On & Off Campus Blog

Adolescence, self-awareness, and coming out
Adolescence, self-awareness, and coming out
Catherine Bertolini '21


The last thing a parent wants is their child becoming self-aware. Self-awareness in a child brings backtalk, sass, and a new worldview that the parents then have to deal with. It also brings the child a sense of discovery. Different from the curiosity of toddlerhood and youth, a self-aware teenager's discovery hinges more upon themselves than the world around them.

Of course, by self-awareness, I mean adolescence. Nobody likes adolescence. Not even adolescents like adolescence. Hormones and change are like oil and water, and I don't think I need to tell you which one is which.

Unfortunately, I – being an adolescent– have been subject to everything that comes with it. Along with the hormones, change, and self-discovery came many realizations about myself, and the most momentous one was that I wanted a girlfriend. Not a boyfriend or male-identifying significant other: a girlfriend.

I know what you may be thinking: how old was I? The answer: twelve. Oh, but isn't that too young? No. There are a lot of misconceptions about when people realize their identity. The main argument against it, indeed, is that kids and teenagers who begin to identify in those ways are simply "too young" to know who they are. Many young LGBTQ people are told their identity – fundamentally who they are – is "just a phase." But who are you to tell someone that you know them better than they know themselves?

When I revealed this to my parents, they were mostly supportive. I could tell that they were slightly weirded-out, though. Being a straight, happily married couple is bound to make parents question how their child could be gay. Don't worry, though! I'm here to provide reassurance to straight parents who now have an LGBTQ child. The short answer is, parenting style and family influence have no impact on a child's sexual orientation or gender identity. So, for all the parents out there thinking it's "their fault" that their child is who they are, fear not! You're not responsible. However, you could benefit from seeing things from your child's point of view. Children have to gauge their parents' previous reactions to LGBTQ people and weigh the pros and cons of coming out, and if the child comes out successfully, they also have to deal with the parents' guilt if said parents think the child is only gay or trans or bisexual because the parents raised them wrong.

And therein, my friends, lies the problem with self-awareness.