Nurturing Communities for Gay Adolescents

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Regarding the July 14 front-page article "Owning His Gay Identity -- at 15 Years Old":

Our schools are filled with children who react negatively to individual differences because of the misunderstanding and hate they have learned from adults.

While some will lash out with violence against peers they perceive to be different, that is not a reason to argue against having families, community programs and schools that nurture and celebrate youths who positively claim their sexual orientation and gender identity. Surveys of homeless youths indicate that nearly 20 percent of them self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Some youths aren't as lucky as Saro Harvey and experience severe conflict, abuse and abandonment from family members or foster parents.

I firmly believe that shelters for homeless youths would not be as full as they are if more parents learned to nurture and guide their adolescent children to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity safely and healthfully.

We also wouldn't have as many youths living on the streets if schools learned to address harassment, dealt consistently with bullying and offered healthful networking environments such as gay-straight alliances.

Saro Harvey is courageous. I wish more teenagers could learn to love themselves and develop such a healthy self-identity.



The writer is a senior youth policy analyst for the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

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