If you have kids, or nieces and nephews, did you ever badger them with question after question when they were younger to marvel at the progression of their little brains? What does a cow say? What does a duck say? What color is this crayon? What color is your hair? Where’s your nose? How old are you? What’s your name? The list goes on and on and you can tell when they get just a little more than perturbed at answering all of your questions. The question I think kids hear the most though is this: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some kids know right away…for others it takes a bit longer to figure out. Heck…I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up (smile).
Have you ever known a kid that was really talented at a sport? Someone that everyone keeps their eye on because they just know they are going to be something great when they get older. Their parents dream of college scholarships and before they know it scouts are checking them out. They get to college, they are playing great, their future looks bright, their dreams of playing professionally are within their grasp and then it happens. An accident. Whether on or off the field…it doesn’t matter…the dream they’ve had since they were a little kid is done. There’s no chance of them grasping it now. The future they always dreamed of looks very different now, and they are faced with coming up with another plan.
I read a post recently that stated the following:
“We are told we don’t accept LGBTQ people for “who they are” when they can’t accept themselves for who they are.”
There is some truth to that for many, but I believe that is grossly simplifying things. Many LGBTQ individuals discover they are LGBTQ when they are a child. It ranges anywhere from very young to the teen years. It is rare that a person doesn’t realize it until they are an adult. I won’t say it never happens, but it’s not the norm. I’m sure it was years ago when it wasn’t talked about, but today kids are coming out…well when they are kids.
Since I know others have had this thought, here are some things that I’ve learned and even witnessed in many cases on this journey…
As I’ve already mentioned, we are talking about children. Can you imagine processing being LGBTQ as a child? Hang around some middle or high school kids for a day and it doesn’t take long to realize that gay kids are made fun of and bullied. When a child realizes they are gay (using the term gay to make it easier), it is terrifying to think that they will be treated that way. They hear gay people called pedophiles, gross, disgusting, etc. Hiding who you are is exhausting and stress inducing. Try processing all of that as a child.
The other thing that they deal with is the fact that their future now suddenly looks very different. The little girls that dreamed of growing up and marrying their “knight in shining armor” now realize that this isn’t going to happen. They wonder if they will ever find love now. And remember…this is a child processing this. The future they dreamed about suddenly is different. It takes time to envision and adjust to this new future. When I asked my son about this, he said that it would have been helpful to him to have some examples in media of gay people being in love. It would have helped him realize that love was a possibility for him too. When they begin to go through this, many feel like they are the only ones in the world going through it.
If they grew up in the church, this adds another tension to the mix. When some evangelists call them “a plague on the nation”, an abomination, that they are destroying family values, they are sick, demon possessed, etc., this is a heavy load to carry as a child. It’s hard enough as an adult. Sadly sometimes the advice parents are given by their child’s youth leader is to ground them, beat them, put them in counseling and seek out conversion therapy, home school them, pull them out of youth group, and if none of that works….kick them out of the house.
Sadly there are parents out there that are listening to this. Punishment and beating your child is not going to change anything about their sexual orientation. It’s going to create a child that develops self-hatred. Conversion therapy has been proven not to work and has been outlawed in several states because it is harmful. Let’s take them out of youth group and leave them isolated without any friends when they need them and God the most. Kick them out of the house. Is there any wonder why a child would have trouble accepting themselves??
Listen…I know this example is pretty extreme, but it doesn’t have to be this extreme to do damage. People get upset with me for bringing this up. I know that not all Christians are like this. My Christian friends find this behavior appalling. And there are affirming churches out there, but the fact of the matter is that it is happening, more than we would like to believe because it seems so unbelievable. Just because we ourselves are not doing it, or the people we know are not doing it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. There are pastors calling for the murder of LGBTQ people for goodness sake. These are the kinds of things that bring that lack of self acceptance and depending on the damage done…it goes with them into adulthood.
These are some reasons that make it difficult to come to terms with being LGBTQ. I am filled with compassion when I think of what these young people go through. I hope you are too.
You know what kids want to be when they grow up?
LOVED. And I bet you do too.
Because love matters…