out as trans must be much harder than coming out as gay, because there are just not very many people who know a trans person, so there is a lot of hearsay ignorance about it, and it seems very mysterious to most people. Before my friend came out, I thought being trans was sort of like being gay. My friend had always liked women so I thought, how could he be gay? So when he told me, I didn't really believe him at first. But I have read more about it, and I can now appreciate what a difficult thing it must be to always think of yourself as female, when the rest of the world sees you as male. One thing that struck me that he said, was that he had always felt feminine, but he thought maybe he would ''grow out of it'' and things would eventually change if he dated, got married, and lived the guy life. But things didn't change. Eventually he felt that he could not go on living if he could not become what he felt he was. My friend gave me two resources to learn more about trans men and women: The International Foundation for Gender Education and a book ''She's Not There'' by Jennifer Boylan.
I hope that helps!! All the best to you and your son. another mom

Your son evidently is not just saying he might be queer--he's saying he feels like he might be transgender. This is, as you might imagine, a big deal. I suggest you contact Dr. Diane Ehrensaft. She is a kind, knowledgeable, compassionate person and can help you with some resources and understanding what might be going on with your son. You can find out more about her online at

I realize the irony of what I'm about to suggest, next, which is that right now an online forum like BPN is not the best place to get information or help. If your son is transgender, you might, at some point, want to connect with an online or in-person support community, read books, etc....and I LOVE Berkeley Parents network, but I don't believe that posting online here is going to get you what you need. :Yes, I know, I'm posting this here and maybe it will help, go ahead and call me silly. What I'm saying is that you should get knowledgeable, professional help/support at first...not help from a layperson. The topic is too complicated.
Michael, MFT

Check out It may have some info helpful for you, so you can guide your son. Best to you

Re worried mama, I haven't been through what you're talking about, but some of my best friends are straight, gay, lesbian, bi, unknown, decline to state, etc. Worry and Parent are synonyms, but at 24, most of what you can do is love him for who he is. At 24, its not completely clear who he is. (It won't be at 44 either.) Self medicating would worry me, and facial hair removal too. Wouldn't the medication take care of that? On the other hand, ''I'm queer'' is very direct. Wanting to change his appearance is quite specific, and permanent change is the point. How you feel about it is very important for you, it may be much less important for him. How do you feel about that? 'So ''male''' in appearance and interests isn't unusual for gay or bi men. Real people aren't stereotypes and sexual preference isn't the same as gender identity, at the risk of being jargon-esqe. Friendships and intimate partners may mean less than song and story suggest, though good friends are probably the most important asset any 24 year old ever had. You might consider your own good friends- have you talked this over with any of your gay or lesbian friends? Gotten any suggestions? If you don't feel right about talking it around with anyone you know, now, an LGBT parent's support group might be a resource. I do have experience being 24, and for me, I was long past being a child and not particularly open to parental opinions. Most children have left home, and childhood, by that age. If they return, they return as adults. I have seen parents take responsibility for their children's happiness, through adolescence, and into adulthood. It was not pretty to watch and it was far beyond my ability to fix. Theirs too, as it turned out. Worrying is natural. Get input from people you trust before you do anything. Bill

You should definitely check out Gender Spectrum, a wonderful organization for transgender kids and their families. Based in the Bay Area, too. Lauren

Help for depressed teen who may be gay

Oct 2011

My 14 year old son is depressed and struggling with confusion about his sexual preference. He is resistant to the idea of therapy because he says he can't imagine sharing personal details with a stranger. He knows that his father and I are don't care if he is straight or gay. We just want him to be confident and proud of who he is. He is an extraordinary, smart, funny, kind person. I am looking for any suggestions for a good therapist who might be able to help (either by working directly with my son or with my husband and me) with with depression and sexual preference issues? Concerned mother of a sad teen

Our son is 13 and has just gotten through a rough patch (12 - 13 y.o.) that sounds similar to your son's experience. We took our son to the Pacific Center on Telegraph. They have wonderful counselors there who met with us, with our son, with all of us together, to discuss his sadness and try to find ways to manage his transition and coming out process. They also helped him communicate his needs better. After six months of help, he is clearly adjusting and much, much happier. He has made a new group of friends who ''get it,'' and has become involved in his school's GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance) as well as a drop in group that meets for young ''questioning'' teens at the Pacific Center on Fridays.

