Kampen om homoteenagerne

I efteråret 2005 var jeg i New York. På en tur rundt i byen fangede mit øje tilfældigvis en forside på TIME Magazine med overskriften The Battle over Gay Teens. Det vakte min interesse. Da jeg læste artiklen så jeg, at den brød med de klicheer man hører så ofte om “hvor godt det er“, at de unge starter deres homoliv tidligt.  Istedet handlede artiklen om, hvor svært samfundet – og homomiljøet – har ved at tackle situationen.

Og den politiske kamp mellem højrefløj og homomiljø: De unges liv er blevet politisk kampplads mellem højrefløj og homomiljøet i USA. Ud over alle de mange vanskelige spørgsmål, det giver i ens liv, at springe tidligt ud bliver de unge idag også udfordret af de, der insisterer på at drive dem tilbage i skabet.

Empire State Building, New York 2005

Den politiske kamp mellem homobevægelsen og det amerikanske højre rummede adskilligt nyt for mig. F.eks. var jeg ikke klar over, at den kristne bevægelse, der forsøger at få de unge tilbage i skabet – og afsværge deres homoseksualitet –  først for alvor er startet efter år 2000. Det amerikanske samfund, vi troede ville blive mere åbent og tolerant var istedet mere uforsonligt og intolerant over for homoerne. Højreflløjen diskuterer ikke længere med sine politiske modstandere: Den prøver at udrydde dem. Teenagehomoerne er blevet deres foretrukne skydeskive.

For som en konservativ talsmand siger i artiklen: Taber de konservative  kampen om homoteenagerne, taber de på sigt også kampen om homoægteskab. Derfor mobiliserer de deres ressourcer og fortæller unge, hvor forkert og skadeligt det er at være homo. Og deres organisationer råder over de nødvendige økonomiske midler.

New York Stock Exchange

Og ganske rigtigt: På en tur rundt i byen møder jeg en masse homoer, men støder også ind i en gruppe der tiltaler min mand og mig og forsøger, at overbevise os om at terapi er det eneste rigtige. Selv voksne er omfattet af denne exodus-manøvre. Tæt på det springvand uden for Townhall hvor homoturister og New Yorkere lader sig fotografere – istedet for bryllupsceremoni på rådhuset – bliver vi tiltalt af kristne anti-gay aktivister!

Jeg har peget på teenagehomoerne som emne i den hjemlige debat. Men jeg skal ikke tage æren for at have forklaret problemstillingen. I USA er diskussionen allerede gammel. Og TIME Magazines artikel fra 2005 giver et  indblik i de nye udfordringer. Den udvikler pointer, der end ikke er nået til det danske homomiljø endnu.

Det skal siges at jeg ikke ubetinget er enig i artiklens konklusioner. En simpel forklaring kunne være at i 2010 er det slet ikke er muligt at være så optimistisk – som artiklen fra 2005 trods alt er.

En anden forklaring kan være at de politiske alliancer er skiftet siden, og ændrer nogle politiske perspektiver.

Det er vist velkendt at jeg i forskellige fora har jeg rettet fokus på homoteenagernes livsstil, sociale vilkår og muligheder. I USA er det en velkendt uenighed: Enten skal de unge hjælpes ind i homolivet. Eller også skal de tværtimod have hjælp til at komme ud det.

I Danmark er der derimod stort set konsensus mellem højrefløj og homomiljø. De der stemmer homoseksuelle mærkesager ned i Folketinget og mennesker fra LGBT miljøet er enige om, at samfundet skal beskytte teenagerne med forbud og restriktioner og forhindre dem i at have et homoliv og udvikle deres homoidentitet. Teenagerne er ikke velkomne i det danske homomiljø.

TIME artiklen spørger:

“They are coming out earlier, to a more accepting society. So how did they end up on the frontlinies of America’s culture war?”

Netop fordi amerikanske forhold er præget af det religiøse højre er det interessant at forholde sig til forskelle og ligheder. Og hvad der karakteriserer danske forhold.

I USA har modstanden mod homoseksuelle rettigheder og kampen mod homoteenagerne rod i religiøse budskaber fra konservative og kirkelige kræfter. I Danmark ser den politiske alliance imod homoteenagerne helt anderledes ud. Den er baseret på højrefløjens politik og kulturelitens nypuritanisme. Men det er et andet emne jeg vil tage op i efterfølgende artikler.

Her er de  5 pointer  jeg finder mest interessante:

1. Det tidlige udpring: En ny homoseksuel livscyklus

“What happens when you come out as a kid? How gay youths are challenging the right – and the left.

The Point Foundation  Launched in 2001 gives lavish (often full-ride) scholarships to gay students. It is one of the few national groups conceived explicitly to help gay kids, and it is a leading example of how the gay movement is responding to the emergence this decade of hundreds of thousands of openly gay youths.

Kids are disclosing their homosexuality with unprecedented regularity and they are doing so much younger. The average gay person now comes out just before or after graduating high school, according to The News Gay Teenager a book Harvard University Press published this summer. The book quotes a Penn State studyof 350 young people from 59 gay groups that found that the meanage at which lesbians first have sexual contact with other girls is 16; it’s just 14 for gay boys.

In 1997 there were approximately 100 gay-straight alliances (GSAs) – clubs for gay and gayfriendly kids – on U.S. high school campuses. Today there are at least 3,000 GSAs-nearly 1 in 10 high schools has one according to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network  GLSEN, which registers and advises GSAs.

