Parenting Gender Non-Conforming Youth

If you follow the news, you’ll notice there have been a number of high profile issues involving trans (short for transgender) teens or kids. For those who may not know, trans refers to individuals who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Many trans or gender non-conforming youth come to us looking for support they’re having difficulty finding, or don’t feel safe looking for elsewhere. We know from talking with these users that one of the biggest factors in their overall well-being – and how hard or easy all of this is on them – is how supported and safe they feel in their identities when around their families.

With that fact in mind, we wanted to create a guide for parents about what to do in the event that your child comes out to you as trans, or is otherwise questioning their gender identity and identifying themselves to you as (or possibly as) gender noncomforming. This list is created with an eye towards how can you support them while dealing with any emotions you might be have as a result of the announcement.

In the conversation: Dos and (oh-my-goodness-please) Do Nots

I think one of my biggest concerns about telling my parents is suddenly I’m a big deal, and a point of attention once they know they know. Even if they don’t say anything they will think things. Even if they aren’t judging me I will feel like they are. I don’t know if I could live like that. And what if they disown me or kick me out or something?

Do: Listen. Just listen.

Do not: Turn this into the Spanish Inquisition. You may have dozens of questions, from “But how can you be sure?” to “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Now is not the time for them. Your child might bring up those points later, but right now what they need most from you is reassurance that you love them, you’re not ashamed of them and that you’re here for them.

Do: Ask if there’s anything specific they would like you to do to make them feel accepted or safe at home (pronoun changes, helping them buy clothes that they’re comfortable in, etc).

Do: Ask them to what degree they would like to be “out” at the moment. Some trans youth want everyone (school, friends, family) to know right away so that they will use the correct name/pronouns around them. Others may want only a few people to know at first while they work out which spaces or people are safe to be themselves around.

Do Not: Tell them they are a disgrace, or bad, or that you’re heartbroken by their announcement. I wish this was something I didn’t have to write, but those are reactions that parents have to trans children.

Do: Check ourself with anything you may want to say or ask using this yardstick: would  question this were your child cisgender? For example, “How do you know for sure you’re a girl?” probably isn’t something you’d ask or suggest if their gender “matched” their biological sex.  It wouldn’t be sound in that situation, and it’s also not in this one.

I’m scared she would be upset with me, that everything would change between us and go sour.

Do: Did I mention reassure them that you still love and accept them? I’ll say it again just to be sure.

Ongoing Support: Dos and Do Nots

Do Not: Make your child be your therapist or otherwise process your emotions about their identity or transition in front of them. You may feel scared, or confused, or feel like you’ve “lost” the son or daughter you had. Those emotions? They happen away from your child, because your child does not need to be made to feel guilty (even unintentionally). And if you need a counselor or therapist to help you with your feelings, by all means, seek one out!  Trans-friendly therapists are becoming more and more accessible, and aren’t just for transgender people: they’re for the families of transgender people, too.

Incidentally, if you find yourself feeling as though you have to “mourn” the son or daughter you had, that’s a common reaction. However, I want to offer up a thought on that end. Your child being trans does not erase your lives together up to this point, nor the person they are and who you have known. It does not, ultimately, change the child you have. They have the same aspirations, memories, qualities, and flaws that they’ve always had. The pronouns, or name may change, the clothes may change, but they are still your child, and still the person you love and have known them to be.

Do: Educate yourself from reliable sources. Read works by trans authors discussing their experiences. There is a growing number of great, thoughtful resources about understanding trans lives and supporting trans loved ones. If you’d like a couple great books to start with, check out Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin and The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill.

Do: Find additional support for your child. A trans-friendly counselor, therapist or youth support group is likely to be a godsend for your child as well as all of your family, both so they can have someone educated and accepting dedicated to them in all of this, and to help all of you navigate their identity and any part of the process with it they may want to embark upon. Find support for yourself if you feel you need it, too . There are organizations and qualified, caring professionals for families of trans youth to share experiences and support each other.

Do: Know that you may slip up in the early days. The wrong pronoun or name may come out, you may say “son” when you should say daughter. That’s okay, this is new for you, and you can’t be an old hand at it yet. If that happens, just correct yourself, gently apologize and continue the conversation. Extra bonus: that will show them how others should respond when they do the same, and empower them when it comes to feeling it’s a given they should be respected in this way.

Do Not: Use the fact that this is new and you are learning as an excuse to not try at all.

Do: Stick up for your child. This could mean standing with them if they run up against issues in school (like being allowed to use the bathroom they feel comfortable in) or correcting family members who misgender or otherwise try to invalidate their identity. This can be an incredibly hard thing to do. There are still many, many people who view trans folks as deviant or “unnatural.” Some of those people may be friends or family. And, sadly, many otherwise reasonable people seem to become suddenly unreasonable when faced with trans people. So, be prepared to protect your child. Familiarize yourself with the non-discrimination laws in your state and county so that, if something goes wrong, you know what your options are. Come up with and practice some basic scripts for friends and family who who may be difficult (ask your child if they have any input on what they want said in those moments).

Do: Continue to listen to and trust your child when they say they need something, even if that something is hormones, hormone blockers, or surgery.

