The definition of “LGBT families” needs to expand to include families with young lgbt/gender non-conforming children. Recognition and support is needed for these families on the front lines of a new wave of progress.
Despite my searching and my attempts at visibility, I have yet to hear about other young LGB kids or talk to any other parents of gay kids.
I am sure there must be other kids from 5-10 years old who have come out to their families as gay.
I think it would be nice if these kids could find each other. I know there are communities and discussion forums for parents of transgendered kids and their children. The LGBT Youth Centers I have explored usually state 13 as their lower age limit.
Gay children have different needs than their adolescent counterparts – though the children will shortly grow into older kids. It seems that nurturing gay kids in childhood would make adolescence a little easier.
Why Queer Children Now?
There are reasons that children are coming out earlier than ever – greater visibility in the media, perhaps an increase in acceptance by the general population, and so on. This 2009 ABC News article: “‘Smear the Queer': Gay Students Tell Their Stories” describes the experiences of students who knew they are gay in elementary school and then suffered from ruthless classmates and teachers who were at a loss about how to handle the situation.
San Francisco State University Clinical Researcher, Caitlyn Ryan’s research shows that:
In generations past . . . people came out of the closet at much older ages. However, with increasing awareness of homosexuality on TV, in high schools, on the Internet and in the news, . . . children today are more likely to put two and two together much earlier.“Many people knew that they were gay at early ages, typically boys — they knew when they were 5, or 8 or 10,” [Ryan] said.
This early awareness, in combination with immature children, can lead to serious problems in schools without proper intervention.
There should be a broader discussion happening about the needs of young gay children. Research and articles in the press address LGBT bullying as a middle school or high school phenomenon, but from the article linked to above and other such collections of stories, children are being singled out for being gay in elementary school.
And lots of people know they are gay in elementary school or earlier.
The delightful blog Born This Way posts pictures readers have submitted of themselves as children along with a short blurb about themselves and the photo. The point of the blog is to show through photographic evidence and 20/20 hindsight that the readers were born that way. Many of the entries are accompanied by statements such as “when didn’t I know?” or “I was five when I had my first crush . . .”
It seems that there is proof that there were gay children, but
where, oh, where are the queer children and their families now?
Please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Cue ominous music.) We . . . are . . . not . . . alone.
Actually what I mean is that I am writing my heart out here about my own experiences as if my daughter and I are the only two people in the world. That is far from the truth. I have found surprising allies and made great new friends since my daughter has come out to the world. I have linked up with some smart, committed people in my community who care about kids, who care about the LGBT community, and who care about human rights in general. But to do that I had to reach out (and come out) to friends, acquaintances and strangers.
Since she is so young, I have to advocate for her in ways that I might not have to do when she is 14, 18 or 23. Advocating means speaking up and being active in my community. Advocating means remaining stalwart in my commitment and support for her, even if other people disapprove. Advocating means pushing back against being treated as “less than” even when you would rather avoid conflict.
My daughter’s decision to come out has forced me to come out too and I really like who this is forcing me to be. I am not just talking the talk of my beliefs, but walking the walk as well.
As a result of my honesty and conviction I have gained some wonderful fellow travelers. And best of all, I look forward to the life my daughter and I have stretched before us sharing our convictions for equality. She has reminded me who I was, who I have always wanted to be, and who I already am.
It is good not to be alone.
Last night my husband gave a lecture at a pub/restaurant – one of those quasi-academic-talks-with-drinking sort of events sponsored by universities. It started and ended early so we took our daughter. One of our co-workers, a woman in her late twenties who competes in roller derby in her off hours arrived. She came with another derby girl she referred to as her “derby wife.” We’d spotted these women a few weeks before at the Pride Parade and they’d made a delightful a fuss over my daughter, bejeweling her with gaudy bead necklaces before moving on amid shouts and fabulous derby bravado. I invited the women to join us at our table and introduced my co-worker J. and her friend A. to my daughter. Standing around the table, she looked up at them. Eyes wide. They were mesmerizing to her.
Then she asked, “Are you two . . . friends?” as she pointed her finger at one and then another and back again. The women nodded in unison, laughed and replied, “yes, we are just friends.” Their laugh wasn’t demeaning; it was a laugh of recognition and appreciation.
They nodded at her unspoken question as if to say, “I understand what you are asking and yes, we are allies.”
Then they responded to the second question conveying that they were not dating with an answer as indirect as the question she’d poised, “we are just friends.”
I was stunned and impressed and proud of her ability to ask them if they were dating each other without actually asking that. Yes, it is sad that communities that endure prejudice learn to speak in a code comprised of carefully chosen words, body language, eye contact, and meaningful pauses. Yet, I was impressed that she had figured out how to speak that code already, at only 10 years old. I told her as much and all four of us shared a moment of “well done, kiddo.”
My daughter was so excited to order t-shirts from FCKH8 to wear to the pride parade. We got them a few days before the parade. Her’s read: SOME CHICKS MARRY CHICKS. GET OVER IT! and mine read SOME KIDS R GAY. THAT’S OKAY! I took a Sharpie and crossed-out OKAY and wrote in AWESOME!
When I showed her my shirt she said, “I’m a lesbian and I’m awesome!” Uh, yeah you are.
On the way there, I tried to prepare her for some of the things she was going to see at the parade like: scantily clad young men, people in drag, as well as families walking together, suggestive dancing, flamboyant costumes, excellent signs, as well as groups from businesses and church groups. I tried to explain what walking in the parade means to people, especially for men and women who have felt like they needed to wait a long time to come out. It can be powerful and affirming. It’s so powerful to be yourself in public and be celebrated for it. I explained that we are not going to the parade just to watch the people in the parade walk by us, but we have an obligation to wave and cheer and give them love right back. To celebrate them.
She was a little overwhelmed by the scale of the event. It was loud and hot and by the end she was weighted down with about twenty pounds of sparkly beads. Yet, it was so important for her to see members of the LGBT community and friends of the LGBT community crowding the streets, hooting, hollering, dancing, and loving. I was so happy that she got to see all the people stopping to say how much they loved my shirt. It was important for her to see the reactions of strangers to my message that gay kids are awesome! For just a few hours we were all in it together.
SOME KIDS R GAY. THAT’S AWESOME!
Happy Pride, y’all!