Coming out in middle school
The New York Times has a lengthy article in their magazine this weekend about the fact kids are starting to come out in middle school. I myself came out toward the end of high school in the beginning of the aughts, and I was a relative rarity as the school’s only totally out guy my senior year, but I wasn’t an aberration.
Writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis gives lot of attention to Gay-Straight Alliances in middle schools, and rightly so. My school‘s GSA was only for the high school, and at the time we as a group weren’t even allowed to talk to the middle school because some in middle school administration believed that would have meant talking to the kids about sex.
That notion continues to irritate me to no end. First and foremost, falling in love isn’t just about sex. Kids see family members and others in relationships all the time. It’s not as if they don’t know any couples; chances are their parents at least used to be in one.
And secondly, it’s not as if middle schoolers never think or talk about sex. That even happens in school settings rather frequently—in 8th grade Romeo and Juliet featured prominently in our literary curriculum, and we all ran to see the movie of the same name. If kids are old enough to learn about straight relationships, they’re mature enough to learn about gay ones too.
The NYT story also talks a lot about gay youth support groups. I attended the Main Line Youth Alliance in suburban Philadelphia through most of my senior year, and remember finding a great deal of comfort in getting to know other gay and lesbian kids. I haven’t been back since, and I just realized I’m now the age of the administrators when I was there, but I can’t say enough to thank the facilitators there and the teachers at my school who showed us LGBT students we weren’t doomed to a life of unhappiness. It’s kind of startling to think that in just a few years kids have begun coming out right when they hit their teens, but it makes perfect sense. At some level I always knew I was attracted to men, and I’m sure you remember your heart skipping a beat before you hit 18.
This trend speaks well of the progress we’ve made in the last few years, and I fully expect our society to become more open in the next decade. Of course I can’t just sit idly by, so I’m going to retire in the anticipation of doing some LGBT rights volunteer work tomorrow morning.