Do: Know that the situation may continue to change. For some trans folks, they feel that they fall solidly on one side of the genderbinary or the other (either a boy or a girl). Others find that they don’t quite fit within that binary, or that they want to take time to explore gender and gender expression for themselves.

Visibility and support of trans issues continues to grow, but that support will likely generate some push-back and hostility. But no matter what the overall cultural climate is, you supporting your child will mean that they will at least have one safe, welcoming space that they can call home.

Further Reading and Resources

- Sam

This is part of our series for parents or guardians. To find out more about the series, click here. For our top five guiding principles for parents or guardians, click here; for a list of resources, click here. To see all posts in the series, click the Scarleteen Confidential tag at Scarleteen, or follow the series here on Tumblr at

All too often, we’re given the impression that it’s always better to be in a love relationship – any relationship – than it is not to be in one, and that just isn’t so. It’s not even accurate to say that it’s always better to be in a GOOD relationship than not to have one at all, because there are times in our lives when it may be best for us, and make us happiest, to be single and on our own. Being single doesn’t mean a person is undesirable or unattractive: in many cases it means they’re simply not interested in or ready for some sorts of relationships at a given time, or are waiting until they meet someone whose needs and wants will really work with their own.

Entering into romantic or sexual relationships primarily to avoid being alone is a really bad idea. Not only is it awfully hard to have good judgment when we’re so freaking scared of being alone we might shack up with anyone to avoid it, when we do that, in many ways we’re using the other person involved to try and ‘fix’ feelings, or pretend they aren’t there, that we need to work on ourselves. It’s also all too easy, when you’re in a relationship and deathly afraid of being alone, to become very dependent and clingy in your relationship and suck the life right out of it. So, your best bet? Wait for intimate relationships until times when you feel pretty good about yourself and your life just as it is, and you’ve got a self and a life to share in the first place, rather than seeking out partners to provide you with one.


Wheeeeee!  We’ve finished another sweet collaboration with artist Isabella Rotman, and can now offer you some awesome e-cards to send to those you love or maybe-love – be they boyfriends, girlfriends, booty calls,  someone you’re in a poly relationship with, an ex who’s now a friend, a bestie, yourself, even to a sex toy (how it’s going to open email, we don’t know) – for V-Day or any day at all.  Go and check ‘em out here!

When You Don't Like Their Partner

It’s a perennial cliché in nearly every coming of age movie, book, and sitcom. An adolescent or emerging adult character brings home a new boyfriend or girlfriend, who is met with dismay or disapproval by parents. Perhaps there is a joke (because threats of violence are apparently hilarious) made about shotguns if the daughter has brought home a boyfriend. Often, the scenario is played for laughs, or for soap opera levels of drama.

In real life, it’s not unusual for parents to not immediately like the partner of their teen, or to feel wary or cautious when it comes to supporting their romantic or sexual relationship. But that situation is often emotionally fraught for both parent and child, and if those feelings aren’t handled constructively, it can deteriorate the relationship between parent and child. And in the event a parent’s concerns are truly warranted, such as when a partner seems in any way abusive or dysfunctional, parental nonsupport not only creates a rift between parent and child, it also will often only further cement the romantic or sexual relationship between that child and the other person, putting them more in harm’s way rather than helping them to stay or get safe.

By all means, sometimes, the things you don’t like about a partner are actual, legitimate red flags that you can see, but your child can’t. So how do you go about working out whether or not your concerns are valid, and what to do about them if they are?

“My partner and I have been together for nearly two years, but it seems as though my family wants to tear that away from me because he doesn’t live up to their standards”

A good first step is to take a long, honest look at what your objections to this partner are and where they might be coming from.

For instance, if your child is relatively new to dating, there’s a decent chance much of the discomfort has to do with your own feelings about them growing up and expressing themselves as a romantic/sexual being; about separating from you, having relationships of their own that don’t really include you or aren’t also yours, and just your general worries and concerns about all that can some with and be part of romantic and sexual relationships. You might be worried that they’ll get their heartbroken, or be taken advantage of, or a myriad of other bad or difficult things that can emerge in relationships.

If that’s the case, it can help to remember that many parents feel growing pains as their children… well, grow up. But, what’s equally important to remember is that your child is becoming more and more autonomous, and part of that process is navigating the world of romantic relationships. And yes, odds are that they will have a bad break-up or two. That’s part of how this whole game works, and there’s not anything you can do to stop it from happening. What’s more important than trying to run interference and somehow prevent them from ever being hurt is to let them explore, make their mistakes and feel their hurts, and support them when they ask for it. If you’re supportive and there for them, and doing what you can to stay connected to them, rather than pushing them away with control or negativity, they’ll be far better able weather the hard stuff, because they’ve got you.

It feels like my parents really don’t approve of my relationship, that they feel it’s not something mature and serious, that they don’t like him or that they just plain don’t trust us.   I can’t really explain why I get this impression as they’ve not really said anything specific, it’s just their overall attitude about him when he’s not around, the odd comments they make about him etc.

My mum has commented that my Dad “doesn’t trust boys” and that “he always expects the worst of their intentions”. I assume she means that they expect him to be making sexual advances. I’m not sure how to handle this because actually - yes, he does. We have fooled around and talked a lot about sex…but it’s nothing to do with his “dishonorable intentions” it’s just something we both want and feel comfortable with and it really isn’t that big a deal for us. My Dad, on the other hand said that it was ‘inappropriate’ for my bf to see me in my pyjamas.

