I’m Gay, Awkward, and I Know It
Emotional maturity is earned through experiences, which propel us forward to the next emotional hurdle. For most pre-teen and early teen years, we begin to model behavior, stretching those tender emotional wings of hormonal ADHD energy. Social rituals including passing notes, holding hands, and our first kiss are hallmark emotional training wheel moments. I, like so many gay men, never had a foundation to build upon to explore emotional growth and maturity. I was that “weird kid,” who wanted so badly to fit in, but never unlocked the code of social graces, because while my peers were emotionally heading into algebra, I was stuck in basic social math.
Florida state legislature proposes a bill called “Don’t Say Gay” by LGBTQ advocates, otherwise known as HB 1557 and SB 1834. The twin bills state that a teacher “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” Naysayers will point to it and say, “it’s primary school, they don’t need to know about sex.” No one is advocating teaching primary school kids about gay sex any more than teaching them about heterosexual sex.
Certain swaths of the country, when thinking about homosexuality, go directly to the imaginative porn hub in their brain. In doing so, they slash homosexuals down to mental pornography. Societal reduction of LGBT down to sexual terms equals projecting uncomfortable sexual discussion on children, in their minds.
I am part of the “Don’t Say Gay” generation, where my education lacked any discussion of LGBT issues, history, or emotional guidance. I was stripped of innocent dating rituals intended to serve as healthy touchstones as an adult. Denying children a healthy environment of self-expression and exploration leads to two distinctive outcomes: suicidal ideation and bullying.
Having no connections to your experience, except negative ones, harms children’s early psyche development. LGBTQ kids are already limited in role modeling for all types of relationships, including ones with themselves. Once separated from the world, isolation and depression take root, leaving a child to grow up without the tools to navigate adult life.
Bullying, while famously attributed to school, occurs in multitudes of places, including homes and places of worship. Research shows sexual minority youth were 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. Suicidal ideation is not a symptom of being LGBTQ, meaning LGBTQ kids aren’t broken, they’re isolated in a world without learning the skills they need to negotiate emotional life
Gay men tend to experience those “firsts” all at once in environments traditionally not safe, with other men who don’t know how to make those emotional connections themselves. Instead of years of learning subtle cues and social milestones, gay men must traverse a mirky path of emotional insecurity all at once.
I can’t but help believe that had someone taught me that I was okay from a young age, extolling my virtues as a fully formed human being, I would have had an emotional fighting chance of not being so awkward socially.
Chasten Buttigieg, schoolteacher and author of “I have something to tell you,” stated this bill, “will kill kids.” Chasten is absolutely correct in his assessment. My first attempt at suicide was in sixth grade, and the second my sophomore year of high school. I am lucky I survived; many are not as lucky. I’m still awkward, and social cues confuse me, and it’s not a future I wish on our LGBTQ youth in the year 2022.