I grew up hard. I grew up hating myself.
I learned to lie and hide even from myself by the time I was 12. I learned to crumple my soul up into a little ball so I didn’t have to see it. I learned to wear a mask not just so other people wouldn’t see the real me, but so that I wouldn’t see.
From Christianity and Me, a tale of my coming of age —
It slammed into me in an instant as I was sitting in a pew. The evil sinners the pastor was talking about were like me, people who felt the way I felt.
I was a homosexual. I was a queer. I was a faggot. The sweet, tender feelings I had for my friend were lies. They were sins.
I bolted up out of the pew, shoved my way past my astonished family, rushed to the restroom and vomited, just making it into the stall in time
I was 11 years old.
Self Loathing is a Common Challenge for LGBTQ Youth
Fighting for self acceptance is a struggle many queer adolescents face. According to a study by the University of York, LGBTQ teens are far more likely than other teens to engage in self destructive behavior due to self loathing.
Themes of youthful self loathing echo through both my fiction and my nonfiction. Working to boost self esteem and self acceptance among queer youth is one of the reasons I write. One of the things I most love about working with and mentoring queer youth these days is how mentally healthy many of them are compared to my generation when we were young.
LGBTQ young people are internalizing less homophobia than in the past, and many of them learn to shed most of it as they come of age. According the Humans Rights Campaign, almost 90% of LGBTQ teens say they are out to their close friends, and 77% say that even if they aren’t fully accepted in high school, they know things will get better.
Recent studies reveal shocking information about how LGBTQ adults see themselves
Huge numbers of them buy into worldviews that label same-gender sex as immoral. They’ve bought into tropes of persecution and stigmatization.
First, some good news
Most young American adults — well over 60 percent — support policies that promote LGBTQ equality. In a recent GenForward Survey, a bimonthly poll of young adults run by University of Chicago, a large majority of cis, straight, and LGBTQ respondents strongly supported LGBTQ adoption rights, job protections, military service, and funding for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.
That’s what I would expect. It lines up with my own personal observations that young people in the United States want equality — for themselves, their friends, and their loved ones — without respect to gender alignment or sexual orientation.
Now on to the shocking part
The GenForward Survey also asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement.
The increasing acceptance of homosexuality in our society is causing a deterioration of morality.
I’m sadly not shocked that a large minority of straight and cis young adults “strongly agreed” with the statement. In fact, 36.1% of all young adults agreed with it. That number roughly lines up with the percentage of young people who self-identify as conservative Christians, according the Pew Research Center Religious Landscape Study.
I wasn’t even shocked that a full 40% of all straight young people agreed with the statement. I was saddened, but not surprised.
What really takes my breath away is that 21% of young, self-identified LGBTQ adults AGREE with the statement.
More than one of every five LGBTQ young adults think that there’s something morally wrong with being gay. This particular survey doesn’t address gender-alignment issues, but it will be interesting to see what future polls reveal about that.
In the meantime, my heart is breaking.
I thought we were doing better than this. I thought that the kind of spiritual pain I grew up with was fading from the American landscape.
It’s 2019, people.
It’s 2019 and self loathing is still a really big deal. Way too many of us are hurting. Way too many of us think there’s something wrong with ourselves. Way too many of us think we’re morally damaged.
Way too many of us still don’t accept that we LGBTQ people are just ordinary, minority variants of human beings.
What’s worse is that these young adult numbers reflect a huge problem among even younger LGBTQ people.
- LGBTQ adolescents in the US are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their cis/straight peers.
- Over 40% of homeless youth in the US identify as LGBTQ even though LGBTQ youth represent only 5–8 percent of the youth population.
Way too many queer kids are growing up like I did — in spiritual and emotional pain, convinced they’re morally unacceptable, convinced they’re sick or wrong just for being born to be who they are.
We have to do something about that. It’s not OK. It’s not acceptable. Somewhere this Sunday, boys and girls are going to be sitting in church just like I was when I was 11. They’re going to hear words of moral condemnation and revulsion directed at them.
Maybe they won’t bolt to the restroom and puke like I did.
I can guarantee you, though, that many of them will toss and turn at night, unable to sleep. I can guarantee you that tears will flow. I can guarantee you that many of them will live in despair.
Sorry if this sounds hyperbolic. I know sincere drama isn’t cool. But, damn it, read my words again. Because they’re real whether the sentiment is cool or not.
It’s not enough to be upset about the problem, though. We need to act. As I say often, apathy wins no battles. Hoping for the best saves no lives. Enjoying our relative comfort dries no tears.
Check out the two LGBTQ support organizations below. Both of them fight hard in the trenches every day to nurture queer youth and to save lives. They’re highly respected and highly responsible.
They’re asking for volunteers. We need to take them up on it, and work to make our young people healthier and happier.