Saturday, October 30, 2010

Integrating High Schools, then and now

A generation of GLBT teens is in the process of integrating the nation's middle and high schools.  That's the truth of the matter..most GLBT teens in previous generations didn't come out in High School, didn't ask to bring same sex partners to proms, didn't demand equality.  This generation and their parents are, and apparently they are taking it on the chin.  Some are taking it so hard they are committing suicide, and you know many more must be succumbing in more moderate...but still very dangerous to their long-term mental health... ways to the depression which causes suicide.

In the 1950's-70's a generation of African American teens integrated often very hostile schools, sometimes in situations where adults were a part of the hostility, and, as far as I remember, there was no rash of suicides.  Depression and long term consequences of a difficult adolescence is harder to measure, of course, and non-experts like me wouldn't know about them.

But I wonder if anybody learned anything about racial integration in teen society that could be applied to GLBT integration of teen society.

Just as a for instance, I imagine that many Black teens believed that the abuse they were taking was in the service of something important for society.  Do GLBT kids feel that way?  If not....perhaps besides telling them that "it gets better", perhaps we should be telling them that they are courageous, strong, and the vanguard of a better world for us all.


Paul Oakley said...

An interesting comparison to make. I wonder what it will yield. But one core difference is that most African Americans encountering hostility in newly integrating schools had an African American home to return to at the end of the school day. There was never any question about the validity of their identity in that place, at least, while LGBT youth may well face as much hostility or misunderstanding at home as at school. And even when parents accept the LGBT teen, there still is an identity gap between the home and the individual.

Mary Ellen from Napa said...

I had the same thought Paul did, it may have been easier for the African American child to accept the viewpoint of their parents, because they knew that their parents could relate to what they were experiencing. The GLBT child would hear their parents tell them that it would someday be "okay" and think that they were telling them that, not because it was true, but because they loved them. And in all their pain, that just wouldn't be enough. That's why I hope that those adult members of the GLBT community would make themselves available to teens like themselves. Something has to be done to let all kids, gay and straight, know that they are okay. It's a job for all of us, I just wish I knew where to start.