Sexuality, Gender and Glee

It’s been a while since I have written about my fave TV show, Glee.  While my newish subscription to Netflix has opened up great new worlds of television programming (Downton Abbey, anyone?), I am still partial to Glee.  As I’ve written before, I love the music, the dancing, and the over the top dialogue.  But this year – perhaps even more than previous seasons – I am appreciative of Glee’s portrayal of gay teens.

Everyone loves Glease!
Photo: Glee on Fox

Glee and its actors have received awards in past years for their representation of teenage homosexuality.  These awards have been well-deserved.  But the cool thing about this season is that the fanfare seems to have died down, but the writers are still doing their thing, writing about love affairs of the straight and gay variety.  It seems to me that sexual preference  has become a bit of a non-issue over at McKinley High.  In fact, one of the newest students seems to be questioning his gender, together with his sexuality.  The sort of live-and-let-live attitude embraced by the fictional folks at McKinley High may not be representative of what is happening at all real life high schools.  But if life does in fact imitate art, sexuality and gender may one day be a sideline issue for all of us.  Something we notice in people but don’t allow to define them.  Something we allow young (and old!) people to explore and express as they may, when they may.

Adolescence can be rough on mental health.  Coping with the stressors of changing bodies, hormones, friends, academics, and the future – even the luckiest kids can struggle with bouts of depression and worry.  Add to the mix questions of sexuality and gender (and perhaps bullying by peers) and the chance of psychological distress can go up significantly.  Programs like Glee which normalize a wide range of sexual expression and gender orientation give all our kids a better chance at navigating the rough road of adolescence with a steady hand.

*Know a LGBTQ teen who is in crisis and in need of help?  Check out the Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.  Click here for their website, or call 866-488-7386 for their Life Line.

Teen Depression and Glee

Photo by: Glee on Fox

Yippee! Yahoo! Hooray! Glee is back for Season 3! And now that I have done my “research” for this post by watching the episode several times, I am ready to write something about the season premiere.

While I enjoyed the song selection, the number featuring Blaine, and the look of the purple pianos in last week’s episode, what really got me was the transformation of Quinn’s character.  It’s not just that I have a fondness for pink hair (I really do!), but I was both relieved and energized to see the writers doing something different with her character.  In case you don’t remember, Quinn has been through a lot in 2 years: she got pregnant, was kicked out of her house, gave her baby up for adoption, and had her heart broken by longtime boyfriend, Finn.  It was also revealed that she had a childhood history of weight problems and had plastic surgery as a youngster.  Finally, in this episode Quinn is appearing to deal with these events as many of us would: with psychological and emotional turmoil.

We have yet to learn if Quinn is actually depressed (dying one’s hair isn’t necessarily a sign of depression), but here are some things we can look out for as the season progresses to help us know for sure.  These are also good warning signs for the real teens in your life:

Change in interests.  Kids that used to love glee club, soccer, or chess may no longer be interested/find pleasure in these things.  It’s normal for kids’ interests to change over time, it’s concerning when the change is drastic and sudden.

Isolation.  Is your child spending more and more time alone in their room?  Is he turning down invitations from friends, or have the invitations stopped altogether? It’s time to step in.

Poor confidence.  Unfortunately, adolescence does a number on most kids’ confidence levels.  However, if your child seems to be suffering from particularly low self esteem, such that it makes it tough for them to do things (socialize, complete school work, try new things), it might be a warning sign.

Substance use. Many of us equate experimentation with alcohol and tobacco with the teen years.  However, if your child is using substances regularly (like once a week), it could be a sign that they are struggling with their mood and looking for ways to cope.

Changes in eating or sleeping.  Eating and sleeping too much or too little can be a warning sign that something has changed in your child’s psychological health.  Sleeping late one morning isn’t a big deal, not being able to get out of bed for 2 or 3 days is.

Irritability.  None of us are pleasant all the time, and it is a teen’s job to question adults’ decisions and figure out boundaries.  However, if your teen has recently become unusually irritable or angry, lashes out verbally or physically, or is unable to enjoy people and activities she used to because of the irritability, this could be a warning sign of depression.

Thoughts of harm.  If your teen even hints at a thought of wanting to harm themselves, or if you find any blogs/posts/tweets/updates suggesting a desire to die, stop living, or “end things” it is time to take action immediately.  It is better to be safe in these situations, so if you suspect your child is having suicidal thoughts of any kind, take them to the emergency room right away.