I’ve tried talking to them about this. I explained the other day that we felt that they didn’t really approve of us and that sometimes things felt a little awkward.  I said that if they weren’t happy with him coming around our house so often, then I could let him know. They turned around and said I was being childish.

It’s also safe to say that, for many parents, much of the discomfort with a child’s partner is tied up with worries about your child being sexual, both in general, and with someone else. After all, a partner might pressure them into having sex they don’t themselves really want or feel ready for. Or, even if there’s no pressure involved, and sex is wanted, it comes with all the potential risks and hazards that sex with other people always does.

But as they move further and further into their teen years and their emerging adulthood, odds are good that they’re either having sex of some kind, going to, or are at least considering it. Again, it helps to remember that this is part of them growing up, and your job as a parent is to help them to become adults, not keep them from it. You cannot prevent it. What you can do is give them tools to think about and weigh the risks around sex, and reassure them that you’ll be there for them if they need someone to talk to about what’s going on. You can check in with them and keep the lines of communication about all of this open and relaxed to make it more likely they’ll keep you in the loop, and come to you with any concerns, asking for your help as they need it.

Continuing the self-examination, consider whether or not you’ve been harboring any expectations about the type of person you were expecting your child to date. It may be that they are of a different race, gender, or class than you imagined. Or maybe their personality is a little different than what you were anticipating (like your nerdy child bringing home a punk kid). If that’s the case, then it helps to remember that appearances don’t tell you everything, and that there are likely things about this person that are drawing your child to them that may not be immediately apparent to you. Too, part of what’s exciting about being new to dating is getting the chance to explore and experiment with the types of people you’re interested in an see what works for you. So dating someone who seems a little unexpected is actually pretty standard. You’ve had years to get to know and grow to love your child: this person is brand new to you, so you may just need to give it some time.

One other possibility is that you and your teen’s partner just don’t mesh, personality-wise. This isn’t actually weird when you stop and think about it. We don’t get along with everyone who comes into our lives or the lives of those we love. You probably have coworkers, friend’s spouses, or even relatives who, while you feel no animosity towards them, you don’t really feel any desire to be around or great interest in. Who a teen might choose to date may be someone who falls into that similar category. If that’s the case, fall back on being polite and welcoming when you see them, and remember that it’s not you who is maintaining the relationship here, nor is it you who it’s for.

But it may be that your discomfort is because you’re noticing behaviors that concern you. You know how it goes for yourself, no doubt: it’s often hard to see someone’s flaws when we’re in thrall, especially when all of these kinds of feelings in general are so new and so heady.

What you may be noticing that’s got you feeling like this may be red flags, behaviors and mindsets that indicate a relationship that may not be healthy. Either with your child or with others, like you or other family members, someone showing red flags may:

  • Be controlling, or trying to control, who their partner sees, talks to, spends their time with, or what they wear or do.
  • Get jealous or possessive if their partner interacts with others – including their family members – besides them.
  • Belittle, criticize, or mock their partner or you and the things either of you likes or values.
  • Treat your feelings, or their partners feelings, as unimportant or foolish.
  • Try to convince you or their partner  that things are not happening as you or they perceive them; be gaslighting in some way.
  • Make you feel anxious or afraid when you’re around them, or their partner may appear to feel that way about or around them.  Their partner may become more isolated and start to feel less connected to people who aren’t their partner.
  • Blame you, or their partner, for everything or hold you, or their partner, responsible for their feelings.
  • Threaten their partner or you physically.

Relatedly, you may be observing that since they got into this relationship, when their partner is around – or when they’re not, in-person, but are texting, messaging or calling them – your child appears more unhappy than happy, or more nervous and fearful than comfortable and excited.

Conversely, there are also green flags to pay attention to. Someone who is a healthy partner will:

  • Treat a partner, and the partner’s family and friends with respect, and care including listening to your requests and minding limits or boundaries.
  • Be someone around whom their partner, and you, feels happy and safe.
  • Manage their feelings in healthy ways, even when in conflict with you or their partner. While you probably don’t enjoy arguing with them, the thought of what they might do, or how they might react, with you or your child, doesn’t frighten you.
  • Have a whole life of their own outside of their relationship with their partner, and support and encourage that partner having the same.
  • Seem clearly supportive of their partners interests, talents, thoughts, feelings and values, as well as your own, even in ways they may be different from theirs.

Neither of those lists is at all comprehensive (and they apply to non-romantic relationships as well), but they can give you a general sense of what red and green flags look like in practice.

What do you do if you notice red flags coming from your child’s partner?

If you’re concerned about possible abuse happening, you may also want to read In Love and in Danger by Barrie Levy, a great starter book on the subject.

