Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

They're Coming for Your Kids

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | November 08, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay kids

Everybody is talking about gay kids now, and I have to admit that at times I've dsc_0007-e1288401371463.jpgbeen very moved noting how much has changed since I was 10 or 11. The very idea of coming out in middle school is surreal to me when I recall my own life at that age when I was starting to wonder why I found boys so interesting and terrifying and getting the feeling that something was very wrong with me.

But recently, suddenly all my good cheer about kids' coming out so young took on a sinister aspect when a friend who teaches elementary school posted a status update on Facebook that read, "no bullying today... a fourth grade boy who is most likely gay wore a dress, wig and heels to school today for Halloween. not only was he not afraid, he was PROUD, relaxed and wasn't teased. huge surprise for the community i teach in." I commented, "most likely gay?" and my friend replied, "we kind of suspect he's gay but he hasn't stated it."

It used to be in college that you'd "kind of suspect" someone was gay and you might encourage him to come out, might reassure him that being gay meant being fabulous and having lots of sex, being radical and marching in the streets, being a part of something that might change the world. But "gay" means something very different now, and we're ushering 4th graders into a world where they can fantasize about an expensive wedding and looking sexy in desert camo while they kill people in the Middle East.

I can't believe I didn't see this side of it before now, considering how much I rail against the expectations of conformity in a "gay community" that has become so conservative in the last couple decades, expectations of conformity which are especially acute upon coming out. I've said many times that coming out these days is much more like going in, as it narrows your choices of acceptable fashion, political convictions, lifestyle, etc.

When I was 11, the message I got from books, movies, TV, teachers, religious leaders, was that my feelings were deviant and unacceptable but that if I would just conform I would reap all the rewards of the American Dream.

Lots of kids -- thankfully I was one of them -- eventually realized those people were full of shit, that the American Dream left out more people than it embraced, and that freedom to express one's sexuality is a good worth fighting for, that the freedom to be oneself is the real American Dream.

But now, even those kids who by emotional fortitude, exposure to happy queer adults, self-awareness, liberal-minded parents, or some lucky combination thereof come to believe that their same-sex desires are okay, will now be faced with an additional roadblock just when they thought they were free and clear.

As a kid, what scared me about becoming aware that I might be gay was that I didn't know what gay really meant, that I had nothing but whispers and sneers and innuendo and the police scanner in the local paper to give me any idea of what my life might be like if I was indeed gay. What scares me for kids growing up now is that they do know what gay means. What they are being told it means is that they must -- because now they can -- conform to the status quo if they want to be accepted and approved of and loved. The status quo is now increasingly available to homosexuals, so they have no excuse any more for being deviant. It is increasingly available because it is what the most prominent gay activists are actively fighting for: to be included.

So, despite some heartwarming stories, I have my guard up again. I don't trust 1) our "straight allies" who are hell-bent on marrying us off and turning us into good gay neighbors or 2) the Dan Savages of the world telling kids not only the lie that parents have been telling their kids for centuries -- that they will grow up to meet their dream lover, get married, and everything will be great -- but telling them that if for some reason, whether intentionally or not, their life doesn't fall into that pattern, their desires are, irony of ironies, pathological after all.

My heart still aches for the kids. Even more so now.

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"telling them that if for some reason, whether intentionally or not, their life doesn't fall into that pattern, their desires are, irony of ironies, pathological after all."

I'm really not sure where you're getting this.

I want the kids to know they have the option to live any kind of life, whether it's radically queer or status quo. It's not for me to decide that the status quo isn't good enough for another person, just as you don't want anyone else telling you the radical queer life isn't good enough.

theflyingarab | November 8, 2010 7:36 PM

What bothers me is -- how on earth do we know when a CHILD is gay? Why can't you be a five-year-old boy who likes to paint his nails without being a pre-homosexual? Even when we have the best intentions when it comes to "gay" children, we're still reifying all that gender bullshit by marking them as "different" or "transgressive". I think kids should be able to play and dress up however they want to without adults swooping in to imperialize and claim them For the Cause.

One thing about all this really confuses me. A young boy wants to dress up as a girl and people wonder if he is gay? Do male gay children want to be girls?

One study I heard of that followed gender nonconforming male children as they grew up, about half grew up as gay and about 1% were transgender.


