Gay Kids Tell Their Stories in CRISIS

Filed under: Gay Parenting, Media, Extreme Childhood, Books for Kids

The front cover of CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In AmericaWhen I first started reading CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America, I did not expect any great revelations. Having grown up in San Francisco to become an outspoken supporter of equal rights for all, I assumed that there would be no surprises awaiting me. Much to my surprise, however, that was not the case.

Sadly, I find myself in the unpleasant position of realizing that I have been a party to the difficulty that gay men and women face in this country in trying to be the person they truly are.

This book is full of first-person accounts of men and women growing up knowing that they were attracted to members of the same sex but being told that such an attraction was an abomination. I was reading one of them -- the author told of working hard to fit in, marrying and having a family, trying to suppress his sexuality -- and it wasn't until I got very near to the end that I realized that I knew about this particular writer -- it was Governor McGreevey of New Jersey.

I remembered when he had been caught up in a scandal and realized that, at the time, I had mocked him, laughed at his predicament, and pointed my finger at his hypocrisy. I had not understood that his hypocrisy was not intentional -- he, and others such as Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, and so on, had been brought up to believe that homosexuality was a choice and an evil one at that. These men had been conditioned to believe that their feelings were somehow unnatural and they could not admit to being gay. It just wasn't an option for them. Even Larry Craig's continued denial is not some twisted plan; he really believes he's not gay because being gay is simply not acceptable.

At that point, I put the book down and hung my head in shame.

I, like so many others, had not understood -- had not tried to understand why these men were in such denial. I don't know what it's like to grow up gay in a world that looks down upon you, condemns you, even hates you. I never bothered to find out and, instead of trying to understand why someone could hate themself, I laughed. For this I am sorry.

There are those who argue that this problem -- the discrimination and persecution of gays that leads children to the extremes of hiding who they are, denying their sexuality, and even considering suicide -- is unique to places like San Francisco. Some say that they do not have gay people in their community, they do not have gay children in our schools, that this is simply not an issue that affects them. As this book clearly and unequivocally demonstrates, however, there are gay children everywhere; they just aren't able to say it. They hide it.

And that's what this book points out so poignantly in the stories of the children who nearly committed suicide, whose lives were turned upside down, who lost long stretches of their lives by trying to live a lie -- that's why this book is so important for everyone -- including me -- to read, to understand the difficulty that we unnecessarily force on children who happen to be born gay.

Richard Chamberlain, in this book, makes a point that should be so clearly obvious to everyone -- he writes that "being gay is simply a benign fact. Barely interesting. How I wish I had known this early on." How I wish everyone understood this.

Whether you are a parent who believes homosexuality to be wrong, someone unable to admit your own sexuality, or even someone who believes they are fully supportive of those around them, regardless of their sexuality, this book should be at the top of your reading list. Before any more children get hurt.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.