In the 2004-05 academic year, GSAs were established at U.S. schools at the rate of three per day. The appearance of so many gay adolescents has, predictably, worried social conservatives, but it has also surprised gay activists, who for years did little to help the few teenagers who were coming out. Both sides sense high stakes. “Same-sex marriage-that’s out there. But something going on in a more fierce and insidious way, under the radar, is what’s happening in our schools” says Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an influential conservative litigation group.

“They” -  gay activists – “know if they make enough inroads into [schools], the same sex-marriage battle will be moot”.

Most gay activists would rather swallow glass than say Mat Staver was right about something but they know that last year’s big UCLA survey of college freshmen found that 57%  favor same-sex marriage (only about 36% of all adults do).

From young ages, straight kids are growing up with more openly bisexual, gay and sexually uncertain classmates. In the 1960s, gay men recalled first desiring other males at an average age of 14; it was 17 for lesbians. By the ’90s, the average had dropped to 10 for gays and 12 for lesbians, according to more than a dozen studies reviewed by the author of The New Gay Teenager, Ritch Savin-Williams, who chairs Cornell’s human-development department.

Children who become aware of their homosexual attactions no longer need endure the baleful combination of loneliness and longing that characterized the childhoods of  so many gay adults.”

2. Højrefløjens anti-homo strategi: Exodus

“That doesnt mean young lesbians and gays will never get shoved in the hallway, and multiple studies have shown that gay kids are at higher risk for suicide than their straight peers are. But research indicates that most gays today face an environment thatt more uncertain than unwelcoming. 

Pro-gay government programs seem highly unlikely in this political environment. That’s in part because of the growing influence on the right of another gay force: gays who don’t want to be gay,who are sometimes called, contentiously, “ex-gays”.

 On talk radio, on the Internet and in churches, conseratives’ canniest strategy for combatting the emergence of gay youth is to highlight the existence of people who battle and, some claim, overcome their homosexual attractions.

Because kids often see their sexudity as riverine and murky-multiple studies have found most teens with samme-sex attractions have had sex with both boys and girls- conservatives hope their “ex-gay” message will keep some of those kids from embracing  a gay identity. And they aren’t  aiming the message just at teens. On one of the websites, the Christian group Focus on the Family has warned that boys as young as 5 may show signs of  “gender confusion and require “professional help”.

Few young gays actually want to change: six surveys in The New Gay Teenager found that an average of just 13% of young people with same-sex athactions would prefer to be straight. Nonetheless, gaykids trying to change can find unprecedented resources. As recently as the late ’90s, Exodus International, the premier organization for Christians battling same-sexattractions, had no youth program.Today, according to president  Alan Chambers, the group spends a quarter of its $1 million budget on Exodus Youth; about 80 of Exodus’ 125 North American ministries offer help to adolescents.”

“Twenty years ago, most churches wouldn’t even let Exodus in the door”‘ says Scott Davis, director of Exodus Youth. “Now there are open doors all across the country”.”

3. Homobevægelsens svar: Homo-hetero alliancen

“So the Christian right has found its stategy – inclusion, prayer, the promise of change – and the gay movement has found one- GSAs, scholarships, the promise of acceptance. But what of the kids themselves?

In July, I met 30 way-out-and-proud LGBT youths at a Michigan retreat arranged by the Point Foundation; these high-achieving Point scholars are getting from $4,000 to $30,000 a year to pay for their educations and are considered by some gays to be the movement’s future leaders.

Savin-Williams, who is generally sunny about gaykids prospects, notes that those who come out early tend to have a harder time at school, at home and with their friends than those who don’t.

4. Modsætninger mellem teenagere og homomiljø: Hvilken strategi?

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the straight world isn’t always ready to accept a gay kid. But the gay world doesn’t seem ready either.

It occurred to me that gay adult are still figuring out how to deal with gay kids. The gay subculture, after all, had been an almost exclusively adult preserve until the relatively recent phenomena of gay adoption and out teens. Point schoolar Bryan Olsen who turned 21 in august and has been out since was 15 told me during the retreat:

“It probably sounds anti-gay, but I think there are very few age-appropriate gay activities for a 14-, 15-year old, There’s no roller skating, bowling or any of that kind of thing … It’s internet, gay porn, gay chats.”

 5. Konklusion: Fagre nye homoteenager verden?

Until recently, growing up gay meant awaiting a lifetime of secrecy – furtive encounters, darkened bar windows, crushing deracination. That has changed whith shocking speed. “Dorothy resonates so much with older gay people – the idea of Oz, someplace you can finally be accepted” says Glatze og YGA. “The city of Oz is now everywhere. It’s in every high school”. That’s not quite true, but the emergence of gay kids is already changing the politics of homosexuality. When their kids come out, many conservatives – just ask the Vice President – start to seem uncomfortable with traditionalist, rigid views on gays. But what happens when your child comes out not at 23 but at 13? At least in the short term, it’s likely that more gay kids means more backlash.

“It kinds of reminds me of the issue of driver’s licenses for kids”, says the University of Minnesota’s Remafedi. “Yeah, its great they can get around. But there’s also a greater chance you can have an accident…In my own life and generation, we separated ourselves from the straight community. We lived in gay ghettos, and we saw the larger culture as being a culture of repression. Hopefully, some of those walls between cultures have come down. But walking between those worlds takes a lot of skill.”

Uddragene er fra TIME Oktober 10, 2005

Vol. 166, Nr. 15

De to billeder af Empire State og Stock Exchange er mine private.

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