Talk to your child about your concerns, and keep the talk about those concerns and behaviours, rather than talking about the quality of their partner as a person (such as, “He’s just a jerk,” rather than “I feel worried when I see how scared you are not to answer his texts right away.”). Try to do this as tactfully as possible. The more you show open disapproval, or the more you try to forbid any sort of interaction, the more forbidden and thus desirable the relationship may seem. Too, if they feel that you’re judging their relationship or partner, they may stop talking to you about it, which will make it even harder to take the temperature of what’s going on. Make your concerns as straightforward and clear as possible: “I’ve been noticing that partner treats you x way, and I have to say I’m a little concerned about it. How do you feel when they do X?”  Find out how they are interpreting the behaviors that concern you. It may be that the issue has not occurred to them before, or that they’re perceiving the red flag in a very different way (for instance, it’s common for people to initially view a jealous partner as flattering). Too, a partner who is being deliberately manipulative will often play on the idea of “our love is so unique that nobody could understand it,” so be aware that you voicing your worries may been seen or heard through that lens.

When you have this conversation, try to focus less on your feelings (“I don’t like it/I think this is wrong/I think that you should”) and more on theirs. That may make them more receptive to what you have to say, because it feels like you expressing care for them, rather than you trying to impose your opinions onto their relationship or control them.

It may be that, even after you voice your concerns, your child does not end the relationship. You cannot force them to do so, and attempting to may make them just double down or go behind your back. Instead, if they seem reluctant to end the relationship, let them know that you will be there for them no matter what, and if they want to talk about anything, you’re there to listen. That way, if things go sour, they will be more likely to come to you for help, as they won’t be worried about you saying “I told you so.” Check in gently and often.

It can also help to do your best to include their partner in your family and things you do together, rather than keeping them separate.  That way, you can better observe how things are going, call out any problematic behaviour right to this person, themselves (again, tactfully, please: not in front of everyone, ideally, and with respect and grace), and show your child that you are supportive of their relationships, and are not interested in just shutting anyone and everyone they date out.  If and when you have concerns based on these interactions, then it’s also more clear they’re not baseless guesses, but based on observation they know you were there to make.

Talking to a teen about how they feel about their relationship will also help you gain perspective on what ideas they have about relationships that are off or, conversely, pretty sound. Ideally, well before a teen starts dating, parents have both had conversations about relationships and what makes one healthy rather than unhealthy, and have been modeling healthy interactions within the family in their own behaviour.

Pop culture can also be helpful in this instance. Is there a book you and your child have both read, or a television show you both like that has some relationships you can discuss? Then use that as your starting point. What do they want from their relationships? How do they imagine a partner should treat them? What do they think are important traits in a partner? How would they not want to be treated? Start them thinking about relationships as something that they get to have an active part in, rather than as a something that just happens to them; as something that isn’t outside their control, and is just a matter of fate. And, if it becomes relevant to your conversation, you can even direct them to some tools for thinking about and evaluating the relationships they do choose.

By having these conversations, regardless of whether or not they’re seeing someone, it will feel more natural and less forced when you check in with them about their relationships. Too, it’s a good habit to check in with them about how they’re feeling in their relationship even if you aren’t seeing red flags, and may not be the world’s biggest fan of their partner, but they do seem generally okay, even if you think your eyes may roll out of your head if they go on one more long monologue about that video game or band that is JUST THE BEST EVER, or their half-baked political ideas. This doesn’t have to be a daily conversation, just touching base every so often, just like we do with friends when we ask how their relationships are going. This shows that you do care about what’s going on in their life, that you’re interested in what’s important to them without you having to pry into things they want to keep private, and demonstrates support.

In the end, the best thing you can do is to keep the lines of communication open before, during, and after your teen’s relationships, even if you like their partner plenty. But letting you teen know that they can talk to you about what’s going on, be that something they’re happy about or unsure about, you’re helping keep your own bond strong while allowing them the space they need to grow and learn.

Further Reading

- Sam

This is part of our series for parents or guardians. To find out more about the series, click here. For our top five guiding principles for parents or guardians, click here; for a list of resources, click here. To see all posts in the series, click the Scarleteen Confidential tag at Scarleteen, or follow the series here on Tumblr at

Adults have a tendency to view the feelings of teenagers as unreal, fleeting, exaggerated or half-baked, even though when they were young people themselves, they experienced and felt hurt and disrespected by this treatment from adults. This is the core of adultism, and it’s just as noxious as any other kind of -ism is.

For instance, there’s the popular adult sentiment that when people are young, they can’t possibly know what love is or feels like (because apparently love is only real for older adults, which also suggests young people can’t love their parents, either!), or that whatever feelings of love they are having are part of a phase they will outgrow, and whatever comes after, once they’re adults, will be more real. It’s a Velveteen Rabbit setup, where only someone external, with powers they don’t have, can make them real.


Scarleteen Confidential

An excerpt from our Big Five.  If you haven’t checked the whole piece out, you can find it here

Scarleteen Confidential: Teens & Decision Making

Unless you live under a very large rock, odds are good you’ve heard some statistics and research about adolescent minds and neurochemistry and how they are still doing a lot of developing through the early to mid-twenties. This timetable of brain development is often given as the reason for why young people can make impulsive or risky decisions.

This data is beneficial in that it gives us a window into how decision-making can work for adolescents, and what neurological factors play a part, including in some barriers to the kind of slow, careful decision-making often attributed to adults. In its best form, this data about development encourages us to be a little gentler with teens when they make mistakes. But it’s also information that can do more harm than good when applied in certain ways to your interactions with teenagers and emerging adults.

