Teenagers who identify as lesbians often face problems from family members, peers, friends and others. They have to deal with issues such as bullying, coming out, depression or homophobia as a result of feelings they have for people of the same sex. Some teenage girls that do not have support in dealing with issues are at risk for committing suicide. Support groups can give lesbian teens a place to go to talk about and get advice on issues affecting them.
Teen lesbian support groups can be located in schools, businesses, charity organisations, home or churches. School administrators or teachers often need to be involved in starting a school support group for lesbian teenagers. They usually help with figuring out where to have the support group, how to fund the group or what materials to buy for the group. Many teen support groups for lesbians also include gay males because the two groups often face similar problems. People starting a lesbian support group in a community must deal with issues such as finding a space to hold meetings, holding fundraisers to support the group's activities, developing an overseeing board and finding ways to let teenage girls in the community know about the group. Gay and lesbian support groups often partner with charity organisations or businesses in communities. This could include coffeehouses, churches, teen support centres, gay and lesbian centres or community centres. Organizations can sometimes help them to find a regular place to hold meetings and get funding for materials, such as brochures or leaflets, games, tables or chairs, books or snacks.
Purpose and Services
Support groups for lesbian teens often give girls a safe environment to talk about issues that they likely are not able to discuss with others, such as their feelings about being gay, coming out, media images of lesbians, safe sex or pressures from family members or friends. Support groups should have open forums where lesbian teens can talk to each other, but they may also have games and activities for teenagers. Adult facilitators can help get discussions going and provide information on topics such as safe sex practices. Teen lesbian support groups often offer counselling, in person or by phone, for teens dealing with issues such as physical or mental abuse, drug problems or depression. People giving advice to teens at social groups should receive training in or be certified in counselling others about issues such as teen suicide, bullying, drug problems or abuse.
Successful lesbian teen support groups often involve teenagers in the implementation or management of the group. Teens that help with fundraising or educational efforts often feel more invested in the group and are more likely to attend meetings and discuss major issues with other group members. They will also probably view the group as a place where they can be open about their feelings and their everyday struggles. Groups for lesbian teens should incorporate teenage girls into decision-making processes. They could help make decisions on the group's structure, activities, discussion topics, guest speakers and services. Teens can help to educate others about the group's meetings and services, through flyers, social networks, word of mouth or local events.
Young people, adults, parents, community members or group members need to be responsible for ensuring that the group continues and grows. Many support groups have governing boards that help to manage fundraising efforts, meetings and marketing endeavours A person or group of people is often in charge of letting others in a school or community know about upcoming meetings, fundraising events and speakers. People within the group can also help to coordinate guest speakers, manage the phone or in-person counselling efforts, make flyers or brochures, work with community organisations, get involved in awareness-raising events, keep track of group membership or coordinate games or field trips. People often have to be regularly involved in the group to fulfil the main purpose, which is to help and support lesbian teens.
- Inplainsite.org: Helping Teens Understand Homosexuality
- Smith College: "The Ideal Girl": Teen Lesbians and Bisexuals
- GSA Network: Start a GSA
- "Journal of School Counseling"; Bolstering School Based Support by Comprehensively Addressing the Needs of an Invisible Minority; Jennifer R. Curry and B. Grant Hayes
- Self Help Resource Centre: Starting a Self-Help Group
- American Civil Liberties Union: Start a Gay-Straight Alliance
- Center for Young Women's Health: Lesbian Health
- Winnepeg School Division; How to Start a Gay-Straight Alliance; Blumenfield and Lindrop
- Gay Teen Resources: Am I Gay?
- Familyeducation: Understanding Your Gay Teen
- American Psychiatric Association: Sexual Orientation
- American Psychological Association: Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality