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Time magazine covers gay youth and the culture war

See Time’s photo essay.

This week’s Time magazine focuses on gay teens in America. John Cloud’s article covers the coming out process for teens today (they’re publicly acknowledging their orientations at younger ages), the “ex-gay” movement, and the AmTaliban’s sense of panic at these developments (

Kids are disclosing their homosexuality with unprecedented regularity–and they are doing so much younger. The average gay person now comes out just before or after graduating high school, according to The New Gay Teenager, a book Harvard University Press published this summer. The book quotes a Penn State study of 350 young people from 59 gay groups that found that the mean age at which lesbians first have sexual contact with other girls is 16; it’s just 14 for gay boys. In 1997 there were approximately 100 gay-straight alliances (GSAs)–clubs for gay and gay-friendly kids–on U.S. high school campuses. Today there are at least 3,000 GSAs–nearly 1 in 10 high schools has one–according to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN, say “glisten”), which registers and advises GSAs. In the 2004-05 academic year, GSAs were established at U.S. schools at the rate of three per day.

The appearance of so many gay adolescents has, predictably, worried social conservatives, but it has also surprised gay activists, who for years did little to help the few teenagers who were coming out. Both sides sense high stakes. “Same-sex marriage–that’s out there. But something going on in a more fierce and insidious way, under the radar, is what’s happening in our schools,” says Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an influential conservative litigation group that earlier this year won a court order blocking a Montgomery County, Md., teachers’ guide that disparaged Evangelicals for their views on gays. “They”–gay activists–“know if they make enough inroads into [schools], the same-sex-marriage battle will be moot.”

Jerry Falwell’s legal bootlicker, Mathew Staver.

Most gay activists would rather swallow glass than say Mat Staver was right about something, but they know that last year’s big UCLA survey of college freshmen found that 57% favor same-sex marriage (only about 36% of all adults do). Even as adult activists bicker in court, young Americans–including many young conservatives–are becoming thoroughly, even nonchalantly, gay- positive. From young ages, straight kids are growing up with more openly bisexual, gay and sexually uncertain classmates. In the 1960s, gay men recalled first desiring other males at an average age of 14; it was 17 for lesbians. By the ’90s, the average had dropped to 10 for gays and 12 for lesbians, according to more than a dozen studies reviewed by the author of The New Gay Teenager, Ritch Savin-Williams, who chairs Cornell’s human-development department.

…Earlier this year, a conservative nonprofit called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX, whose website says it supports “families touched by homosexuality”) approached the PTA about exhibiting at the association’s conference. The PTA said no: “From what we saw in the application, it seemed more of an agenda than just a resource for parents,” says a PTA official. But the association did allow the liberal group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to present an anti-bullying workshop. When I spoke with PFOX executive director Regina Griggs about the PTA’S rebuff, she projected a sense of crepitating resentment: “How can you be more diverse than an organization that says if you’re happy being a homosexual … that’s your right? But if you have unwanted feelings or are a questioning youth, why can’t you make those decisions? I guess diversity stops if you are a former homosexual.”

…In a jarring bit of rhetorical mimicry, many Christians who work with gay kids have adopted the same p.c. tributes to “tolerance” and “diversity” employed by groups like GLSEN. One of the savviest new efforts is called Inqueery (slogan: “Think for yourself”). Founded by a shaggy-haired 26-year-old named Chad Thompson, looks at first like a site designed to bolster proudly gay teens. Pink borders surround pictures of stylish kids, and bold text reads, “Addressing LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered] Issues on High School & College Campuses.” Thompson, who realized in fourth grade that he was attracted to boys, remembers hurtful anti-gay jokes, and he is convincing when he denounces such bias. “The Christian church has a sordid history–a history of the televangelists from the ’80s who would malign homosexuals and say they’re all perverts and pedophiles and going to hell–but didn’t actually offer you redemption,” he says.

“Ex-gay” but struggling Chad Thompson.