For starters, the finding about when the brain is fully formed is used to dismiss feelings or experiences that are urgent and important to teens, and are based on who they know themselves to be so far and how they can know  and understand themselves. The clearest example of this being when adults tell LGBTQ  teens that they are “too young to know what they’re talking about/decide that sort of thing” when it comes to their sexual orientation or gender identity, or that said identity is “just a phase.” Yes, adolescent brains are not yet developed the way that the minds of adults are, but their identity is usually something they’ve thought about thoroughly and feel strongly about. Automatically assuming that their decisions about those subjects are poorly reasoned or impulsively made can make them feel unsupported in some of the bigger revelations they come to. Identity isn’t reliant on being at a certain phase of neurological development.

Too, having minds that function differently than the minds of adults is not the deficit it is sometimes imagined to be.  Adolescent minds have their own wonderful things to offer, and lead young people to engage with the world in remarkable ways.  For instance, researcher Daniel Siegel, along with others who study the intersection of neuroscience and adolescence, have identified positives of the young brain that adult brains often lack.  One such instance is that young people are likely to make choices about passionate things in a passionate way.  That leads to a more joyful experience than the measure, adult alternative.  When we talk about teen brains as only leading their owners to harm, we lose sight of  the ways that those same brains enrich the lives of the teenagers who inhabit them.  

Even when we’re talking about smaller decisions, or decisions that are made rashly or where someone changes their mind a few weeks later, coming into conversations with the perspective that teens don’t really know what they’re doing or how they feel is patronizing, condescending and adultist. Entering into a conversation assuming that the other person hasn’t given any thought to their opinions or actions is not a respectful way to talk to someone. And when an adult does this to or about a young person, they’re often conveniently forgetting ways that they knew their own hearts and minds when they were young.

Take a moment to think back on when you were a young person.  More likely than not, there were choices that you made about relationships, goals, passions, what you wanted to avoid and what you wanted to embrace.  Those choices were yours to make, and you made them because you knew yourself very well and knew those choices were right for you.  I am willing to bet that, with some of those choices, the adults in your life said things like “I thought the same thing at your age, but then…” or “I know you feel that way now, but just wait until you’re older.” How did you react those statements? Did you go, “Yes, oh wise adult, I see that you are correct and will now change my mind,” or did you bristle at the implication that you didn’t know what you were talking about? For a lot of us, the reaction was closer to the latter. Sometimes truly useful advice will be ignored because it was delivered in a way that teens (often rightly) read as patronizing. And it marks you, even if you don’t intend it to, as someone who doesn’t trust them to be an expert about their own lives.

In other words, using this approach when you talk with teenagers can create a vicious cycle in which they feel like you don’t understand or respect them, and so they start sharing less and less with you. Which, in turn, will result in you understanding less and less about them and their lives because you know less and less about them. It also makes teens less likely to come to you for support when one of their choices does lead to unwanted consequences. Nobody likes hearing “I told you so,” and that statement carries a double-ouch when coming from a parent or other adult whose support and approval you want. So, if you lead a conversation with the “You’ll see, this is mistake,” angle, they might be reluctant to admit that something did go wrong or that they did change their minds (as they just may not want to give you the satisfaction of being right).

Additionally, trying to tell teens what is and isn’t the right choice for them, even if they do decide to listen to you, doesn’t help them learn how to make their own best choices.  Instead, telling them what choices to make sets them up for a pattern of seeking out an authority figure to tell them what to do, rather than helping them become their own authority on what choices do and do not work for them.  If you want to help young people learn how to make decisions, it’s better to listen and ask questions to help them clarify their feelings and choices than to second-guess them or dismiss them out of hand.

Approaching teenagers as poor decision makers or as ignorant about their own world obscures the fact that some teens have had to deal with intense or challenging experiences already, and that a specific teen may have more knowledge about a given topic or issue than the adult they’re talking to. Any teen may have faced racism, poverty, abuse or assault, mental illness, and a slew of other rough life situations. By assuming that teens can’t understand the harder parts of life, you assume that they’ve never experienced those parts of life. Perpetuating this idea can result in treating teens who are having a rough time as exaggerating what’s happening to them, rather than seriously addressing their concerns.  And even if it’s not big, intense stuff, teens are the experts of their own world, their own lives, and their own selves more than anyone who isn’t them can possibly be.

Going along with that, dismissing teens thoughts out of an assumption that they make poorly reasoned choices often involves a self-centered view of the world. You assume that because you didn’t like the consequences of a certain choice, a teen won’t either. But they are their own person, who experiences the world differently than you, just like your best friend, partner or co-worker is. A choice that was wrong for you might be right for them. As a mindset, assuming teenagers will make bad choices simply because they’re young also ignores the fact that making poor or impulsive choices is not strictly the realm of teens. Plenty of adults, in fact probably every adult, make bone-headed decisions sometimes. Life experience and age add some buffers against mistakes, but they don’t stop us from making them. To act as though teens have cornered the market on bad choices is disingenuous, to say the least.

There is a way in which adult experiences can be helpful for young people to hear. Adults, by virtue of having been on the planet longer, have had more chances to run this simulation called life, to try things and see the consequences, to figure out which actions and choices make us happy, and which we regret. Mind you, many adults are not exactly masters of this, but age does often make you a little bit better at spotting what’s coming down the road or figuring out how to handle a given scenario.

