Even as barriers to equality fall, gay and lesbian teens report they still struggle with harassment and identity issues more than their straight peers do.
By Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times
It’s not easy growing up gay in America, despite the nation’s increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage and other issues of gay equality.
Gay and lesbian teenagers across the United States are less likely to be happy, more likely to report harassment and more inclined to experiment with drugs and alcohol than the nation’s straight teens, according to a new nationwide survey of more than 10,000 gay and lesbian young people.
The survey, which will be released Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign, aWashington, D.C.-based civil rights group, is described as one of the largest ever to focus on the nation’s gay youth. It was conducted online and involved 10,030 participants aged 13 to 17 who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It also included interviews with about 500 13- to 17-year-olds who composed the poll’s “straight” population.
The study paints an often stark picture of the challenges of growing up gay in this country, even as same-sex marriage gains support among many Americans and other legal and cultural barriers to gay equality begin to fall.
The survey showed, for example, that half of all gay and lesbian teens reported being verbally harassed or called names at school, compared with a quarter of non-LGBT kids. About twice as many gay and lesbian respondents as straight teens also said they had been shoved, kicked or otherwise assaulted at their schools, with 17% of LGBT teens and 10% of straight youths reporting such assaults.
Fewer than half of gay teenagers said they believe their community is accepting of people like them, and 63% said they would need to move to another town or part of the country to find acceptance. Just 4 in 10 gay teens reported being happy, compared with nearly 7 in 10 of their straight peers.
And more than twice as many gay (52%) as non-gay (22%) respondents said they had experimented with drugs or alcohol.
Child welfare advocates who reviewed the study before publication praised it for shedding light on a population that is difficult to reach and in need of help from government agencies and others.
Linda Spears, vice president of policy for the Child Welfare League of America, said the study bears out “our worst fears about LBGT kids. These kids are often so vulnerable in the way their lives are being led because of the lack of support they have. They need what all young people need, parents and others who are there for them and nurture their development.”
Chad Griffin, the new president of the Human Rights Campaign and an advocate for same-sex marriage, said the survey “is yet another reminder that we still have a lot to do in this country so that young people can grow up healthy.”
Griffin, who helped organize the legal fight against Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, said he hopes the report will inform policymakers and serve as a reminder to parents, schools and elected officials about the challenges facing a vulnerable population.
“These are young people,” he said. “They worry about which hall they can walk down at school, which table they have to avoid in the lunchroom, what happens at church on Sunday and whether they need to hide their identity from their family.”
But the survey also showed that many gay teens find safe havens among their peers, on the Internet and in their schools. Nearly 3 in 4 gay teenagers said they were more honest about themselves online than elsewhere and 67% said their schools were “generally accepting” of gay people.
In interviews this week at L.A.’s Gay and Lesbian Center, several young people spoke about the survey’s findings and their own experiences coming to terms with their LGBT identity.
Jonathan McClain, a 22-year-old from Altadena, said he identified strongly with part of the study showing that many young gays and lesbians feel forced to change their identities almost hour by hour, depending on where they are and who’s around. Many LGBT kids are more likely to be “out” at school than they are with their families.
“Sometimes you’re out of the closet, sometimes you have to put yourself back in and watch what you say and how you act,” said McClain, who volunteers at the center.
McClain, who came out after he graduated from high school, said he had never directly experienced harassment.
That was not the case with others interviewed, including Edwin Chuc, from Los Angeles, who said he had been beaten up in middle school and ended up with broken ribs. Chuc said he had lived on the streets for several years and abused drugs and alcohol before turning his life around.
Now a confident 19-year-old who will attend USC in the fall, Chuc said his parents are much more supportive now than they were when he first came out. “I’m happy and I have people I can turn to,” he said.
Logan Woods, 18, of Manhattan Beach, said middle school was tough for him too, but high school, at the private Vistamar School in El Segundo, has been much better, with good friends and a strong gay support group among the students.
“It’s getting easier for me to live spontaneously and not feel like I have to plan everything out for fear of being hurt,” he said.
The survey was conducted online from April 16 through May 20. It was advertised through social media, as well as through LGBT youth centers across the country. The researchers said the survey method is not unusual for targeting hard-to-reach populations but may not represent a truly random sample.
by Eric Gould / tvworthwatching.com
One of the most hard-won achievements in life is finding out and knowing who we really are. For three young people in an upcoming National Geographic documentary, discovering their true selves was just the beginning…
American Transgender is a new work from writer and director Leslie Schwerin that unfolds in verite format, with the subjects speaking for themselves without narration. They recount becoming aware of their differences as children, and then discuss their courageous decisions as young adults to transition through surgery to the opposite sex. American Transgender premieres Tuesday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel.
The documentary uses evocative montages of childhood pictures to introduce us to the show’s subjects. Sarah and Jennifer go on to have hormone treatments and surgeries to become Eli and Jim. Alex, a young man, does the same to transition to Clair.
All three talk extensively about growing up having to “act” the role of girl or boy – all while being mocked and feeling trapped and tortured in the wrong body.
