Young, Queer and Proud


Most young people start to become aware of their sexual identity from the age of 11 or 12 onwards. However for young lesbians, bisexuals and gays this can be the beginning of a lot of trouble. They will have to listen to almost constant homophobic (anti-gay) crap from their school mates and will often feel very isolated by the strong emphasis placed in youth culture on the importance of who-is-going-out-with-who.

Even worse is the oppression that young lesbians, bisexuals and gay men will face at the hands of their parents. Rejections, physical assaults and even being thrown out of home are not that uncommon when a young person is 'found out' or chooses to 'come out' as gay. This reality isn't helped by the fact that emergency accommodation provision for the under 18s is almost non-existent in this country. If you are thrown out of home, it can mean only one thing: a life on the street, living rough.

Even if Queer (lesbian, bi or gay) young people manage to locate a Lesbian and Gay organisation, they can find themselves being told to get back in touch when they're 18. Some Queer organisations are too nervous to help young people because of the popular myth (supported by the gutter press) that gay = paedophile. Moreover most gay communities are based around pubs and night-clubs which in itself excludes people under 18.

Not surprisingly many young Queers grow up with long-term problems with self-esteem. Many lesbian, bisexual and gay young people end up being unable to deal with the pressure - they often drop out of education, end up with low levels of skill or in badly paid jobs. A high proportion of teenage suicide attempts are carried out by young lesbians and gay men.

Even though there is more awareness of lesbian and gay issues now, there is still a very long way to go for young lesbians and gays. More 14 and 15 year olds are now confident enough to come out and demand equal treatment, but they still face enormous discrimination and pressures. Anything that is done to break the isolation that young gays feel, is a help. Encouraging young gays to meet with others of their own age where they can talk about the problems they face, where they can organise and fight for equal rights is the way to go. As access to the Internet grows, it will be used - as a means of making contact and for having discussion forums.

Fighting homophobia, just like fighting racism, is everyone's responsibility. Don't leave it up to lesbians, bisexuals and gay men. For example, one issue right now is the Relationships and Sexuality Course at school. It is important that pressure is put on schools to include Lesbian and Gay Awareness as part of their programme. The Catholic Church may not want it, but they should not have any right to a veto. It is a right for all young people.

It is also especially important to challenge anti-gay comments at work, in the pub or in the media. Your union branch is also a very important place to take a stand against prejudice. Homophobia is an unnecessary, divisive force among ordinary people and plays an important role in distracting people from the real enemies - bosses, landlords, the Church and the State.

Paul McAndrews

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 53 published in January 1998