You can impart some of that knowledge to teens, but you have to take your cues from them. Let them approach you if they have questions or want advice. If you sense that the do want help, but are unsure how to ask, or you want them to know what you can help them with, a simple “Hey, I went through/did X, so if you ever want to talk about, I’m happy to do so” will suffice. That lets them decide whether or not they want to hear your advice. Offering your advice in that way also establishes you as a safe, non-judgmental sounding board, someone who’ll they’ll feel comfortable opening up to rather than someone they’re afraid will shove advice down their throat.

One of the best things you can do to assure your advice doesn’t come across as condescending is to simply acknowledge the fact that your experiences are not universal. Your coming of age, the things you learned, experienced and felt as you went from teen to adult are not applicable to everyone. The world is also a different world than the one you grew up in. Technology is different, school is different, the political and social climate is different. Ergo, someone coming of age in this world is facing some things that you never dealt with and vice versa.

The other is to trust teens about their experiences and feelings. The vast majority of teens, when they speak about what they want or believe, are speaking honestly. If you approach conversations with them about their choices (and really, all conversations with them) in good faith, you’ll have more open and honest communication and you’ll how to best help them when they ask for it.

It also helps to remember that most mistakes and consequences are survivable. They may be unpleasant, scary, and stressful, but there is a way through them. Young people need space to make their own decisions in part because doing so gives them the chance to screw up once and awhile. And when they screw up, they get the opportunity to learn how to recover from a mistake and move forward, becoming more knowledge about consequences than they were before. And if they have a chance to mess up while the adults in their life are still there to help, the consequences will be less dire.

Yes, the adolescent brain makes impulsive behavior more likely. But that doesn’t mean that teens and emerging adults don’t know what they want, who they are now, or what they’re talking about. You can do a lot more to foster a supportive environment for, and have good relationships with, young people when you keep all of that in mind.

- Sam

This is part of our series for parents or guardians. To find out more about the series, click here. For our top five guiding principles for parents or guardians, click here; for a list of resources, click here. To see all posts in the series, click the Scarleteen Confidential tag at Scarleteen, or follow the series here on Tumblr at

Even if NO other woman besides you in all of human history (which you and I know isn’t anything remotely close to the truth) needed or wanted other sexual activities before intercourse, the fact that YOU do should be all a partner needs to know.

With someone who is being a good partner, when it comes down to a bonafide partnership? It is all they will ever need to know, and you will only have to say it once. The good news is that most people who truly care for you and who have the kind of maturity and mutual respect intimate relationships require will be that way.

You should not have to statistically prove wants or needs to a partner to have them met, or need to back them up with evidence that others have the same wants and needs. That’s just ridiculous.
Scarleteen | Sex Education For The Real World

Scarleteen: Sex Ed for the Real World. Since 1998, in-depth, progressive and inclusive articles, advice, discussion and other interactive media millions of young people use and count on every year to help them understand sexuality, sexual health and relationships and make their own best, informed choices.

Listen, I know there’s tons of posts about this website going around but honestly it’s so important please take a look if you’ve ever wondered anything about sex. Even if you haven’t you should look anyway because god knows what sex ed has misinformed you about
Don't Want To Have Sex?

Then don’t. Some support and help for people who want to say – but are having trouble saying – no, not now, or not yet to sex or sexual relationships.

We’ve linked to Scarleteen on this blog in the past, because they are a quality resource. And here is a quality article on *not* having sex that I highly recommend reading.

Heather Corinna

This year, it’s now been 20 years since my abortion.

I hadn’t realized until this week that was the case.  Despite being something that made a huge impact on my life – or rather, kept a pregnancy at the time from having at the huge impact on my life it would have – it’s simply not an anniversary I keep all that aware of.

I’m pretty certain that’s not because I’m heartless, I’m not.  Nor is it because children are so irrelevant to me that that choice was meaningless to me on that score. My love and care for children, and how much I enjoy having them as a big part of my life, was the hardest part of that choice for me.  I’ve been a dedicated teacher for over 20 years, I’m a child and adolescent advocate, and I consider my standing as Auntie Extraordinaire with the utmost import. On the whole, I’ve easily spent more than 50% of my life to date helping, guiding, and caring for other people’s children. I simply am not a parent, and knew then, as I knew since and still know know, that personally reproducing wasn’t the right choice for me.

Ultimately, I think the reason my abortion less significant than it might be otherwise is because 20 years ago, when I had an abortion, the culture and community surrounding me in that choice were far more supportive of it than the culture, and many communities, people in the same position are surrounded with now.

When I discovered I had become accidentally pregnant, I knew I had choices, and I knew – not believed, knew – all of those choices were possible, good, right options.  I was able to easily reach out and talk with other people about making my decision, including two mothers of children at a school I ran at the time. I didn’t feel fear or anxiety about telling people I trusted, about asking for help, and I didn’t feel concerned that anyone I talked to wouldn’t be supportive of any choice I wanted to make.  I didn’t worry that if I said I was thinking about abortion anyone I spoke with would lose respect for me, would abuse me, would degrade me, would try and talk me into what they wanted. All of those conversations went well: all were supportive and helpful. I was with a  partner who I knew from the onset, even though we hadn’t really discussed it, would be supportive of whatever choice I made. And even with feelings about this choice that weren’t in perfect alignment, those divides were something we were able to work out with care and respect.

