“You shouldn’t have to be a hero to make it through adolescence.”
(Youth advocate quoted in Drifting Toward Love by Kai Wright.)
All stories have a beginning. Most of the 65 young respondents I interviewed for the book: Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child (www.comingoutcominghome.com), described the realization that they had same-sex attractions as a slow dawning coupled with a nagging realization that something was wrong–very wrong, with the way they felt. They understood that if their peers or their parents discovered their sexual feelings, they risked becoming objects of rejection and abuse.
Unfortunately, for some of these kids, their peers figured out what was up. Adolescents are hawk-eyed guardians of the status quo, harshly punishing those whose behavior falls outside of society’s narrow gender norms–and for some of the unlucky respondents in my study who inadvertently revealed cross-gendered behavior, the consequences were brutal.
Once I hit middle school I think really other kids figured out before I did.
I used to get picked on for being gay all the time and I didn’t know what it
meant. . . .I wasn’t the most masculine kid (Recalled by a twenty-one-year-old gay man).
I got beat up a lot. I didn’t have many friends, they were kind of put off.
A lot of the guys would pick on me. . . . They would call me dyke and beat
me up (Twenty-year-old lesbian).