Youth are Coming Out

In light of October 11th being National Coming Out Day, I thought this is an important topic to discuss.

Last week the New York Times published an article about kids in middle school coming out. You can read it here. As with most everything else in today’s culture, youth are getting exposed to, and declaring themselves to be a variety of things at younger and younger ages. There are a few research studies that have been released recently that state the average age of someone who first realizes their same-sex attraction is 13 years old. Those studies also state that the average age of someone who now comes out and declares themselves GLBT is 15 years old. Let those two numbers soak in for a moment: 13 and 15. And those are averages. It’s almost superficially validating for me to see this article, because most of the time whenever I speak in Christian circles, hardly any of them believe me when I say this topic needs to be talked about early, because waiting until high school is too late! I usually get funny looks and some people stop paying attention because they think I’m nuts. So, just in case any of those people are reading this, please read the NY Times article that backs my, and many others’ experiences. Thanks.

I have said for the last few years that the culture war is not an adult issue (even though adults are the ones that strongly perpetuate it, disseminate it, impute it, get media time, etc), but rather at its core is a youth issue. That is why I make a point to speak at as many youth events and partner with as many youth organizations/schools as I possibly can (secular and religious), and think that events such as the Day of Silence are so important to teach our youth (from both communities) how to handle this divisive topic in peaceful and productive ways from early on.

I thoroughly believe mainstream culture will look completely different in the next two decades if we can figure out how to implant Kingdom bridge building in our youth! On we go…

As a side note, the NY Times followed up their middle school article with another that reports on the social pressures of coming out and how it is strongly correlated to the exorbant number of homeless GLBT youth. You can read it here.

This is a lot to chew on—especially since it directly deals with the youth of our country. Middle school pastors and teachers, it’s time to step up!

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Jon Trouten

    The Christian church has a great opportunity to work with religious-based GLBT groups to help these teens learn how to grow up as a GLBT individual within a Christian context: chastity until marriage, modesty, how to date, how to set limits, etc. Basically the same messages that they're teaching non-GLBT teens.

    Here's a link for a Minnesota-based Christian summer camp program for GLBT and affirming youths called the Naming Project: http://www.thenamingproject.org. If you haven't already, I strongly encourage people to check out the DVD "Camp Out", which detailed the camp's first year of programming.

    It'd be nice to learn about other Christian outreach programs for GLBT youth that's not associated with reparative therapy.

  • http://www.williampennhouse.org Brad Ogilvie

    Hey Andrew; as always, good stuff. You say “I thoroughly believe mainstream culture will look completely different in the next two decades if we can figure out how to implant Kingdom bridge building in our youth! On we go…”. I don’t think we need to figure out anything – things are already looking different, and will continue to be so. Increasingly, the younger generation doesn’t bat an eye at sexual diversity. Technology (such as facebook) is breaking down the isolation that was experienced, and this younger generation also flat-out rejects the identity boxes that we – the older generation – keep insisting they go in, boxes of race, religion and sexual orientation.

    In the follow-up article you cite, I would question the numbers cited – more about what the progress is. Are the numbers of glbt suicides increasing or decreasing? I am increasingly cynical of organizations of all types that start with great missions, as the Trevor project did, but then rely on the continuance of the social ill in order to maintain institutional viability. So, again, I would wonder how these numbers are moving and let the trajectory be our focus. It shows whether we are making progress.

    Finally, I would also encourage all of us glbt who are comfortable in our skin to reach out to those areas where there is still much strife about glbt issues, and do so with an inner peace and love that cannot be shaken by others. John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid”.

    I know I’ve said it before: we are on a positive trajectory. I truly believe that love and peace are the most powerful weapons we have to move us faster.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    “The Christian church has a great opportunity to work with religious-based GLBT groups to help these teens learn how to grow up as a GLBT individual within a Christian context: chastity until marriage, modesty, how to date, how to set limits, etc. Basically the same messages that they’re teaching non-GLBT teens.”

    Jon, I agree that is vitally important for GLBT youth to be getting this message.

    You also said, “It’d be nice to learn about other Christian outreach programs for GLBT youth that’s not associated with reparative therapy.”

    We need to be clear that “reparative” therapy is a model practiced by Joe Nicolosi of NARTH, but is widely taken to represent all therapy aimed at mediating same-sex attraction for those seeking such help. Maybe the more general term “reorientation” therapy is better here. There is another model called Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT), developed by Christians Dr. Warren Throckmorton and Dr. Mark Yarhouse. But again, those are therapeutic models and not Christian outreach programs, which are ministries that seek (perhaps with differing emphases, but hopefully, Christ-and biblically centered) to help those whose same-sex attractions are not compatible with their faith worldview.