One of the most uplifting parts of American Transgender is seeing the support and acceptance the three received from their families before and after the transition process. Coming out as gay – as Alex did as a teenager – is difficult enough, but revealing a desire to change one’s sex presumably doubles the weight.
It’s reassuring to see parents so committed to their children’s happiness. Jim’s mother, Diane, says, “we adjusted our thoughts from “tomboy” to “gay” and we moved on. We were getting used to that, and all of the sudden, (Jennifer) said my name is going to be Jim’.” She laughs, “I was just getting used to gay.” (Jim at right, after transition.)
Making the personal decision is to transform gender is just the first step. The physical difficulties of the process and the challenge of passing for the opposite sex are openly discussed.
Eli talks openly about his frustration during transition, and how after months of treatments, he still was being called “ma’am” by grocery store clerks. And Clair’s story, beginning as it does with her shopping for a wedding dress, takes a surprising, charming turn on which the entire documentary pivots.
In the case of the documentary’s three subjects transition was a success, and each have gone on to new relationships in their new identities. They all experience happy endings, for the most part, whereas some previous documentaries on transgenderism have profiled transitions that haven’t progressed as well.
To its credit, American Transgender is about healthy well-adjustment and not a gratuitous look at alternative lifestyles. These are brave journeys of self-acceptance for people who not only went inward to get to know who they are, but were then able to summon the courage to go forward into a process that included surgery and chemical treatments, knowing there was no guarantee of success.
As Eli (right) says, “I wanted my body to look on the outside how I felt on the inside.”
His close friend, Antonio, another female-to-male transgender, adds, “there’s a choice of happiness and misery. And there’s a choice of being true to yourself, or living a lie.”
It’s worth noting that regardless of gender identity, that’s good overall advice. And in that way, there is something for all of us in American Transgender.
by Doug Barry / jezebel.com
In what could go down as the next great instance of parental immaturity since calls for a cookie embargo, mothers in Covington, Louisiana have dismantled their daughters’ Girl Scout troop to protest a Colorado troop’s decision to accept a 7-year-old transgender girl named Taylor into their ranks. Actually, the Girl Scouts East Louisiana officially (because they posted on their website) repudiated the Colorado Girl Scouts by barring transgender children from joining their mafia of door-to-door cookie peddlers, but troop leader Susan Cramond was so unnerved at the Louisiana chapter’s delayed response that she pushed to disband her troop.
Cramond says that when she first contacted the acolytes of the Louisiana Scouts high council, she didn’t get the swift “non” in response to her pearl-clutching query about whether Louisiana too would go the way of barbarous Colorado and teach children valuable life lessons such as respecting the differences in others because that’s what being a human is all about. Another troop mother, Susan Bryant-Snure (Louisiana, after all, being the land of unpronounceable surnames), said that the Louisiana Scouts made “the right decision; they just made it in a way that made us nervous.”
The mothers wanted to be part of an organization that only admits children who have been “persistently and consistently” identified as girls, one that reinforced their professed Christianity and their shared opinion to “let family decide” on the issue of gender, instead of, say, psychology, because families are always super accepting and judgment-free units. Enter the American Heritage Girls, a group whose origin story is deeply rooted in all those anachronistic, quasi religious virtues that made America a more wholesome and bigoted place in the 50’s. As the organization’s website explains,
American Heritage Girls was founded in 1995 in West Chester, Ohio by a group of parents wanting a wholesome program for their daughters. These parents were disillusioned with the increasing secular focus of existing organizations for girls. They wanted a Judeo-Christian focused organization for their daughters and believed that other parents were looking for the same for their daughters. This became the catalyst for the birth of the organization we have come to know as the American Heritage Girls.
Girls lucky enough to have value-centric, nuclear families can earn merit badges in such categories as “Family Living Frontier” and “Heritage Frontier” because the American Heritage Girls exist as the last outpost of good, Christian living on the frontier between Louisiana and Colorado. Here follow some of the badges themselves, reminders that we’ll probably never get our shit together enough to send a mission to Mars:
- All God’s Children
- Bible Basics
- Daughter of the King
- Stick Shifts & Safety Belts (somebody listens to Cake)
- 7 C’s of History
In any other context, “archery” would seem normal, but here it just seems unsettling, especially when you think of the American Heritage Girls not as innocent children but armed members of the next Children’s Crusade.
Transgendered Girl Scout in Colorado causes stir [Times-Picayune]
The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Dr. Rajendra Kale calls it the most severe and repugnant form of discrimination against females — and he wants to see it stopped.
The practice of aborting a female fetus after the parents learn the sex of their developing child through ultrasound is not as widespread in Canada as in such countries as India and China, where a cultural and often religious preference for boys has led to the estimated destruction of millions of females in the womb.
But Kale says smaller numbers in Canada, estimated in the thousands, are no reason to ignore such gender-based violence.
“Female feticide devalues women completely,” said Kale, interim editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. He wants to see doctors withhold information about the sex of a child in the womb until 30 weeks’ gestation to prevent “an unquestioned abortion” because parents prefer a boy.
