Gay Population Growth
unprecedented growth of the gay community in recent history has transformed our
culture and consciousness, creating radically new possibilities for people to
‘come out’ and live more openly as homosexuals" (Herdt 2). Before the

1969’s Stonewall riot in New York, homosexuality was a taboo subject. Research
concerning homosexuality emphasized the etiology, treatment, and psychological
adjustment of homosexuals. Times have changed since 1969. Homosexuals have
gained great attention in arts, entertainment, media, and politics.

Yesterday’s research on homosexuality has expanded to include trying to
understand the different experiences and situations of homosexuals (Ben-Ari

89-90). Despite the transition, little consideration has been given to
understanding the growing population of gay adolescents. 25% of American
families are likely to have a gay child (Hidalgo 24); In the United States,
three million adolescents are estimated to be homosexual. Yet, American society
still ignores gay adolescents. Majority of children are raised in heterosexual
families, taught in heterosexual establishments, and put in heterosexual peer
groups. Gay adolescents often feel forced by parents to pass as"heterosexually normal" (Herdt 2). As a result, homosexual teens hide their
sexual orientation and feelings, especially from their parents. Limited research
conducted on gay young adults on disclosure to parents generally suggests that
disclosure is a time of familial crisis and emotional distress. Very few
researchers argue that disclosure to parents results in happiness, bringing
parents and children closer (Ben-Ari 90). The debate over homosexuality as
nature or nurture dominates most topics about homosexuality. People often
confuse the nature/nurture issue with the development of gay identity. In fact,
the nature/nurture argument plays a small, insignificant role concerning gay
youths (Walling 11). Homosexual identity is the view of the self as homosexual
in association with romantic and sexual situations (Troiden 46) Many researchers
have either discussed or created several models or theories concerning the
development of homosexual identity. However, the most prominent is Troiden’s
sociological four-stage model of homosexual identity formation. Dr. Richard R.

Troiden describes the development of homosexual identity in four stages:
sensitization, identity confusing, identity assumption, and commitment. During
the stages of homosexual identity development, many gay adolescents encounter
many preconceptions and assumptions regarding homosexuality. These assumptions
are presumption of heterosexuality, presumption of inversion, and recognition of
stigma (Herdt 4-5). Using Troiden’s model as a guide, the present paper
examines the four stages of homosexual identity development as it affects both
gay children and parents. Section one concentrates on the first two stages of
homosexual identity formation and the ordeals gay adolescents and parents before
disclosure. Section two explains the third and fourth stages of homosexual
identity development. Finally, section three discusses parents’ reactions to
the disclosure, and the relationship with their child thereafter. The

Pre-Disclosure Period The first stage of homosexual identity development,
sensitization, occurs before puberty. In the sensitization stage, gay
adolescents experience feelings of being "different" and marginal from same
gender peers (Troiden 50). Comments such as the following illustrate what boys
feel during this stage: I had a keener interest in the arts; I never learned to
fight; I just didn’t feel I was like other boys. I was very fond of pretty
things like ribbons and flowers and music; I was indifferent to boy’s games,
like cops and robbers. I was more interested in watching insects and reflecting
on certain things. (Durby 5) However, during this time, children do not
associate feelings as being homosexual or heterosexual; these categories have no
significance to pre-teens (Troiden 52). Gay youngsters and their parents
encounter the presumption of heterosexuality. The heterosexual assumption starts
during the sensitization stage; however, the effects can be longterm. The
presumption of heterosexuals is the belief that being heterosexual is superior,

"heterosexual ethnocentricity" Everyone is heterosexual; to be"different" is to be inferior (Herdt 5). American society has strict defined
male and female roles. Conformity is highly valued. Going against conformity
especially gender abnormality is viewed with derision and usually awarded with
disgrace and contempt (Isay 30). What is important is the masculine/feminine
dichotomy underlines heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy. Parents force gender
conformity in elementary children and even pre-school children when children
display nonconformist gender roles. Many parents fear that if their son is
exposed to homosexuality or even the negative beliefs of homosexuality then
their child might be recruited or seduced into the gay lifestyle (Taylor 41).

The sensitization stage can be a very difficult time for gay youngsters.

Children who display nonconformist gender behavior are more likely to be
pressure by parents and peers to change their behavior (Mallon, Helping 83).

Feeling "different" and becoming self-alienated have been related to the
heterosexual assumption. Among the most powerful causes are early homosexual and
sexual encounters and disinterest in many of several gender conformist sorts,
such as indifferent