When I decided on abortion, I knew I had access to abortion, even though I also knew I was going to have to struggle to come up with the money to pay for it, just like I had to struggle to come up with any amount of money more than $20.  I didn’t wonder if i had the legal right to terminate or not: it was a given. Of course I did. I didn’t wonder if there was a provider I could easily get to by walking or the bus: of course there was, and I just looked up my options in the phone book – where the only services listed under abortion were, in fact, abortion services – choosing a provider just a couple miles away from my apartment.  I didn’t worry about accidentally winding up at a crisis pregnancy center instead of a clinic: they didn’t exist yet.  

I knew there would probably be some protestors, and there were, but I felt so personally and culturally supported in making my choices, and I knew there would be clinic escorts, to help if I needed, that I knew walking through then would be something I could handle easily. And it was.  For the young woman walking in with me for whom it was more challenging, I stepped up, the escorts stepped up.  Even someone unsupported could count on the kindness of strangers.

I didn’t worry much about my safety or that of my provider: the year before, and early in 1992, clinic violence was low.  (It would, as it turned out, massively increase later that year.) Oddly enough, later that same year, the Supreme Court also ruled on Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, allowing states to put more restrictions on abortion.

I knew that however I felt after my procedure, it was okay, and I knew that without having to read anything on the internet or in books, without having to have a counselor at the clinic tell me that.  I knew that if I felt relieved, as I did, that that would be supported by the people around me.  I knew that if I felt at all sad, and I also did, that would, too.  I knew that however I felt, I did not have to worry about anyone around me…. those feelings to try and further a personal agenda. I knew that no matter how I felt, no one I trusted would try and capitalize on it. I knew that if I didn’t feel well for a day or two after, I could call any of my friends and ask for them to come by and bring me soup or just sit with me. 

And I knew that I got to decide how important or unimportant my abortion was to me then and thereafter: that it was up to me, and that whatever import it did or didn’t have? It was okay. 

I know that all of that, all of how my experience was, is becoming more and more rare, and has been becoming so for some time.  I’ve been watching that change ever since like watching a highway accident in slow motion. What I describe from 20 years ago is an experience of abortion when it is normalized and respected as a choice: normalized and respected by a person, by a culture and community.

While that certainly would not have been the universal or unilateral experience of everyone who chose abortion then, it certainly was far, far more common, I’d say, than it is for nearly anyone, anywhere, now.

Every year, I hear from young people who have become pregnant accidentally or unwontedly, and what I hear is probably what reminds me most of exactly how many years it has been since my abortion, and how very much has changed: not for the better.

So many of these things I simply knew – that I would be supported, that I would be okay, that I would be able to access the abortion services I decided I wanted – are things that so many, now, don’t know.  Sometimes they aren’t sure.  Often times, they are sure: they’re sure they will not be supported, not by friends, family or partners.  They have to think hard to come up with even one person they know who will be supportive.  Some cannot think of even that one.  And if they don’t have the money on their own?  If you can’t think of even one person who will be supportive of your choice, that takes asking each of your friends for ten or twenty bucks to help you right off the table. 

Sometimes they are sure abortion is their own best right choice, and that they will be okay… until they receive misinformation masquerading as care or science about how wrong they are that they’ll be okay.  That they’ll become infertile or ill from a procedure infinitely less associated with infertility and illness than childbirth, for example, or that they’ll become traumatized from something which is often entirely nontraumatic unless some “caring” outsider puts trauma unto it. Sometimes, all they need to do to hear misinformation about reproduction, pregnancy and abortion is to turn on the news and overhear a government representative.

Sometimes they have no idea if they even have the legal right – particularly as minors or undocumented citizens – to obtain an abortion, and if they do, don’t have any idea of where a nearby provider is: or IF there is a nearby provider at all. In many cases, there isn’t one:  in the United States, as of this year, in 87% of counties lack abortion services. Some talk about having thought they found a provider, only to discover they were instead defrauded by a crisis pregnancy center. Some go to a clinic to terminate a pregnancy, only to have family members, partners or friends show up to bully them out of it. Some come to clinics alone, and talk about how they have had to lie, and will need to continue to lie, to everyone in their lives about being pregnant and choosing to terminate, because if they told even one person around them the truth, they wouldn’t be able to make the choice they want to.  Sometimes those same people were protesting in front of the same clinic the week before.

The right to safe, legal abortion in the United States has always been tenuous since we achieved it, but over the last 20 years, it not only has it become more tenuous than ever, but it has been chipped away in tiny pieces – and some big ones – so consistently, both via public policy and public sentiment, that it seems highly unlikely right now that most people who choose to have an abortion will know the things I knew, or have the experience I had, including the experience of having a procedure carry only as much weight as they want to give it themselves.

I don’t just feel that everyone should have the right to a safe, legal abortion which they can access and afford.  I feel everyone should have the right to an abortion which has as much meaning, or as little, to them as it does, and the regard and respect of those around them – be they family, friends or partners, or over aching culture and public policy – to, of course, freely afford them that right.

