By Terry Lee Derrick
In the Oct. 10 issue of Time magazine, the phenomena of more gay teens coming out took center stage.
A major focus of the article is The Point Foundation, which was founded in 2001 to provide generous scholarships to gay students. Point is supported by a wealthy elite of gay and gay friendly people including billionaire philanthropist Edgar Bronfman Sr., David Mixner, activist and longtime friend of Bill Clinton, and Jason Moore, director of Avenue Q, to name a few. A well known scholar/recipient is Maya Marcel-Keys; daughter of conservative activist Alan Keyes.
The article’s main focus was on how many teens are coming out, how well they are doing, and how they are being received by peers and family. According to the book “The New Gay Teenager” the average gay person now comes out during or right after high school. A Penn state study reflected that lesbians have first other girl contacts at 16 and gay boys with boys at 14. In 1997 there were 100 gay straight alliances (GSAS) in high schools and now there are over 3,000.
Interestingly, according to Kevin Jennings, who in 1990 founded a gay teacher organization (GLSEN), says, “Most of the teens who start GSAS groups start out identifying as straight then later come out as gay”.
With shows like Desperate Housewives depicting gay teenagers, websites like younggayamerica.com and outproud.org and magazines like YGA (Young Gay America) gay teens have tremendous visibility and communication now. Despite many churches that now offer “counseling” to gay teens, The New Gay Teenager found in six surveys that less that 13 percent of teens with same sex attraction would prefer to be straight. Teenagers in general now, (even conservative ones), are pretty much non- pulsed by other openly gay teens. There are difficult times still with peers for some teens that come out early, according to Cornell’s Savin-Williams, who has studied gay adolescents for over 20 years.
Social conservative Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an influential litigation group, says, “The gay activists know if they make enough inroads into schools the same sex-marriage battle will be moot”. Although there are still evangelists and churches that outspokenly denounce gays, some churches are now taking a more sophisticated approach. With a surprisingly “accepting” strategy Inqueery (inqueery.com) whose slogan is “Think for yourself”, pays lip service to tolerance and diversity and seems gay friendly but still promotes ultimately that only heterosexual sex is “Gods plan”. So the Christian right has a new plan: inclusion, prayer and ultimately the promise of change.
It would seem, the new generation of straight and gay teens are more aware, tolerant and accepting of themselves and each other and that is to most of us who have struggled, God: a Good Orderly Direction.