Still, Thompson never accepted a gay identity–“Heterosexuality is God’s design,” he says–and today he is a leading spokesman for young Christians rejecting homosexuality. Thompson says a new kind of bigotry has emerged–among gays. “Those of us who have chosen not to embrace this orientation are often misunderstood and sometimes even ridiculed,” he writes in a pamphlet he distributes at campus speaking engagements. Thompson, who has written a book with the near parodic title Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would, hasn’t been completely successful in rejecting his gay desires. He admits he still notices handsome men and says, as though he had an internal Geiger counter, “My attractions are probably about 1% of what they used to be.”

You know I had to go see what the Freepers thought of this article…

Actual Freeper Quotes™

“Wow. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact of homosexual propaganda being pushed at children of younger and younger age?”

“The article gives no figures to back up the claim, but schools and homosexual activist clubs are doing everything they can do to encourage more “coming out”. I wonder aloud if some of these kids are “selecting” their sexuality before all the growth and data are in and evaluated.”

“Nothing more than a case of the homosexual agenda pushing its sinful tabloids upon children. However, they need to be stopped.”

“Gay activists have ALWAYS been trying to reach younger and younger age groups.”

“Meh. Homosexuality has become more acceptable in the last decade. It follows that gays would be less anxious about coming out of the closet at a younger age.”

“This makes me absolutely SICK!”

“Isn’t this sick? My daughter is in middle school and there are 12 year old girls declaring their lesbianism. No gay boys yet because being a gay boy is not COOL….. They see it on MTV and network TV…. I don’t like it at all.”

“With a vast die-off in their ranks (on account of AIDS), homosexuals have become much less of a threat to the rest of society. Consequently, things have lightened up a bit. At the same time this has made it much more difficult for them to “get dates”.”

“No duh. What society has refused to acknowledge is that homosexuality is a skewed perception of reality, and that it provides a sense of belonging to the narcissist. Since kids are in constant turmoil, looking for acceptance and belonging, and since the homosexual agenda has succeeded in pushing its
message into schools, no wonder that a kid who feels like he “doesn’t belong” decides that he’s gay…”

“Typical of the pro-homosexual propaganda was the cover story on today’s Hartford (CT) Commie Courant. It showed two elderly women with a wedding cake celebrating CT’s civil union law as the big picture on the front page. Media bias?–count on it. :-(“

“New research suggests teens are revealing their homosexuality at younger ages than ever before. Much in the same way that 4-year-olds “reveal” that they are pirates, or princesses, or whatever.”

“Cloud also reports gay-straight alliance groups are forming rapidly on school campuses. So who is encouraging this?”

“It couldn’t possibly be more marijuana clouding their judgement either…”

“Pothead doper scum leftist weirdos…”

“Ritalin, maybe.”

“I nipped their little agenda in the bud. I pulled my son out of public school and have him starting his schooling through a christian academy online. And trust me when I say they (public schools)are actively recruiting them. My son (who is at the age where he is sexually confused) has had homosexuals at the public school reinforcing his confusion by persuading him into thinking he’s gay. And he told me he had a bisexual peer counselor. I said enough is enough. My only recourse was to pull him out altogether. And, true, it is thought to be cool to be gay, bi or lesbian. I had had more hell since he started high school than all the previous years he’d been in public school. I’m taking my rights back as his parent and am going to have him taught by my values and what’s fact as opposed to theory. The public schools here in CA can go shove it up their arrogant who know what.”

“I don’t know who’s encouraging it, but I do know that all the h.s. in my county have them. And I live in a conservative county.”

“If this is true, there are going to be a lot of kids growing up with some serious psychological problems. A kid going through puberty can have all kinds of confusing influences, and if one happens to latch on to him the wrong way, he can wind up convincing himself (with the eager tender help of certain initiators) that he was “born that way”. Eventually there will be a comeuppance against this kind of sick brainwashing, but how much damage and suffering and destroyed lives will it take to bring it about?”

“Correction: US Youth Being Brainwashed at a Younger Age.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding