Eric Leven

The Way We Raise Our Gays

Filed By Eric Leven | February 15, 2008 3:36 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: conservatism, gay culture, religion, right wing

Here in America we accept that homosexuality exists but nobody wants to talk about it. If you're gay, it's a "figure it out for yourself" type of thing because there still, even in 2008, seems to be a fear that if you talk about homosexuality you might cause a younger person to be gay. Is anyone willing to admit that this silence might be damaging? Is this really how we want to raise our kids -- in a world of denial and make-believe where questions disappear if you ignore them?

For instance: Kids are coming out at younger and younger ages these days. However, in this country by the time a child has the ability to look, listen and learn they've already discovered how our nation treats and accepts those who are gay: not well. I am sure there are many parents out there who are supportive of their child and the lifestyles they lead- wonderful, but a far greater majority casually sling around the word fag, trickling down to kids on the playground, teach boys that to be a "man" you play sports, know what competition is and certainly don't cry. There is no room for sensitivity for the American male child.

We all know how the religious right and conservatives feel about homosexuality. That it's an indecent, immoral and sinful way to be or live. There's no room for fags in sports and if you are gay, you better keep your mouth shut about it! Hell, one of our stay at home moms just said, in response to gay-marriage, "This lifestyle is devastating to those in it and devastating to those around them. In every other area, we work to prevent unhealthy behavior, not sanction it with the force of law.”

Great- so let's apply this to the 12, 13, 14, or 15 year old kid who is realizing they have same-sex attraction. Not only do they have to battle themselves and the realization they are not like the majority of their peers but then they battle the idea of identity themselves. We have authority figures telling us that what we're feeling is wrong, bad and sinful. By the time this youth comes out and forms an identity he/she already has a tremendous amount of baggage when all the other youths are simply living their lives to no abandon.

If a child is particularly beaten down- by their church, their parents, their school or their peers when they come out the baggage is that much heavier. As they approach adulthood it would be common and understandable if they carry feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing and general depression. Is this what we want? All you Christians who believe you're speaking FOR Jesus- do you really think Jesus himself would want this? Whole populations of unhealthy, unhappy kids who go on to lead unhappy and unhealthy lives. This is not because we're gay. It's because YOU can't accept it. Wouldn't you suppose this world would be a better place if children were to feel comfortable with who they are and then approach adulthood in that way?

Then, while living adulthood, the gay male and female are regarded as having socially irresponsible lives. All we do is drink, drug, party and have sex, right? We've all heard the rhetoric before. But let's take a look at where gay men and women are allowed to exercise their freedom. There's certainly no public atmosphere where gays and lesbians can congregate out and open, instead there are only nightclubs, bars and other venues which mix booze with our much needed liberation and socialization. Is this OUR fault? Or is it a product of how this nation accepts and treats gay people? Out of sight, out of mind. The drinking age in this nation is 21. In order for a gay youth to meet, mingle and socialize legally he/she would have to wait until they are 21 in order to feel this liberation when their straight peers have been socializing in appropriate and healthy atmospheres all along.

Yes, of course there are organizations and non-profits everywhere allowing safe havens and healthy meeting areas but I'll be honest in saying that when I was a closeted gay teen trying to make my way through the halls of my high school and desperately awaiting the freedom that graduation would offer, going to my local community center to meet other gay and lesbian youths was about as appealing as going to a Hebrew school dance. Lame, cheesy and just not me. Is it any wonder that the Christopher St. kids are hanging on the street, outside of the bars and clubs and not in the "community center?"

If you're straight, religious and/or conservative and think that gay people or the gay community is a mess understand this is YOUR fault, your doing, your upbringing and not ours. We're just trying to be ourselves, getting through life just as you would- yet we have to lug YOUR baggage around as if it were our own. If you keep it up, certain trends are bound to continue, certain trends like...oh, let's just say High School Shootings.

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This was a very powerful piece. Thnk you for writing it.

Ye Olde Fart | February 15, 2008 4:15 PM

Very good article and very much to the point.
Thank you.
But, I hope you're wrong on that very last statement, though it's beginning to look like you may be right. Really sad.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 15, 2008 5:22 PM

Eric, while I agree with most of what you say here, I think we--as a community--also need to accept responsibility for helping to raise our young people. Yes, we're members of an oppressed minority and many of us are emotionally damaged as a result. At the same time, those of us who are adults need to let that go and start doing what we can to make a better world for ourselves and our community.

As an FtM, I've made an effort to mentor several young FtM's over the years. I also started the first FtM support group in San Diego in the late 1990's. And I worked hard for the Transgender Equality Network Ireland while I was there.

How many LGBT folk try to give back to our community by volunteering or mentoring?

Moreover, I hate to say it but the stereotype of older gay men preying sexually on younger gay men as the latter are coming out is not completely unfounded. That was one plot aspect of (the British version of) Queer as Folk that greatly disturbed me. Rather than hit on that hot young man trying to figure out gay life, why not befriend him and help him navigate the difficult coming out process instead?

The problem of public social spaces not dominated by the alcohol industry exists for all youth, but is heightened for queer kids. It would be rad to see the queer non-profit community get involved with the all-ages music movement, which seeks to reach a population that teen centers and LGBT community centers can't reach.

I just wish to say that the situation is worse than Eric brings up. The religious right has created ex-gay programs specifically targetting LGBTQ youth and is selling them to parents as a way to save and cure their kids. So any child of a religiously conservative parent can be signed in to one of these programs and have no recourse out without parental leave. LGBTQ youth account for 20-40% of runaway, homeless youth, though they may be only 5% of the entire population, and 25% of homeless queer youth were literally thrown out of their homes by their parents for being queer. I don't know the situation nationwide, but here in Chicago, we may have up to 15,000 homeless youth and yet have only 24 beds consigned for them in shelters.

Being out means being thrown out on the streets, engaging in sex trade to survive, at greater risk of assault, drug addiction, and STD/HIV through sex or needle use for these kids. IT IS A CRISIS! It is long past time for our community to treat it with all the energy equal to that devoted to HIV and breast cancer and queer bashing activism.


I'm sorry I didn't see this post sooner. We cannot blame all parents for contributing to the negative messages GLBT children receive from society. When my son came out at 19 years old, I asked him how long he knew he was gay. He said he had sort of known for about 7 years. He suffered for 7 years, telling no one and having a very difficult time. Had I known what he was going through, not only would I have accepted him right away, but I would have done everything I could to help him. I have met many parents in PFLAG who went through similar situations with their children.

Not all parents consciously contribute to the negativity hurled towards GLBT kids by society. Yes, it IS society who is to blame, but there are many of us who not only accept our kids, but do everything we can to not only accept and love them, but work to make life better for all GLBT children.

Please, if you can, attend a PFLAG meeting and hear the messages of love and acceptance. Oftentimes the parents are also victims of society's hateful messages.

Eric, wonderful article. - Thanx!

Eric, great article! Thank you...