Thursday, January 05, 2006

LGBTs Say: Young LGBTs Over Tended by Older Counterparts

Are older LGBT's "over tending" their younger counterparts? Queer researchers ask: Is the flurry of attention and programs for queer youth creating more problems than they're solving for the younger set? A queer think tank report says this may be the case.

(So, MassResistance says: Time to cut the government funding. Cut the programs in our schools. Disband the "gay-straight" clubs in the high schools. End the gay proms. Stop drawing teens into your extremist political cause. Let them be confused for a few years. Just let the kids be kids.)

Excerpts from a very interesting piece in Bay Windows, "Scissor Sisters versus show tunes", focusing on this "queer generation gap":

A new report from the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies (IGLSS), an Amherst-based think tank, asserts that there is a serious breakdown in communication between LGBT youth and their graying counterparts fueled not just by the obvious age difference, but by the lightning speed with which life has changed for LGBT people in the last three-plus decades.

In The Gay Generation Gap: Communicating Across the LGBT Generational Divide, co-authors Dr. Glenda Russell and Dr. Janis Bohan take a page from Culture and Commitment, the anthropologist Margaret Mead’s analysis of intergenerational communications and social change...

One assumption often made by older LGBT people, Bohan notes, is that “the experience of LGBT youth is full of angst and trauma and misery and drug use and running away and dropping out of school and all of those awful things which we hear a lot about.” But, it’s an assumption both she and Russell believe is based more on their own coming out experiences than the current reality....

“This is a longer story,” says Bohan, “but what we found is that most LGBT youth really are doing just fine,” though she acknowledges that some young LGBT people do still endure great difficulties. “One of the things that we came to realize was that our assumption that they were in trouble often reinforced that portrayal of LGBT youth in ways that might not be helpful to them,” she says. Propagating narratives of teens in peril while giving short shrift to the positive aspects of being a young queer person, Russell and Bohan assert, presents the risk “that LGBT youths may conclude that these are the only legitimate stories for their own lives.” They quote one young lesbian who said, “I feel like a loser because I never committed suicide, I never did drugs, I just read approximately 12 science fiction books in a week.”

The more positive experiences of LGBT youth seems to be supported by a study released last month by the city of Boston and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. The report, titled “Report of the 2004 Boston Youth Survey,” found that instances of harassment and discrimination on the “basis of presumed sexual orientation” was “relatively rare.” Only seven percent of respondents reported experiencing such discrimination; by contrast 15 percent of respondents said they had experienced racial discrimination or harassment.

...The challenge for LGBT adults, particularly those who work with queer youth, where the focus is more often on the difficulties of being young and queer, is to maintain a broader perspective, says Russell, a senior research associate at IGLSS. “I think when you work with queer youth who really are in difficult straights — who really are hitting on all of those risk factors — it’s difficult to believe that there are also gay youth who are doing okay,” she says. Another turn-off for queer teens, according to Russell and Bohan, is the tendency of some LGBT adults to try to fulfill their own youthful dreams through today’s young people. Hence things like the Queer Prom — the highlight of which for one young lesbian referenced in Russell and Bohan’s report was seeing her newly out lesbian teacher dance with her partner. Get the picture?