The New York Times published an article detailing experiences of middle school-age children (roughly ages 11-14) who were open about their sexuality. Chris Stump of Exodus Youth responded with this article. In the Times article, we learn that while some might not experience their gradeschool years free of conflict concerning their sexuality, they are much more likely to be accepted or simply left alone about their orientation. These kids date, have boyfriends and girlfriends, and can talk openly about their crushes – no matter their gender – with their friends and peers. One 13-year-old who came out did so because when he realized he was attracted to other boys, he did not want to go through a period of miserable isolation. He chose instead to be sexually honest and open about his attractions. In response, several of his girl friends told him they were bisexual.
Stump, of course, has concerns:
Instead of celebrating the earlier embrace of a gay identity, we need to be cautious and concerned. Embracing an identity based on feelings as an 11-13 year old child, whose brain is still developing and hormones are raging, is jumping the gun.
But the point of the article isn’t that kids are solidifying their “identity” at an early age – it’s that they can be honest about their attractions at the onset of puberty, when their exclusively heterosexual peers are experiencing the same “raging hormones” and often confusing feelings. But rather than pretend they too are exclusively opposite-sex-attracted, they can talk about their same same-sex-attractions as if they too were normal. And for the most part, they have been able to find an ever-growing, accepting environment.
Stump also expressed annoyance at the author’s mention of “sexual fluidity.”
Another thing that stuck out to me was when the author mentioned fluidity in sexuality. So many in the secular world agree with the idea that sexuality is a fluid thing. But how is it so hard to embrace the idea of people moving from a homosexual identity to a post-homosexual identity? That’s just another “expression” of sexuality being fluid. But, yet, it is scorned and ridiculed for being absurd.
The difference between someone’s naturally experienced sexual fluidity and “embracing a post-homosexual identity” is that one happens with ease in some individuals as a natural part of the human experience, while the other is a “journey in Christ” that consists of years, even decades, of fruitless efforts to deny or change one’s sexual attractions. The ex-gay “struggle” with same sex attractions is often stated as simply a part of the “journey.” One must also remember that sexual fluidity is a two-way street. One’s sexual flexibility can bend in either direction – which means that one could “switch” from mostly same sex to mostly opposite sex attractions, and also back again. But most of those who seek out ex-gay treatment are same-sex attracted individuals who want to actively change their homosexuality by adhering to specific religious principals, and sometimes engage in harmful “reparative therapy.” Sexual fluidity may occur in some human beings, but it is also not something that can be taught or adopted. If your sexuality isn’t fluid, it simply isn’t fluid.
The Times article highlights a hopeful time in queer history where children going through puberty can be honest about their attractions to any of their peers, not just the ones they are “supposed” to be attracted to. And while the middle school years can still be chaotic and filled with prepubescent torture, at least the burden on gay youth to keep closeted seems to be lessening. It’s one more adolescent struggle that kids can go through together rather than miserably thinking they are the only ones. And in light of the Kevin Jennings stories circulating, including one on the Exodus blog that is highly critical, Exodus Youth should realize that providing a safe environment for teens to be able to talk about their same-sex attractions with their peers will help prevent situations like the one Jennings faced so many years ago from happening.