The Battle Over Gay Teens
What happens when you come out as a kid? How America’s gay youths are challenging the right—and the left.
By John Cloud
In May, David Steward, a former president of TV Guide, and his partner Pierre Friedrichs, a caterer, hosted an uncomfortably crowded cocktail party at their Manhattan apartment. It was a typical gay fund raiser—there were lemony vodka drinks with mint sprigs; there were gift bags with Calvin Klein sunglasses; Friedrichs prepared little blackened-tuna-with-mango-chutney hors d’oeuvres that were served by uniformed waiters. Billionaire philanthropist Edgar Bronfman Sr. was there; David Mixner, a gay activist and longtime friend of Bill Clinton’s, was holding court with Jason Moore, director of the Broadway musical Avenue Q.
But the odd thing was that the gay (and gay-friendly) élite had gathered to raise money not for one of its established charities—the Human Rights Campaign, say, or the Democratic National Committee—but for an obscure organization that has quietly become one of the fastest-growing gay groups in the U.S., the Point Foundation. Launched in 2001, Point 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 in the States 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 New Gay Teenager, a book Harvard University Press published earlier this year. The book quotes a Penn State study of 350 young people from 59 gay groups that found that the mean age 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 gay-friendly kids—on U.S. high school campuses.( Read more...Collapse )