  • Jon Trouten

    Most churches offer and/or promote nothing but ministries that attempt sexual orientation change.

    It would be nice to learn of other faith-based programs that promote values instead of change.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    “Most churches offer and/or promote nothing but ministries that attempt sexual orientation change.”

    I don’t know the breakdown, but we all can evaluate some things where they have Web sites. Not all actively promote orientation change as the goal. The one I am involved in walks alongside folks, discipling and encouraging them, but never pressuring them to go from gay to straight. Would that they were all that way. You are, sadly, justified in some of your concerns.

    “It would be nice to learn of other faith-based programs that promote values instead of change.”

    Could we maybe think of substituting “transformation” (as in being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” – Romans 12:2) for “change” since that world is prickly for so many? If we are allowing ourselves to be conformed to the image of Christ, to have “the mind (i.e., values) of Christ,” then won’t other stuff we nitpick over eventually take care of itself?

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    “since that world is prickly” …

    Sorry, that was “word.”

  • Jack Harris

    Jon,

    I think what you really want to say is that you would like to see camps and programs that are gay affirming in the context of a Christian setting. I have said on here before, some of our “Bridge Builders” don’t necessarily want GLBT folks to “Change” in THEIR eyes, it’s ok to be gay, just don’t act upon your sexual yearnings. In other words be gay and celebate. That is NOT gay affirming, while it MAY BE less toxic than trying to change sexual orientation, it’s still has the capability of being psychologically damaging.

    So..yeah still plenty of bridge building to do…lol :)

  • Jack Harris

    Jon,

    I still don't think you understood what I was saying. I am referring to the conversative evangelical camps/programs. Say it's ok to be gay just dont EVER act on your sexual orientation and don't EVER fall in love with a person of the same sex and get married. BUT… I agree with you about setting sexual boundaries even for gay youth until they marry or are in a committed relationship though.

  • Jon Trouten

    I'm not a fan of ex-gay or postgay theology. And it didn't really answer why that man couldn't have his own best days.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    "I’m not a fan of ex-gay or postgay theology. And it didn’t really answer why that man couldn’t have his own best days."

    I tend to think that none of us can surpass God's best with what we think is our best. His ways are not our ways. We can't out-imagine Him. He never promised us happiness through sexual fulfillment. He did promise us joy and peace of another kind.

    Peter said in that post, "God challenged me over the course of a few days with a clear message – “If I want you to stay like this (i.e., celibate but not necessarily heterosexual) for my purposes, why can’t I do that? Will you follow me wherever I take you, not just only to the places you want to go?”

    It is one of many narratives out there, including yours. I understand that you don't accept it, but others do and, in fact, have lived it. We will simply have to give each other space on it.

  • Jon Trouten

    "We will simply have to give each other space on it."

    Yup.

    Meanwhile, check out "Camp Out" for an example of what I was talking about in my initial comment: http://www.amazon.com/Camp-Out-Jay-Wiesner/dp/B00….

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    I watched the film trailer. Thanks. It helps to explain what you are talking about. I presume the camp allows these youth to question their identity either way, because it sounded like some were doing that.

  • Jon Trouten

    Pretty much, Jack. Basically, help teens learn that they can be gay and Christian and about learning how to date and set boundaries and to postpone sexual activity until marriage and the whole thing. I think that would be good for the kids and good for the larger GLBT community in the long run.

  • Jon Trouten

    No, I get you. And I totally agree with you.

    Andrew wrote in his book about this one guy who broke down following a memorial at a church service. The guy’s 4 or 5 best moments were shared, which amounted to the day he met his wife, the day he married his wife, and the days that each of his kids were born. He approached his pastor and told him that he was upset because he’d never have those types of joys in his life if he remained on the path that he was on (celibate gay man). The pastor told him that he didn’t know how to respond and the guy was left to continue his life on own.

    My response to Andrew in an e-mail was “why can’t this guy have his own best days?”. I don’t see why this man is preventing himself from seeking what any heterosexual freely seeks and is encouraged by the church to seek: companionship, bonding, and children.

    I think it’s terrible that the Christian church is almost universally telling GLBT kids that they have to choose between church and future family. Het kids are told to wait until marriage. GLBT kids are told to abstain until death. It’s not even comparable.

  • http://theformers.wordpress.com Debbie Thurman

    Jon, I think Peter Ould has a response to your last comment that is far better than anything I could say.

    http://www.peter-ould.net/2007/04/19/you-and-me-together

  • Jon Trouten

    Most of the questioning is of their status as Christians, not as gay kids.

  • http://bridgeout.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/are-you-a-bridge-builder/ Wendy

    You are SOOOO a bridge builder!


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