Saturday, July 17, 2010

Answers About Gay Youth in New York from Kai Wright

Author Kai Wright is an advocate for LGBT youth. He recently answered some questions on that topic in a three-part article in the New York Times. Lots of interesting and hope-inspiring comments. Like me, Wright believes strongly in reaching out to the next generation of gay youth:

Personally, I think out gay educators offer students wonderful opportunities to learn not just about diversity but also the critical thinking it fosters. There are obvious political challenges, which stretch past sexual orientation. Teachers from all walks of life are too often discouraged from bringing their full selves to the classroom, to my mind. But I won’t wade too deeply into education policy, lest I show how little I know.

More broadly, I’ll say that adults working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth consistently report their greatest challenge is people power: There just aren’t enough adults willing to enter into what are by any measure challenging relationships. The cross-generational communication challenges are enormous and filled with assumptions and misunderstandings on both sides. There’s just not a lot of trust between gay youth and adults, in part because there is so little contact between them.

In addition, the significant baggage many gay adults have with their own youth (who wants to go back there?) can make it difficult for some to step up to the challenge.

I particularly liked one of the questions, which was about the advantages of being a gay youth.

It’s not so much that being gay offers an advantage, but it opens doors to meet other remarkable, dynamic gay young people who are building healthy, exciting lives that never make it into the headlines or broadcasts.

I do believe there is something positive that, while not unique to gay youth, is at least a quintessential part of the gay experience: having to step forward and make an active choice about building the life you want rather than the one you’ve been told you should lead. The debate over whether sexual orientation is a choice makes this a delicate point, but it’s an important one nonetheless. You do, in fact, have a choice as a gay person, of any age. It’s the choice between living honestly versus trying to suppress or conceal your sexuality. In my opinion, society pushes hard against making the former choice, particularly if you’re a young person who is still materially (and emotionally) dependent on family. Even before getting to the external barriers, there are many internal ones: the fear of being singled out, of being alone, of taking a step with no idea about what comes next. Someone who nonetheless chooses to build the life that feels true to them has been through a remarkable rite of passage.

It is not an easy road being gay, and it certainly hasn't been easy for me as over the years I've wrestled with accepting that part of my being. But now that I've completely accepted myself as gay and am confident about being gay, as I was when I first became aware that I'm gay as a teenager, I often feel that I wouldn't want to be any other way. When you're gay you see the world differently, and I love knowing I can be honest and caring about guys without the fear and competition that straight men go through with each other. Anyway, check out all three parts of Kai Wright's Q&A; it's very good.

Answers About Gay Youth in New York (The New York Times):
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


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