Is that one percent before or after factoring in the fifty percent morbidity rate for Transsexuals by the age of thirty thanks largely to the rejection of peers, friends, family, and society? Is that fifty percent before or after the twenty five percent of Gay males that end their lives by their own hand? I am convinced personally when we hear of a pre-teen or teenage suicide that leave no notes, the majority of those cases are LGBT people who just cannot cope with the rejection they see ahead. In many ways it is a form of genocide that by and large goes ignored.

Kathy Padilla | November 9, 2010 11:35 AM

I believe that the Zucker study said 15 to 20% of gender variant kids - who went through his reparative therapy - ended up being transsexual. I don't know the age of follow up - but most of his patients did not receive this into adulthood. There is no way of knowing how many become "later transitioners" or who struggle throughout adulthood with the enforced gender expression & identity. Living in the closet throughout ones life or transitioning in adulthood is not included in those numbers.

He believes someone transitioning is a bad outcome that should be prevented by reparative therapy as a child - which is implemented via enforcing gender norms like dress, removal of the color pink & removal of Barbie dolls etc.

He thinks trans kids assigned male at birth are really gay guys - say - where have we heard that?
I think he's gay - erasing trans peoples specific identities seems to make some folks feel better about gender variance as it relates to themselves.

While I try to avoid personal attacks on anyone in the case of Zucker only one word seems to apply. Quack.

I don't think an elementary school teacher should be posting on the Internet that a child is "most likely gay." Wait til children know their own sexual orientation, and then let them decide if they want to reveal it to others. Internet postings linger, and you can never predict their consequences down the road.

I think I know what you mean by "an additional roadblock," but I'm not really seeing where that's happening with young LGBT children. They're being told they cannot deviate from the status quo? If anything, they seem to have greater freedom now to deviate. The boy who wasn't bullied when he wore a dress, wig, and heels was free to deviate.

Along the same lines, I don't see our straight allies (Why the scare quotes? Are they not really straight, or not really allies?) as trying to marry us off so much as fighting for our right to marry if we choose to.

Conversely, I do think there's some truth to your concern about LGBT people being told they'll find Ms. or Mr. Right and live happily ever after. As prejudice and discrimination decline, we're being exposed more and more to the same influences as everyone else -- and that includes unrealistic ideas such as "there's someone out there who's just meant for you, and you'll know them when you find them." I see this as a logistical effect of being more and more accepted.

I don't see a reason here to be suspicious of our supporters or of the progress we've made -- it's more like a downside of a good thing. It's our enemies, like NOM and the FRC, who have earned our distrust and whose lies we must fight.

I am so sick of categorizing any variance in gender expression (much less gender identity as 'gay'

I may have said this before at some point but it really boils down to education of adults on GLBT, without making the T silent.

I do think the author of this bog brings up an interesting point though. The fast paced life of the clubs and bars just isn't the face that we as a community seem to be showing to the public anymore, and kids have picked up on that. I can't see how that is a bad thing.

Reflecting the mass media, the schoolyard has become much more gay-savvy, but often not, I fear, more truly gay-accepting. So these kids who are outed younger and younger can have a very rough time. I was under the radar as a kid in a much more innocent era. And that had its advantages.

Interestingly enough, I'm reading a book on this topic that I think is 50% amazing skepticism and research on mainstream views on gay youth and 50% over-reach and over-simplification.

Since I'm part of the "youth" or "next generation" the author is referring to since he wrote this book 6 years ago when I was 21, a lot of it has sounded like "Mm-hmm, yeah, right" to me. One of the differences the author describes is that people my age are supposed to see being gay as so mainstream that they don't worry at all about assimilation, that they view being assimilated as the natural state and that distinctions that are being made between "gay culture" and "straight culture" are just fabrications imposed by an oppressive culture defined largely as the previous generation.

Anyway, his conclusion is that this leads to everyone realizing that sexual orientation is an unimportant way to organize and that everyone can fuck anyone so none of this matters.

I'm of mixed opinion, since I do see the point in that, while there are many queers of all ages who are leftist, I don't see many younger queers describing a separate "gay culture" that has any meaning at all. Also, the existence of plenty of older gays, gays who grew up with no idea of what being gay means, who talk about nothing other than marriage and serving in the military (as if they're going to enlist if DADT is lifted), makes me wonder if this is a generational issue at all.

That and if we're going to deconstruct the myth of the American Dream, it's going to have to be a materialist, not a cultural, criticism. The time is ripe to tell people that they've been lied to for decades!

What's the book, Alex? I'll check it out.

