Monday, October 6, 2008

Gay Youth - Then & Now

Many years ago here in Washington, DC, my former partner and I helped establish and run Washington's gay youth group. The group we led was the immediate precursor of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistant League (which does an incredible job serving Gay, Lesbian and Trans kids) as well as groups established around the same time for "kids" in their 20s and 30s.

In it's heyday, The Youth Group, as it was called attracted upwards of 40 kids on a Saturday afternoon. For a couple of years, a local bar owner opened her bar on Saturday afternoons for our kids, provided someone to sell the kids sodas and let our budding DJ spin records. The meetings usually involved a "rap" session (folks of a certain age will remember when "rapping" had a meaning not connected with the hip hop music movement), followed by dancing or, to my sometimes horror, a raid of 30 noisy gay kids descending on the local McDonalds which was popular both with tourists on Capitol Hill and Marines from the local barracks.

I still keep in touch with some of my kids including one I consider my best friends and with whom I have lunch every week - we've done that for better than 20 years.

One of the things I remember most clearly about the group is that parents generally didn't know where their kids were on those long-gone Saturday afternoons. A few were "out" (it was 1980), but most of them slipped out of the house and into downtown DC from the burbs to spend some time with gay friends and be themselves before heading back home to their other life.

Meet Kaz Felix-Hawver - a local 7th grader who describes himself as bisexual and is pretty outspoken about the rights of Gay folk - all with the approval and support of his parents. You can read the whole story here.

Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about this. A part of me is just thrilled to see this kid take a stand. He is the logical evolution of all those kids I spent Saturday afternoon's with 30 years ago. Yet, there's a queasy little part of me that recoils a little when I see that 7th graders are general "pre-teens" which I think means 11-12 years old. Despite the fact that I can look back to my earliest memories and know that I was gay, I'm a little concerned that a "pre-teen" - whatever that means - is able to label himself that way. And, until I read this article and actually thought about it, I was a big proponent of the world (and parents) understanding that children are sexual beings long before reaching the age of consent.

I suppose I'd just like to see Kaz be a kid for a little while longer, unconcerned with having to defend statements or take positions. I think back to my 7th grade year back in the Jurassic era and this kind of stuff just didn't come up.

Guess they're putting something else in the Cherrios these days!

Anyway, times have changed and this little guy is proof and I wish him luck. The article is worth clicking to if you have a few minutes.


Bigg said...

I gotta be honest with you, I am all for this and totally in support of this kid. I knew I was different by the time I was seven years old, and kids today probably know even sooner. Think how much less they'll have to go through if their orientation is acknowledged and nurtured early in life.