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Coming Out in Middle School: When Kids Say 'I'm Gay' at 10, 11, 12...

Don't miss Benoit Denizet-Lewis' article for The New York Times Magazine this weekend on gay, lesbian, and bisexual kids who are coming out in middle school. Writes Denizet-Lewis:


"What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a 'war zone.' In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention."


"Still, the younger they are when they come out, the more that youth with same-sex attractions face an obstacle that would be unimaginable to their straight peers. When a 12-year-old boy matter-of-factly tells his parents — or a school counselor — that he likes girls, their reaction tends not to be one of disbelief, dismissal or rejection. 'No one says to them: ‘Are you sure? You’re too young to know if you like girls. It’s probably just a phase,’'' says Eileen Ross, the director of the Outlet Program, a support service for gay youth in Mountain View, Calif. 'But that’s what we say too often to gay youth. We deny them their feelings and truth in a way we would never do with a heterosexual young person.'"

Coming Out in Middle School [nyt]

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  1. It's a great article and an absolute must-read. It would never have been published in the NYT in the days of Abe Rosenthal.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Sep 25, 2009 9:01:34 AM

  2. I agree that this article is an absolute must-read! I had the Internet back when I was in middle school (mid-'90s), but the world that these kids grow up in now was unimaginable to me then. I think it's wonderful and somehow astonishing how far (some) gay teens have been able to progress since I graduated from high school in 2000.

    By the way, did anyone else read XY? The author of this article used to work there.

    Posted by: Andy | Sep 25, 2009 9:58:00 AM

  3. speaking as someone who grew up before there were "middle" schools, just junior high schools, what he describes boggles the mind. at the same time, although there were no non-pejorative terms for it, i too knew my crushes, although i wouldn't have called them that then, were on other boys.

    one point denizet-lewis does not bring up is our responsibility to protect and mentor these kids as if they were are own, because they ARE, after all, our own kids. we OWE them better than what we got growing up.

    and to be clear, mentoring, or parenting, does NOT include having sex with them, even if that's how you were treated.

    Posted by: jack | Sep 25, 2009 10:42:31 AM

  4. This is a great article. These kids are very lucky. I'm 45, had my first crush in the 1st grade and consciously knew I was into other boys from 7th grade on. When I realized it I felt great. There was a word for me. I was something that existed. You know what I mean?

    I never had a "problem" with being homosexual. The only problem I did have was I didn't know of any other gay kids. Those I learned of later in HS were all big time messes b/c they couldn't deal with it.

    Posted by: Mark | Sep 25, 2009 2:06:17 PM

  5. I used to read XY. It did have some good pics, but over all not of good quality, though Denizet-Lewis is a fine writer. A lot of the kids in the article, especially the girls, seem frivolous; its difficult to believe in them. Something that the article does not bring up is the fact that all of us are sexual beings, we are very capable of both same and opposite sex attraction. Preferring one gender means simply that you prefer one gender to another, not that you are incapable of desire for the other sex. After all, isn't that way straight teen-age boys are so homophobic, because they fear their own homosexual impulses? There would be a lot less homophobia, heterophobia, penis phobia, vagina phobia, misandry, etc., if people could reach that state of mind.

    Posted by: Gabe R L | Sep 26, 2009 12:55:09 PM

  6. I'm sorry, but ... how can they know at that age?? I was totally confused then.

    Posted by: ACe | Sep 26, 2009 9:31:10 PM

  7. It's a good article...if your concept of gay progress is firmly white and middle class. The NYT Mag runs stories like this all the time now, and while I welcome the focus on sexually-othered people, I remain disturbed by their commitment to only perpetuating gay identity as one that is so class-based.

    Posted by: AM | Sep 26, 2009 10:49:47 PM

  8. I was 9 years old when I had my first boyfriend and we were together for 10 years. I was 6 when I did my first oral sex on my older brother when he was sleeping but when he woke up he told me to go back to bed then he told my parents and they did nothing they just watched to see if I was gay and they did not know until I was in my 30s. From age 9 to 19 I had sex almost everyday with someone and my boyfriend. From 9 to 16 I was a gay porn star I used my camera and I mailed the film into a company.

    Posted by: hinbww | Sep 26, 2009 11:08:14 PM

  9. "how can they know at that age?? I was totally confused then."

    @Ace: I used to assume that everyone would know they were gay or straight (or bi) from pretty much their first consciousness about the world. I've learned that you cannot assume that everyone else's pace of development was the same.
    Some people are still confused about it when they're 50 years old, and others have no confusion about it in kindergarten. I was one of the latter.
    I thought as a kid that it was odd that the whole world seemed not to understand the concept except me; I didn't know there were others in the world or that the English language had a word for it until I was 9. But I knew, always since I was little, that I wanted to marry a man when I grew up. My brothers, likewise, knew they were attracted to girls and wanted to marry a woman someday, with no confusion about it.
    I've known many adults of all sexual orientations who were the opposite, and took a long time to figure out who they were. A family's and society's repressive messages (gay is bad, etc.) can confuse kids, and sometimes adults, even more than they otherwise would be.

    Posted by: GregV | Sep 27, 2009 12:39:26 AM

  10. HINBWW If you're joking it's not funny. If you're not joking you should probably get help.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Sep 28, 2009 3:51:20 AM

  11. I too had my first crush on a guy in the first grade. He never knew it, however. LOL

    Posted by: cbdcs4u | Mar 1, 2011 1:40:52 AM

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