Monday, February 16, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Advice for a "girly" 11 year old boy

Adam, while rather BUFF, has a pretty limp wrist
in this depiction of the creation of man by God,
on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by the artist Michelangelo.

Okay, so here's the situation.

There's this boy in 6th grade with very effeminate mannerisms. He's not TRYING to be girly, it's just who he is. He got beaten up twice and his parents moved him to a different school. Things got better, but he made no friends at the second school.

The family moved again, and for the entire summer before he started in 7th grade at this third school, they tried to help him notice (and stop) his
"stereotypical behaviors that might make another child think he was gay: prancing, pirouetting, dancing around with scarfs and boas, limp-wristedness, an affected manner of dramatically running his fingers through his hair."

(That's a quote from his mother.)

The summer experiment in getting him to act more like a "boy" didn't work - the parents now feel it was a ridiculous idea - , and the second day at his new school an older boy saw this kid walking in the hall and said to his friend, "Is that kid gay or what?"

The kid doesn't think he's gay (boys aren't very nice to him so he can't imagine ever being interested in a same-gender relationship.)

What would you suggest? What can this boy do? How can he make friends? Should the parents do anything to help? What about the school?

How can we help this kid?

I'd love to have you share your thoughts (and what you come up with in your GSA discussions) here in "comments!"

Thanks, and Namaste,



Unknown said...

Homeschooling could always work. I know middle school is an absolutely TERRIBLE time- probably the worst academic experience one has to go through. Ever. One of my teachers in my high school, a huge proponent of public education, teaches his kids at home from grades six through eight, to avoid middle school. Maybe that's the solution that could work for our young friend?

Liz B said...

I'm cringing at the "summer experiment."

But, that said, what is the answer?

Is the boy happy? Aside from the problems at school -- is he happy with who he is?

In terms of friends, that can be tough. It's not easy making friends. What are the boy's interests? Because I would suggest finding something he loves doing (art, sports, whatever) and getting him into classes/clubs/groups with other kids who share that interest.

For school, if he's being targeted by bullies, the school should be stepping in to make sure the boy isn't being bullied. While easier said than done, I think the parents need to be clear that it won't be tolerated. A former student here in NJ won a lawsuit against his former school for their failure to provide a safe learning environment (he was bullied/beaten up for being gay).

Sorry I don't have anything better to contribute.

Cari Rérat said...

I agree with Liz B. If he were my son, I'd be looking for clubs, classes, etc to get him involved with.

As a librarian who works with teens (grades 6-12) I'd suggest looking for programs at his local library. The teens I work with in a conservative town of 50,000 (ish) are from all walks of life and they all mesh fairly well. They are, at the very least, respectful, but more often than not, the library environment makes it okay to be friendly towards everyone.

I think this is because there's so much less peer pressure. At the library, it doesn't matter who you're friends with because there's no status to protect. Libraries can become safe havens for everyone from the most popular kids to the least.

*stepping off my "Libraries are awesome" soapbox now*

I wish him luck.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Cari, librarians ARE awesome - you never need apologize for shouting out about that!

Liz B, I agree, I totally cringed at the "summer experiment" and yet I understand the desire behind it (both for the parents and the kid) and the pain it must have caused everyone involved.

I also think you're both right about getting the kid involved in some sort of club/extracurricular activity where he could make friends with shared interests...

Shea, If people are homeschooling because they've given up on the schools meeting the needs of their kids, what does that mean on a societal level... Doesn't it kind of let the schools off too easy? I totally empathize with wanting your kid to have the best education possible... But I can barely imagine the enormous effort that must go into homeschooling! I really want schools to do better, so kids CAN go to schools!

Sarah Laurenson said...

When I was in middle school, I decided to approach the other outcasts and start banding together. I thought some of them were not cool to hang around with - like the Principal's daughter - but these were the kids who had no friends or didn't make them easily; like me. And it wound up being a good group to be around. I had fun with them. I didn't have to do the things the kids in my neighborhood were doing - like stealing. We did the uncool stuff - like slumber parties.

As for the Principal's daughter - for some reason she didn't do things with us after school. Maybe we didn't invite her. But her father was grateful to me for treating her nicely when I was at school.

So my advice is to find the other outcasts and make friends. You're much harder to bully when you are part of a group.

Jeanne said...

What makes this conversation so *normal* is because it makes little difference why a child is friendless, awkward or picked upon. Shea hit it on the nose: middle school is an absolutely terrible time no matter who you are. So many changes are going on at this time in a kid's body and mind, it's a miracle for anyone to get through.
I wholeheartedly agree with Liz B and Cari because that's exactly what I did.
I threw my energy into music and reading and writing and volunteered after school and during breaks at the school library.
No, I'm not gay. I was just an overweight, crosseyed girl who didn't find her strengths until HS. The school librarian was my mentor and one of my English teachers and one of my music teachers encouraged my talent.
If it hadn't been for their support school would have been much mor difficult.

Anonymous said...

As a former middle schooler who tried very hard - and unsuccessfully - to teach my body to act "like a girl" when it didn't want to, I really feel for this kid.

At least now there is out-loud conversation about such things. He's just going to have to survive until he can learn that there IS room to be who he is, exactly who he is. It's rough.

Anonymous said...

From a teacher's point of view (from another country), the problem is not this child, it's the classmates. As long as he is happy with himself, it could be a great oportunity to work about bulling and acceptance and all these things in class. People are very different. Do these children know that we can even have a different number of bones in our bodies?
I had a 10 years old "girly boy" last year. He was also very poor and wore donated clothes. One day he came to the class with a barbie t-shirt. It was a mess, some boys started to call him queer and things like that. So we talked a lot and made a lot of "gender studies" (on their level of comprehension, of course). By the end of the year, the "boyish boys" were playing with dolls on the "free play time" (I don't know if you have it over there, it is a weekly hour to play whatever you want inside the classroom); and this boy continued being "girly", but he was accepted on the soccer team and on the "boy's games".
I don't know if it was of any help, but I hope so...

Bye, Ane

Chocolate said...

As a high school student, I'm well experienced in kids making fun of you.

But I know, that especially as you get older, no one means it. Seventh grade is tough for everyone, because most kids are trying to figure out who they are, and anyone who is different/confident/slightly weird/ not popular is instantly attacked.

But it does get better.

I definitely don't recommend home schooling, as from personal experience, learning to deal with unpleasant people is half the reason why you go to school. My middle school career was absolutely miserable [I was fat, and shy, and sheltered, and we had just moved to a new place where I knew no one], but I think that I learned a lot [aside from math].

I think the best thing is to just let him develop as his own person, and let him know that there's really nothing wrong with him acting 'gay', and just to know that it will get better.

Now, I know plenty of people who are stereotypically 'gay', and one of them is a prominent member of our student council. And yeah, people make fun of him [they always shout derogatory terms at the TV when he does announcements] but he doesn't care. And plenty more people respect him for being himself.

Like others have said before me, just hang in there, and then when you get to high school, you're given room to be as nutty, odd, nerdy, weird, and loud as you want.

I hope I helped, and sorry for the obnoxiously long comment. ^.^

Anonymous said...

One thing they (the school that is) could do, is to make all the students watch "To Wong Foo, thanks for everything, Julie Newmar. Then all the classes should follow this up with a discussion. If three extremely butch actors playing drag queens can't show the students that there's nothing wrong with looking different, then nothing ever will.