Identity politics seek same!

A book called "The New Gay Teenager" is causing a fuss among North Carolina parents because it was used in a school seminar and is believed to be promoting the so-called "gay agenda."

It is one thing to maintain that kids shouldn't be exposed to any discussions of homosexuality.

But the gay agenda?

From what I can see about the book, it violates a central tenet of the "Gay Agenda" because it discards the all-important doctrine of sexual identity politics:

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The so-called "gay adolescent" soon will disappear, predicts a Cornell University expert on teenage sexuality in a new book. These adolescents will still have the same desires, fantasies and attractions, he writes, but they no longer will need or want to identify themselves as gay.

"The new gay teenager is in many respects the non-gay teenager," says Ritch Savin-Williams, professor and chair of human development in Cornell's College of Human Ecology in his new book, The New Gay Teenager (Harvard University Press, 2005). Savin-Williams is an expert on issues concerning gay, lesbian and bisexual youths and is a licensed clinical psychologist who works with gay youths and their families.

Savin-Williams argues that the majority of young people who engage in gay sex consider themselves heterosexual and that the majority of youths with same-sex attractions do not call themselves gay.

Such labels as "gay" no longer work when describing young people's sexuality, he says, because some teens have same-sex crushes but don't act on them or call them "gay love affairs." Some believe they are gay for a while and then not gay for a while. Still others might consider themselves gay only in certain situations.

"Most same-sex-attracted young people engage in sexual activities with both sexes. Some are homoerotic in some sexual domains and not in others. Similarly, one can be little or greatly same-sex attracted, in varying degrees and in varying ways," says Savin-Williams. In fact, he says, between 15 and 20 percent of adolescents have some degree of same-sex orientation, yet only 3 to 4 percent embrace a gay or bisexual identity or report same-sex activities. Most young people don't link their sexuality to their identity.

Young people don't link their sexuality to their identity?

What kind of people would object to that?

People who want sexuality linked to identity?

I am reminded of one of the first posts in this blog. I know I'm repeating myself but here's what I said in 2002 (before I really started blogging in earnest):

The Problem With Anti-Gay Bigots

...is that they want to find out what it is that other people do sexually, and then they want to claim them in some sort of brotherhood, or else disown them as unfit people to associate with. They demand the right to tell other people how to raise their children, particularly as to their definition of human sexuality. Once they identify a person as heterosexual, they encourage, even demand, a liturgy of constant self-affirmation of heterosexuality as the best measuring stick of a human being's worth. As if such peer pressure isn't bad enough in itself, one's sexual desires are now considered a litmus test of one's politics!

The Problem With Gay Bigots

...is that they want to find out what it is that other people do sexually, and then they want to claim them in some sort of brotherhood, or else disown them as unfit people to associate with. They demand the right to tell other people how to raise their children, particularly as to their definition of human sexuality. Once they identify a person as homosexual, they encourage, even demand, a liturgy of constant self-affirmation of homosexuality as the best measuring stick of a human being's worth. As if such peer pressure isn't bad enough in itself, one's sexual desires are now considered a litmus test of one's politics!

Sexual bigotry is the worst sort of identity politics, and identity politics sucks!

Nice to see my crackpot theories confirmed occasionally.

UPDATE: More on the North Carolina controversy surrounding "The New Gay Teenager" here. Excerpt:

Jim and Beverly Burrows say their son returned home from last year’s Governor’s School “confused” about homosexuality as a result of the seminar, and that they have had to seek family counseling.

“We feel that this was totally inappropriate for the students who were 15, 16, and 17 years old,” the Burrowses wrote to officials at the State Departament of Public Instruction. “We feel that our rights as parents have been violated by this program.”

In addition to complaining to DPI officials, the Burrowses wrote to editors at several newspapers in North Carolina. DPI officials have defended the seminar, saying it was optional for students to attend, as is the Governor’s School itself.

The seminar, “The New Gay Teenager,” was based on a book with the same name, written by homosexual Cornell University professor Ritch Savin-Williams. The book and the Governor’s School seminar discussed whether homosexual teen-agers benefit, or are harmed, by embracing labels based on their sexual orientation. The co-leaders of the seminar identified themselves as gay, Mrs. Burrows said — which is supported by documentation obtained by Carolina Journal.

The boy bought the book, and his parents returned it:

“At last I can hope that contemporary teenagers are bringing the sexual identity era to a close,” Savin-Williams wrote in the book’s preface. “I celebrate this development, because my lifetime professional dream — that homosexuality will be eliminated as a defining characteristic of adolescents, a way of cutting and isolating, of separating and discriminating — is within reach.”

The Governor’s School seminar inspired at least one of the students — the Burrowses’ son — to purchase the book, which his parents promptly returned.

The article does not say how old this kid was, and it's unclear to me whether this was in fact indoctrination, or whether he was simply exposed to ideas his parents disliked. I'm of course against indoctrination and I don't think people should be made to believe in ideas or concepts with which they don't agree. Certainly, if people like this kid's parents deem it best to keep and maintain the categories of gay and straight, that's their business. It doesn't mean I have to agree with them, though. I'm not quite understanding how it is that exposing high school seniors to this debate would be harmful as long as it is voluntary and not coerced.


posted by Eric on 01.31.06 at 10:57 AM










Comments

"Most same-sex-attracted young people engage in sexual activities with both sexes. Some are homoerotic in some sexual domains and not in others. Similarly, one can be little or greatly same-sex attracted, in varying degrees and in varying ways," says Savin-Williams

Abelard wrote an interesting theory on the implications of this for homophobia, and the correlation with anti-semitism,

It is estimated the almost all male homosexuals also have female sexual contacts at some time. It is surmised that homosexuals gain a breeding advantage by learning seductive techniques at a young age. It is also guessed that part of the aggression directed at homosexuals is an instinctive attack on breeding rivals.
Clearly, it is common for homosexuals to enjoy a higher standard of living and more time (on average) to develop their own wealth and talents without the expense of bawling baybees and a wife to keep. Two incomes, often good incomes, are common to the lifestyle.
Lazar   ·  February 3, 2006 6:01 PM

Interesting points -- especially the idea that attacks on homosexuals might involve instinctive breeding rivalry. Thanks!

Eric Scheie   ·  February 3, 2006 10:24 PM

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