Young and GayI guess, "Young and Out" would be a better way to put it. I read over at Peterson's blog about a story in the New York Times about a gay teen named Zach O'Connor who came out to his parents when he was in 7th grade and only 13 years old. The story follows Zach's story and his life since coming out.
The article is aptly titled, "Accepting Gay Identity and Gaining Strength." I say aptly, because looking back on my own coming out experience, that's exactly how I'd describe it. In fact, it's a bit odd reading Zach's story in the article because much of what he and his family recount of his life before, during, and after coming out mirror some of my own experiences even though I came out when I was nearly 10 years older than Zach was. The article is a touching and inspiring story that offers a nice break from the partisan war that normally floods the media. It reminds readers that there really are people involved in the gay debate.
It's great to see kids feeling comfortable enough to accept themselves so young. Looking back, I wasn't ready to come out, even to myself, at the age of 13, but I can't help but wonder how things might have been different if I felt like I was in an environment that was accepting from the get-go. Being gay and in the closet in high school meant I missed out on dating, having crushes (or at least telling anyone about them and enjoying them), and even being close to my friends and family. I wouldn't say I was miserable, I was just removed I guess.
Reading Zach's story reminds me of that time period, and I think it's a great story for anti-gay folks to read. It's easy for someone to tell us not to be gay, but for them to actually sit and realize what such a request can do to a person is quite another. One of my wishes is for anti-gay folks (both the activists and the regular people) to actually get to know a person that is gay and get to know their story. I'm convinced it'd bring amazing advances in the acceptance of gay people in this country. Stories like this aren't pro-gay propoganda, they just force people to realize what being gay really means rather than what some organizations want us to believe.
It's pretty amazing looking back how far I've come since coming out. Even more amazing is that kids these days can feel comfortable enough to come out so young. They get to experience every part of dating and socializing in high school. Let's just hope this trend continues.
**On a side note, congratulations to Peterson and Christine Bakke for their new venture, BeyondExGay.com. Check it out--it's very exciting (and for the record, both are already on my blogroll)!