Yes, gay identity may be a creaky and archaic artifact of a moment now passed. But I also wonder if young people dis-identifying from it are all really comfortably post-gay, or in part just manifesting homophobia and internalized homophobia in an age and culture of superficial visibility without real acceptance- 'it's so gay to be gay.'

And yeah, bring on the materialist critique...

i have to admit, I did not get far past
"that being gay meant being fabulous and having lots of sex" without pausing to wonder what the hell i'm doing wrong.

seriously though,
i was teased for being gay before i even realized it myself. 5th grade it started, and that was 26 years ago.

I can say though, if I knew the dan savages of the world, maybe my self esteem would have been better. maybe i wouldnt have cut myself, planned my suicide....

When I was a kid, being trans just meant that you'd go to jail at some point. All I had to hope for was that I would avoid arrest and prosecution. I think its important that we give kids the opportunity to believe it can "get better", that they can grow up to be normal, regular people, no matter who they love, now matter how they see themselves, that its ok, that they AREN'T "sinful perverts". When I was a kid, we were told that we could grow up to be president. The fact that I'm not the president, that my life has taken its rough turns, that I've been unemployed, all of that, happens to everyone. I want to give my children the hope that they CAN achieve whatever they dream, that being gay, straight, trans, whatever, isn't the determining factor in their lives, its just part of who they are. We have to raise our children with the hope that they can go farther, do better. We can't tell them that hoping for a better life is foolish, because of who they are. We have to show them that working for our dream is what its all about, the rest doesn't matter, and shouldn't.

gregorybrown | November 9, 2010 11:20 AM

A teacher who posts her suppositions on a public forum is both unethical but a smug bitch who wants to show how cool she is.
It would be a fine world if boys and girls of whatever age were free to play around with gender signals and fantasize freely about being a fairy princess or a dam builder. That's not going to happen if str8 people make a big deal of what they see and go all lala to show either their liberal cred or their Christian horror.
And I say again: telling kids "It gets better", with everybody but the Pope weighing in on the trendy thing-to-Do don't mean squat if the hearer is 10 or 12 and has YEARS to endure whatever crap is handed out along the way--unless there's some genuine immediate support from respected and responsible adults to rely on along the way.

Marja Erwin | November 9, 2010 1:02 PM


I started facing misogynistic insults at 6, homophobic ones by 8, and explicitly transphobic ones by 12. Again and again, people saw me as something different, and it took time to figure out why. I started practicing a lower voice at 12 grade and a more masculine walk at 14 grade to avoid the insults. But it took me until I was 27 to 28 to figure things out.

Marja Erwin | November 9, 2010 1:04 PM

I started practicing a lower voice at 12 (7th grade) and a more masculine walk at 14 (9th grade) to avoid the insults.

Sorry about the typos.

which is real and which made up | November 9, 2010 4:38 PM

telling them that if for some reason, whether intentionally or not, their life doesn't fall into that pattern, their desires are, irony of ironies, pathological after all.

This is a pretty loaded statement. Can you provide citations of who said that statement and where. Thank you. If you cannot and if you were merely hyperbolizing, you should retract the imposition of your own agenda pretending to be journalistic fact (which would be a very manipulative and sleazy thing to do).

CassandraToday | November 9, 2010 10:08 PM

Gay, trans. Whatever. Most straight people, whether enemies or allies, don't get it. Why should I let myself get worked up because the LGb(t(q)) "community" doesn't get it either? Like I said, whatever.

Even more so now? Really? You've got to be kidding me.

I get where you are coming from, I really do - this fear of giving up queerness, difference that comes with growing acceptance by society. And I also see elements of this in queer lefty arguments against same-sex marriage. But, as with marriage, the impact goes both ways - as the GLBT community becomes more accepted, straight society's notions of what is normal and acceptable is queered. This is evident in the fact that a 12-year old boy can go to school dressed as a girl and no one bats an eye. How totally fucking amazing is that.

So being gay may no longer mean “having lots of sex” or “being radical and marching in the streets.” I’ll take mainstream acceptance and all that comes with it over second-class citizenship or hearing any more stories of gay teenage suicides any day. I can still have lots of sex (thankfully now without fearing arrest) and I’ll still be marching in the streets, but I look forward to the day that I can march for another cause.

You don't get where I'm coming from at all. I'm not afraid of "giving up queerness."

I'm saying that many people can't or don't want to make the sort of compromises necessary for "mainstream acceptance." Not everyone wants to or can get married, adopt a Chinese baby, and move to the suburbs so that everyone can say, "Oh look, they're just like us!" There are people who do not and will never be "just like us."