Monday, September 28, 2009

Coming out in junior high

This is a really amazing article: "Coming Out in Middle School."

It's a good, and much-needed, reminder that while things are not where they need to be yet -- we do not have equal rights yet -- things are much, much better than they were ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years ago.

Thank you to all of us who have come before. Thank you to all of us living with such courage now.

Blessed be.


Sterghe said...

Interesting story--thanks for sharing!

Since I had my first girlfriend when I was 12, I definitely agree with the premise that many youth know their sexual orientations in middle school. I didn't come out more generally until much later, and I'm glad that some kids this age feel safe doing so now, and that they can enjoy the support of friends and family as they explore who they'll be when they grow up.

That said, though, there was one thing about this story that did bother me a bit: the approving amusement of 13-year-olds kissing and cuddling at a supervised event. Knowing your orientation and having support while you grow into maturity is a good thing. Early sexual expression is not a good thing for middle school kids of any orientation.

Kids take their cues about what's acceptable behavior from the reactions of the people around them. I strongly support the hosting of gay-friendly spaces for kids this age, with dancing, music, laughter, and socialization. I'd also encourage giving our gay youth the same message we try, as parents, to give our straight youth: sex can wait, and intense make-out sessions aren't appropriate for 13-year-olds.

Just my two pennies ... thanks for posting!


staśa said...

Thanks for your two pennies, Sterghe!

A couple of thoughts...

Are kissing and cuddling "intense make-out sessions"? I remember kissing and cuddling when I was that age, and it was definitely different from the kind of making out I did even a year later (and much different from the kinds of making out I was doing two years later!). So I don't know that I agree that allowing kissing and cuddling -- even what appears to be intense kissing -- is at all the same as allowing intense making out.

I also couldn't help thinking, when I read your comment, "Well, I'd rather have them kissing and cuddling in a supervised setting, than having an intense make-out session, or getting into more than they can handle, in private." Perhaps I am truly a child of my generation!

Granted, I'm not the parent of a teenager, and it's been a long time since I was a teenager myself; but I also think we might have different thoughts and opinions about what kinds of sexual activity are appropriate at what ages.

I think teens, with appropriate support from the adults around them, are the ones to decide what level of sexual activity to participate in, as long as it's safe, sane, and consensual. I think some of the biggest challenges our teens face are learning how to determine what's safe and what's sane, and coping with sexual assault (non-consensual sex/when things become unsafe). But teaching anyone not to be sexual in order to avoid those things is like teaching people not to leave the house so they won't get mugged.

But I hear you saying that you're not sure you want 13-year-olds kissing and cuddling yet with anyone they're sexually or romantically interested in.

Which leads me to ask: define "developmentally-appropriate" with respect to sexual expression and participation? I know what was developmentally appropriate for me in the 1980s would not have been developmentally appropriate for my mother in the 1950s, or my grandmother in the 1920s and 1930s. How do we determine what's developmentally-appropriate for teens today?

One of the other things I think is really important for teens is safe places to explore sexuality that aren't completely private, and where, therefore, certain things are less likely to happen.

And the kinds of sex and sexuality education that emphasize abstinence and waiting for marriage definitely don't work for straight kids. Even if they could be adapted for use with LGBTQ kids, they wouldn't be appropriate or helpful.

So I don't know that I agree that teaching kids to wait is the answer. I would say, teaching kids and teens how to decide for themselves is the answer. If our goal is to delay sexual activity, then it's much more likely to happen if teens make that choice for themselves.

Also, I'm aware that we're not talking about gradations in sexual activity. One of the HUGE failures of much of sex education is that its only definition of sex is penile-vaginal intercourse. If that's what we're trying to get straight kids to wait to do, there are lots of other ways to have sex, and we need to be honest about that -- either to educate them about how to protect themselves from STIs while participating in them, or, if we're trying to discourage those activities, to do that effectively.

And if you're a teenager who has no plans to have sex with someone of the "opposite" gender, you're going to tune sex ed that's focused on PVI out completely, when what you really need is good information on other kinds of sex and sexual expression.

Hmmm. Been a while since I had chewy conversations about this, but it's starting to pop up in several different areas of my life.

Good conversation -- thanks!

staśa said...

Sterghe, thinking about this a little more, I realize I have a couple of questions -- honest ones.

Your write, "I'd also encourage giving our gay youth the same message we try, as parents, to give our straight youth: sex can wait, and intense make-out sessions aren't appropriate for 13-year-olds."

So some of my questions are these:

Why aren't intense make-out sessions appropriate for 13-year-olds?

Why should sex wait? When should it wait until?

Why don't we want teenagers to engage in sexual activity?

Which sexual activities don't we want teenagers to engage in?

What sexual behaviors are appropriate for teens at different ages?

I'm interested in what you think about these different questions...