Life Cycle Issues

LGBT individuals face many of the same issues all people face as they progress through life. However, LGBT youth may have an especially difficult time. During adolescence, teens are under pressure to conform, and extraordinary effort and courage may be required for an LGBT teenager to “come out” to peers and family. Gay and lesbian youth may be subject to sexual abuse or exploitation sometimes related to their insecurity and low self-esteem. LGBT youth may face significant stress in coping with the attitudes of peers, teachers, and parents. Older adolescent and young adult LGBT people focus on identity development through school, career choices, and sexual exploration and relations. Their social life often revolves around bars or other settings that promote drug and alcohol use (D’Augelli, 1996). When LGBT adolescents come out to their family, the result can range from understanding and support to verbal and physical abuse. Some youth run away from home and live on the streets (Savin-Williams, 1994).


Many LGBT people consider becoming part of a couple an important part of life. Although there are no legal sanctions for such relationships, except in Vermont, the majority of gay people are in relationships, and many are as committed as traditional heterosexual couples (Klinger & Cabaj, 1993). Some LGBT people are parents; they have had or adopted children (Patterson, 1995). LGBT clients belong to a family of origin. Depending on the circumstances, the relationship may be healthy or strained. Some LGBT people create their own family of choice consisting of a close network of friends that serves the needs often met by traditional families. Treatment providers need to consider an LGBT client’s partner, children, family of origin, and family of choice when providing care.