Heather is the founder and executive director of Scarleteen, a young people’s sex education site based in the States.
Scarleteen article: Q is for Questioning

This website is a never-ending source of wisdom on so many things and I really like the writing style. I can really identify with this article about sexuality which seems to put everything in such an easy to process way :)

Also as a reply for people asking you about questioning your sexuality they provided this: 

(For the science geeks out there)“Think of me as being in the pupal stage of my orientation. If and when I become a butterfly, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, please allow me my metamorphosis.”

Which I adore.

Awkward Sex Comics Anthology CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS


Awkward Sex

An Anthology of Awkward Sex Comics.

I would like to invite you to submit a comic to Awkward Sex, a comics collection of short awkward sex stories to benefit! In my fantasies this comic will be a wildly funny and wonderful series of comics regarding true stories, fiction, and whatever else you wonderful cartoonists com up with. The purpose of this anthology is to be sold as a fundraiser for


Why Donate to Scarleteen?

Scarleteen has offered comprehensive, inclusive, and thoughtful sex education to millions of teens and young adults since 1998. As Scarleteen’s Artist in Residence, I have seen the huge amount of work that Scarleteen staff and volunteers dedicate towards helping young people every day, and on an extremely minimal budget. Currently Scarleteen is suffering a budget crisis, and I want to do what I can to help.

 All proceeds from this comic will be gifted directly to, to be used to publish new articles, continue direct services to over five million users, and offer something resembling a living wage to Scarleteen staff. Click here for more information about supporting Scarleteen.

Content Guidelines:

I am looking for short comics regarding an awkward sex story. This could be something that has actually happened to you, or something completely made up. It could be narrative, or informational. As long as it is awkward and sexual, the rest is up to you.

  • Page limit of 4 pages. If you have your heart set on something larger, feel free to e-mail me and we can discuss it.
  • Black and White only
  • Half letter 5.5" x 8.5"
  • The title of your comic should be included in the content of your comic, either as a title page or a header above your first page.

How to Submit:

Please send either thumbnails, a script, or a completed comic to Isabella Rotman at by March 9th. Submissions must include:

  • A Title
  • Your name and return e-mail
  • A page count
  • Thumbnails or a script (if you have more than this completed please send that as well)
  • A link to your work, either a website, blog, or samples.

What will be included:

Because I am bankrolling the printing for this myself I need to keep the page count reasonable, I cannot afford to print every submissions. I will be choosing which submissions are included on their content objectively, not by the name of the cartoonist submitting.

I will not choose submissions that include:

  • Pornographic material that is not plot relevant
  • Violence for the sake of violence, or sexualized violence
  • Trademarked Characters or settings (anything that can get us sued)


March 9th: Submission Deadline:

March 12th: Contributors Announced

March 23rd: Send Artist Bio, a self portrait or photograph, and (if you choose) sample images for me to advertise online

April 6th: Pages Due

Release Party: Yet to Be determined. Probably The weekend of April 19th or the weekend of April 26th.  


All copyright remains with the original artist. Neither Scarleteen nor I claim any rights to your work other then the sale of the Awkward Sex Anthology for the purpose of fundraising. Awkward Sex comics does not claim first printing or publishing rights, so stories submitted may have been published before or can be published later by the artist.


Payment (or lack thereof)

 Because this is a fundraiser, unfortunately we cannot offer any payment towards artists. All artists included in Awkward Sex will receive three complimentary copies. The release of Awkward Sex will take place at a fundraising release party in Chicago (date and location to be determined), where contributors will be invited to sell their work with 50% of profits going towards (Profits = Cost – Material cost). It is my hope that Awkward Sex will offer some amount of distribution and face time for it’s artists both online and in print. This is for an extremely worthwhile cause. Please think of your submission as a donation towards a wonderful organization that serves as a resource to people in great need of sexual health education. Also keep in mind that we claim no rights to your submission and you are free to publish it yourself at a later date. 

Thank you so much for considering submitting to this anthology! If you are unable to submit, or choose not to, please consider donating directly to Scarleteen here, or supporting Scarleteen and local artists by purchasing this book or attending the release party!


Isabella Rotman, 

Being transgender or otherwise gender nonconforming isn’t a road trip, a competition, or any other weird metaphor. Everyone defines and relates to gender in their own way, and there’s no wrong way to gender. You’re not disqualified from the trans or otherwise gender nonconforming community if you aren’t unrelentingly sad all the time, if you have fun with gender, if you’re genderfluid, if you don’t want to transition, if you’re a lady who doesn’t care if people think you look like a man, if you’re not binary, if you participate in gendered activities. If your brain wants to tell you that you’re not trans enough, tell your brain it’s wrong, and if someone around you says it, tell that person that they’re wrong, too.

     You are a beautiful and wonderful and splendid person, wherever you are in your life and along your journey. And you’re trans enough right this very second, no matter where you are in your journey.

If you are concerned, get the plan B pill at a local pharmacy right now. Like take a bus or an uber or whatever and get it now. They should have a coupon on their website too.

If you are going to have unprotected sex on the regular and you do not want to get pregnant, you need to start some form of contraception other than pulling out (the joke goes: what do doctors call people who use the pull out method? Parents). There are many options, check out’s page on types of birth control.