An interesting story on a study that finds young gay males are growing up in a world with far greater acceptance, increasingly making their sexual orientation a non-issue (yes, there are always exceptions, but this is a major cultural change).
Ritch Savin-Williams, professor emeritus in developmental psychology at Cornell University, interviewed 206 millennial men for his book Becoming Who I Am: Young Men on Being Gay, published last year. From the Cornell Daily Sun:
“There are few differences between gay and straight youth other than their sexual and romantic histories,” Savin-Williams insisted. “They are just as close to their parents, they have just as many friends, they have the same kinds of relationships in terms of closeness … you cannot distinguish between gay and straight.”
Savin-Williams further stated that, while his findings paint a far more positive picture of the lives of young gay men than other scientific studies, homosexuality is not the life-defining issue some think of it as.
“Most of these young people believe that their sexuality will make no difference in their lives, in terms of their future, their income, their jobs, or whatever. They just assume that their culture is going to evolve to the point where sexual orientation is a non-issue,” he said.
Much attention is now being focused on the struggles of transgender high school kids, perhaps because gay kids are doing so much better nowadays.
This was also interesting:
Savin-Williams found that young gay men feel more accepted by their families and peers and lead much happier lives today than studies may suggest. …
He specifically mentioned a government-funded CDC study which portrays gay youth as characteristically having depression, anxiety and highly suicidal tendencies, results which Savin-Williams disputed as highly inaccurate. Savin-Williams attributed these inaccuracies to the fact that the CDC’s study of “gay youth” included women who identified as bisexual for reasons other than their sexuality.
When I was young and moved in activists circles in NYC, I met more than a few “lesbian activists” who identified as lesbian, they admitted, as a feminist statement while dating both men and women, and some who only dated men (but kept that quiet).
More. Subsequently I came across this piece at at HuffPo by Michael Hobbes, on why despite so much social progress gay men—those who came of age post-AIDS and on the cusp of marriage equality—are unhappier than straight men. He writes:
Like me, Jeremy did not grow up bullied by his peers or rejected by his family. He can’t remember ever being called a faggot. … Still, even as we celebrate the scale and speed of [social] change, the rates of depression, loneliness and substance abuse in the gay community remain stuck in the same place they’ve been for decades.
Hobbes points to the lingering stress of discovering that your sexuality makes you different during adolescence, and its PTSD-like lingering effects:
The term researchers use to explain this phenomenon is “minority stress.” In its most direct form, it’s pretty simple: Being a member of a marginalized group requires extra effort. … All of us were deeply confused or lying to ourselves for a good chunk of our adolescence.
The young men he profiles seem to be leading pretty vacuous lives around drugs, lots of hookups and constant partying, with no mention of any spiritual grounding.
Nor even much interiority. As the author’s friend Jeremy tells him:
“The drugs were a combination of boredom and loneliness,” he says. “I used to come home from work exhausted on a Friday night and it’s like, ‘Now what?’ So I would dial out to get some meth delivered and check the Internet to see if there were any parties happening. It was either that or watch a movie by myself.”
Here’s a thought: Maybe the drugs and compulsive hookups/partying aren’t symptoms of “minority stress” leading to depression and dysfunction, but the root cause.