Monday, December 7, 2009

Coming Out In Middle School! What Can Your GSA Do To Help?

I wasn't brave enough to come OUT as Gay when I went to Welsh Valley Junior High
(when I would have worn this T-shirt.)
But that's not true for a lot of Junior High and Middle School Kids Today!

Have you read this amazing cover story in the New York Times School Section that ran in September?

I think it's taken me much of this time to wrap my mind around it - the idea of Today's kids being so ready to be REAL about their same-sex attractions in Junior High is awe-inspiring, and empowering. And the fact that the photos with the article weren't redacted silhouettes - but actual photos of the kids, many of whom used their real names and spoke proudly about being OUT!

The article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis cited the research about when gay and lesbian youth

"first report an awareness of same-sex attraction. Though most didn't self-identify as gay or lesbian until they were 14, 15 or 16, the mean age at which they first became aware of that attraction was 10. Boys tended to be aware about a year earlier than girls. (Of course, not all kids with same-sex attractions go on to self-identify as gay.)"

And just like for the Teens in High School, we need to be there for the kids who have these feelings and are living through the challenges of junior high and middle school. The teasing. The harassment. The same-sex crushes. Dating!

I wonder about the ways we can be there for these kids...

Can your High School GSA reach out to the kids in the junior high or middle schools where you went? Can you go visit and speak to the students in their 7th grade health (or other) class?

Can you help organize a Day of Silence observance at your junior high/middle school?

What about the school library at the junior high/middle school? Do they have ANY middle grade titles that include GLBTQ characters and themes? Can you talk with the librarian there about getting some titles for the collection? What about letting students know the books are there?

Look for the GLBTQ middle grade bookshelf coming tomorrow, with a list of all the titles here on this blog that are either written for Middle Graders and/or have GLBTQ characters in 6th through 8th grade.)

What are some other ways we can be there for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning kids in Middle and Junior High Schools?

Coming Out In Middle School... Wow, the world sure is changing, and for the better!



Anonymous said...

Hi Lee,
I'm a public librarian for young adults. I maintain a collection for grades 6-12. When our LGBTQ collection was challenged this year, the number one criticism was that these books weren't appropriate for 6th graders. But it's at exactly this age (and younger) that kids start to realize they may be different from other kids. Not necessarily thinking hard core sex but crushes and attraction. It's so important for the GSA and especially books to reach kids of all ages. One way to help.... go to your public librarian. They don't have quite the strict rules that the school library does. And they can help you build a collection of books that are for EVERYONE. Middle school is soooo hard. Lets not make it harder but alienating kids.

kittens not kids said...

I'm so pleased that kids are more comfortable coming out, and I definitely think we should do everything we can to support them. I'd have to add, though, that I don't think middle school is an easy time for ANYone's sense of their own sexuality - I'd say everyone is Questioning, in one way or another (clearly, hetero kids have an easier time because the pattern of hetero behavior is everywhere, and valorized as the norm). But still - it's not easy for anyone.

I wonder if finding ways to help LGBTQ kids can also lead to ways of helping ALL kids deal with these especially troubling or perplexing years?

Anonymous said...

My first thought was "middle school? That's way too young! How can you know you're LGBT in middle school?" Then I realized that I should be in the eighth grade, and I know that I'm queer. If I'm really honest with myself, I've known since last year, when I should have been in the seventh grade. (I was in the eighth.) But middle school can be a very confusing time, and it would be even more so for LGBT kids. Even being a gay freshman is tough. I know that I had an easier time than a lot of kids because I grew up exposed to the idea. My mom let me read books with LGBT characters, and even gave them to me, and my "aunts," who I'm not actually related to but are my mom's really good friends, so I might as well be, are a lesbian couple. That's where books come in. Having your first crush is confusing enough, but it can be completely bewildering if it's someone the same gender as you are and no one has ever even told you that that's possible, let alone normal and okay.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hey Anonymous March 1st,
Thanks for your comment. I think often for younger (elementary and pre-school) age kids, the issue is not so much sexualized attraction (of course, they're not yet sexual people) but affinity. A sense of difference. And perhaps a gender non-conforming approach to life. But even in books for younger kids, it's crucial that there are GLBTQ adults, princes ending up with princes, princesses with princesses, so the idea of gay equality gets heard.

And of course, I agree with you - books are so important - just to know that it's okay, that we're all okay just being ourselves, is huge. That's why I started this blog.
Enjoy the adventures ahead!