Whether your son is, or is not gay, this process will help him discover that he doesn't need to pick a label or hurry and grow up. He just needs to feel accepted and find folks that honor his path. It does get better. Two Moms with Gay Son

You may want to check out the Pacific Center in Berkeley for some youth services/groups. Good luck- Caroline

I highly recommend Paul Anthony Lewis...He works from his home in Lafayette and is very attuned to teen issues. My own child has worked with him and I'm pleased with the changes in attitude/behavior/outlook. In added bonus is that he's also gay (not that he goes around announcing it) but I think he would absolutely be able help in your son's case. Here's his website.. f

you might want to consider providing the contact information for pacific center (telegraph avenue in berkeley) or LYRIC (young persons' lesbian/gay/transgender/queer/questioning youth organization in san francisco) as an alternative or at least an adjunct to therapy.

it is difficult to come out and it is harder if the process is seen as a therapeutic issue rather than a social-emotional/societal one. i might suggest that you support your child checking out both of these organizations and see what is going on that might be of interest.

if your child's high school has a gay/straight alliance group or committee, he should join it. there is power in belonging and that can be 100 times more effective than one-on-one therapy. gay since age 15

Lesbian phase in high school?

Sept 2010

Having the normal teenager aingst around the house that comes with the age and high school years. The other day, my friend, who has finished colleging two kids ask me how things were going with a new rebellious phase concerning courses in high school. She then said, Oh, did xxx go through her lesbian phase yet? I asked what she meant and she said many teenage girls go through a brief lesbian identity phase in late high school and early college. I had not heard of this. I have nothing negative about lesbians so please don't jump on me. I just want to know if this is a common passing phase I should expect. I truly appreciate any help or insight appreciative

Ah, yes, the Lesbian Phase. My daughter did not go through this, but she said it was important to be tolerant/supportive, and at age 21, she continues to have straight, gay and bisexual friends.

Off the top of my head, I can think of five BHS friends who declared themselves gay or bi when they were about 15, although I doubt they all acted on it. One truly was and is a lesbian, two were having sex with each other during weekend sleepovers, and the other two I'm not sure about. Of the two who were having sex, both also acquired boyfriends about a year later. I don't know if they're continuing bisexual behavior in college.

My overall impression was that at this particular age, bisexuality can be more or less equal parts curiosity, desire, the pleasure of impressing their friends, the security factor of being sexual with so familiar a body, and perhaps the practical reason of not being able to get pregnant with a female partner. With one exception, I found all these young women likeable, intelligent, and energetic. (The exception thought it just hilarious to make unwanted passes at my daughter, and pretended not to understand when my daughter pointed out that she was practicing the sexual harassment that they all scorned from boys!)

Anyway, I doubt the phase, or whatever it is, is any more or less harmful than heterosexuality (apart, of course, from the risk of being abused by homophobic classmates). And if your daughter does come to you with tales of friends' sexual preferences, it's a great opening for conversations about love, sex, values, taking care of yourself--talks that will keep the two of you close even as she continues separating. Anonymous

There is a term for this: ''Lesbian Until Graduation''. I don't know how common this really is, but there's actually an entry for it in Wikipedia (I'll let you decide whether that makes it legitimate): anon

Teen cousin just came out, parents in shock

Jan 2007

My cousin (male, age 19 if it matters) just came out and his parents, who I have no doubt will be wonderful once they 'adjust.' Right now they are in the initial stages of shock and struggling to wrap their brains around it. They have asked if for good books for parents, and they have already been told about P-flag. They're both very bright and somewhat psychologically savvy, but in this area, whatever the best books for parents are, is probably the way to go. Thanks in advance. anon.

My daughter, now 17 came out about 2 years ago. With all the stuff kids face now the least of my concerns is her sexual orientation, probably because we live in Berkeley, have many gay friends and neighbors and it's not an issue. I think the biggest fear for parents of gay/lesbian children is how others will accept them, and if they live in a community where it is an issue they need more information than a book will give them.

They will probably be surprised by how many parents of gay children are around them. Please encourage them to join Pflag to meet other parents where they live; it will be much more beneficial than any book they would read. anon mom