Coming Out in Middle School: Easier for “Feminine” Bisexual Girls, Hardest in Oklahoma

beautiful people -1COMING OUT IN MIDDLE SCHOOL: New York Times Magazine cover story examines coming out in middle school. Boys know before girls, studies show (I imagine this is b/c physically, boys learn early what their body responds to via hard-ons, whereas girls aren’t even told their entitled to a pleasurable sexual response at all, let alone that they should pay attention to their body’s responses during early sexual experiences), but can find it harder to come out — though it’s easier if they’re “masculine,” just as it’s easier for bisexual girls considered ‘feminine.” Not surprisingly, most sexuality-related peer fear isn’t about sexuality so much as it’s about any threat to pre-established gender norms.

It’s easier in schools with GSAs, and the writer visited one Los Angeles middle school school where it was easier to come out simply because a popular boy had come out there a few years earlier.

But when do they know?

Could he change his mind in a week, as 13-year-olds routinely do with other identities — skater, prep, goth, jock — they try on for a while and then shed for another? And if sexuality is so fluid, should he really box himself in with a gay identity? Many parents told me they especially struggled with that last question.

The writer (who, p.s., used to work for XY magazine, does anyone else remember that mag? I used to read it) admits that after meeting Kera (12, bisexual) and Justin (13, gay), before long he heard himself blurt out, “But you’re so young!” A gay youth services director points out that no-one asks 12-year-old boys who like girls if they’re just going through a phase.

So, is this “coming out young” phenomenon because of the internet? Increasing visibility for gays & lesbians in the media? Also, this quote was awesome:

Tina surprised me when she said her father actually prefers that she date girls. “His biggest fear has always been that I’ll get pregnant before I’m 18,” she told us, “so my dad’s really supportive of the girl thing.”

LESBIAN BROMANCE: Autostraddle’s KC Danger takes a look at the new lesbian bromance.

TRUE LIFE: I MADE TRUE LIFE: I cannot imagine a more fascinating True Life episode than the one that aired last night, about the 11-year history of the show. Well except for the one about Staten Island and the one about the girls who had Chinese food feasts before getting plastic surgery, which was a lot. JAGER BOMBS!

SEX ED: New anti-sex website shames young women: “Girls expect emotional involvement almost twice as often as guys; 34% hope “a relationship might evolve.” Guys, more than girls, are in part motivated by hopes of improving their social reputation, or of bragging about their exploits to friends the next day.” (@feministing)

CUT THE GLAMOUR: Jezebel has suggestions for Glamour, ’cause they need to cut 25% of the magazine: We’re not totally sure what percent of the magazine this is, but just get rid of the whole “Hey, it’s okay!” page. Replace it with small text someplace in the front that reads “Despite everything this magazine tells you, you are allowed to eat food, have sex, and think thoughts.” (@jezebel)

Related:

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2842 articles for us.

24 Comments

  1. When I was still in high school two years ago, there wasn’t much mainstream talk of coming out among youth — except that one episode of Oprah about “The New Gay Teenager” (a really fantastic book, btw), which dealt exclusively with high schoolers.

    I’m glad that Denizet-Lewis’ New York Times article happened. Yay, progress! Hopefully within the next few years, there will some sort of dialogue about ‘Coming Out in Elementary School’.

  2. I think the internet and TV must play a role, because when I was in grades say, 5 through 8 (which is “middle school” in Canada), I didn’t even really understand what “gay” meant, other than as an insult. I knew that something was up with me, but I didn’t have the tools to name it. Now I think that there is so much more gay in the mainstream (plus the internet is all crazy now whereas back when I was a kid ICQ and yahoo were like, cutting edge) that maybe kids are able to see that and identify with it at an earlier age. Although, I’m pretty sure my friends in middle school new I was gay and I didn’t. So there’s also that.

    unrelated: older twentysomethings, doesn’t it make you feel SO OLD that one day you’re going to be telling kids that you were around before the internet even EXISTED? and that if a person was out of the house, you just COULDN’T REACH THEM? i already feel ancient just typing that.

    • yeah, I’m really looking forward to that day.
      “when I was in fifth grade, I had to HANDWRITE my reports for school! and during recess we played oregon trail deluxe for MS DOS! what’s MS DOS you ask? yeah how do I explain that…”

      • I’m still so confused that kids these days are expected to have computers! What if they can’t afford it? Handwriting your report was actually an option for me well into high school, b/c not everyone had a computer yet.

        I am so glad MS DOS is not in my life anymore. Though I wonder if it made us more computer-literate, to have to deal with the technical stuff head-on instead of little icons making it all easy for us.

        • yeah totally, I see three- and four-year-olds at computers as if it were their full-time job, and I get all disconcerted, like “wait, I thought you’re not s’posed to learn how to use that thing until you’re at least 12? and you’re not s’posed to like depend on it WITH YOUR LIFE until you’re 18?” and then when I hear about kids getting typing classes in first grade I’m all “KIDS THESE DAYS.”

          I hate MS DOS, I think it damaged my psyche when I was too young and vulnerable and impressionable to be staring at soulless black screens with feebly blinking industrial type-font. Computer literate-schmiterate.

    • I was in a doctor’s waiting room for hours recently with nothing to do except read these so called “women’s magazines.” I was so disgusted that I took several home with me so that no one else in that waiting room would have their minds poisoned by this junk, at least not until next month’s comes out.

      • I typically have a sick addiction to women’s magazines, but lately i can’t handle them, the way they aggressively push consumerism despite the recession, its’ so transparent, the like “50 ways to still find a reason to go shopping!” “10 things worth the splurge!” they literally say, “it’s okay to indulge yourself right now and go shopping” in 100 ways that I can’t handle anymore.

        really though you have to see the “it’s okay to …” page, then it;s even funnier

  3. I think that, in some ways, it’s a bit easier for guys to come out. At least where I live. If you’re a gay guy at my school, a lot of girls will want to be your friend. But, most straight girls are totally afraid of hanging out with an actual lesbian. There’s a reason that my high school has not fully-out lesbians.

  4. WOW. I’m several months late in commenting (ages late in discovering this site, for that matter!) and really enjoyed the NYT article.

    Okay, so I skimmed a lot of it. But the story and the end was adorable. And I clicked on the link thinking “No shit, gay in Oklahoma is hard, big story huh?” and expecting another awful story about some kid living in a rural hell of judgmental evangelicals.

    So it was a really pleasant surprise to read about kids being extremely brave and a great program in my home town I knew nothing about. It’s so encouraging to see how much things have changed even since I was a deeply closeted little gaymo in a Tulsa middle school a decade back.

    And it was cool to read about parents bringing their kids to T-Town from the smaller areas for the gay dance. I was very aware in HS of how much harder it was for gay kids going to a school even just a 20 minute drive out of town from my bigger, queerer, city school. Tulsa itself actually has a very active gay community and a nice Pride.

    And finally, that article was awesome because one of the adult guys it mentions was a camp counselor at a camp where I had a huge crush on one of the girls counselors. It’s selfishly nice to know, all these years later, that the girls who had a crush on him were just as hopeless as I was. :P

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