Kale said research in Canada has found the strongest evidence of fetal sex selection among some Canadians of Asian descent, including people from India, China, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.
“What this means is that many couples who have two daughters and no son selectively get rid of female fetuses until they can ensure that their third-born child is a boy,” he writes, while stressing that not all Asian-Canadians condone nor engage in the practice.
In an editorial in Monday’s issue of the CMAJ, entitled “It’s a girl — could be a death sentence,” Kale puts the onus squarely on the medical community to try to halt sex-based abortion.
He calls on the provincial colleges that regulate physicians to rule that health-care professionals should not reveal a baby’s sex to any woman before 30 weeks of pregnancy.
“I’m arguing that the sex of the fetus is medically irrelevant information because it does not affect care in any way whatsoever, except in the very rare instance where you have sex-linked genetic diseases,” Kale said in an interview.
“Doing so should be deemed contrary to good medical practice. Such clear direction from regulatory bodies would be the most important step toward curbing female feticide in Canada.”
Kale said waiting to divulge the sex of the fetus until after the start of the third trimester would still give parents who want to know whether they are having a boy or a girl enough time to prepare their nursery or purchase appropriate clothing.
“So you’re just postponing the point at which you deliver that information,” he said.
While the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, for instance, does not have a specific policy on sex-selected abortion, the regulatory body does advise its members that it is “contrary to good medical practice to use ultrasound only to view the fetus to obtain a picture or video of the fetus or to determine the gender of the fetus,” spokeswoman Kathryn Clarke said by email.
The B.C. regulatory body likewise states that testing to identify fetal sex should not be used to accommodate societal preferences, that terminating a pregnancy for an undesired sex is repugnant and it is unethical for a doctor to facilitate such a course of action.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada said Kale’s proposal runs counter to the medical group’s policy that a patient’s request for disclosure should be respected.
“Examination of the fetal genitalia is a recognized part of the routine second-trimester obstetric ultrasound,” the SOGC said in an emailed statement. “Providing patients with results of diagnostic imaging procedures is part of the Canadian standard of care, and fetal sex determination and disclosure should not be exempt.
“Therefore, the SOGC believes it is the right of the patient to be informed of the gender of their fetus, and that this information should not be withheld.”
The professional organization also said Kale fails to acknowledge cultural values that lead some people to seek pregnancy termination based on the sex of the fetus and does not take into account biochemical testing products that can give expectant parents a highly accurate fetal sex determination as early as eight weeks into pregnancy.
“The SOGC in no way condones pregnancy termination based on non-medical reasons, such as the gender of the fetus. The SOGC feels strongly that it is the cultural values and norms in specific segments of the Canadian population that must change to ensure that females are not confronted with procedures and intolerant environments before or after they are born.”
Though reasonably intentioned, Kale’s call for policy changes is likely a moot one in any case, said Bernard Dickens, professor emeritus of health law and policy at the University of Toronto.
During deliberations of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, it was suggested that withholding the gender of a fetus could be a way to reduce the possibility of sex-based abortion, but the control device wasn’t built into the subsequent legislation, the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
Dickens suggested that was likely because the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of McInerney v. MacDonald, had ruled in 1992 that patients’ medical information is not owned by their physicians and must be surrendered at a patient’s request.
“If the patient persists and wants to know the sex … the doctor cannot lawfully deny the patient the information,” he said.
For Kale’s goal to be fulfilled, new legislation would be needed that contradicts the Supreme Court decision, but introduction of such a law would no doubt trigger a challenge based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Dickens said.
A challenge could be based on contravention of a number of enshrined rights, including discrimination on the grounds of the right to security of the person, that women have the right to continue only wanted pregnancies.
There are also pockets among some of Canada’s immigrant Asian communities that hold strong religious beliefs that a male heir is necessary to carry on the family name and to perform certain rites to ensure deceased parents have a proper afterlife.
“And, of course, this could trigger a Charter claim of denying religious convictions or violating the anti-discrimination provision of the Charter,” Dickens said. “So any legislation could trigger a Charter argument on that sort of ground.”
by Lane Moore / jezebel.com
I kind of knew I would love this video when I clicked on it and I was right. I just didn’t know how much I would love it.
In the video, awesome little kid Riley paces around the doll aisle while trying to figure out why companies are trying to “trick girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want to buy”.
What really wrecked me (in the best way) was Riley’s completely reasonable and insightful observation that, “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses! Some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses! So why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different color stuff?” mainly because I remember being a little kid in the Hot Wheels aisle wondering why I never received those for Christmas, even though I secretly wanted them.
I was into action figures and superheroes at a young age but I remember that confused/nearly angry feeling I had upon realizing that no one had even considered that I might want anything other than pink toys or “girl toys” and I began to wonder if there was something wrong with mebecause I wanted something else.
But perhaps the moment that caused my heart to swell the most was Riley’s father answering her with, “That’s a good question Riley” in a tone that sounded both exasperated at the unfortunate truths she was speaking so clearly about, and proud as hell that his young daughter would likely grow up to be a force to be reckoned with.