From Andrew Sullivan, with whom I couldn’t agree more (on this point):
The next generation of gay kids are the best yet. They haven’t been as psychologically damaged by homophobia as my generation; and they won’t take being treated as second-class citizens and human beings. I’m proud of being part of a gay generation that stood up for our dignity and equality at a critical time and changed history. I’m even prouder of the generations that are coming.
His comment was prompted by 16-year-old Josh’s recounting of his polite confrontation with Senator George Allen. With teenagers like this, I have much hope for the future. (Lots of comments about the story on Josh’s site and on AmericaBlog.)
Mass homophobia does indeed appear to be generational. I am amazed at times by the lack of homophobia among my teenage children’s friends, and glad that by being an “out” gay dad I have contributed to that. I’m also amazed at the changes I’ve seen in the climate for LGBTQ students at DePauw University, where I teach, since I came here in 1988. 10 years ago, it was impossible to be an out gay man and live in a fraternity. Now gay men are living openly and comfortably in a number of frats, including some that used to be the most aggressively anti-gay.
“They haven’t been as psychologically damaged by homophobia as my generation,” Sullivan writes, and for the most part that is very true. My generation is pretty damaged. I don’t personally know any gay men in their 40s or older, including me, who are not deeply, permanently scarred from growing up in a family and social milieu that taught us that who we are is sick, immoral, and sinful. While some of the damage can be healed, there is much that can only be managed.
There is nothing more wonderful in my life than seeing for myself that homophobia is unquestionably not intrinsic to the human condition, and that growing up attracted to the same sex doesn’t have to mean growing up self-hating and rejected.
And stories like Josh’s remind me of what a privilege it is to be a teacher and to get to know extraordinary young people.