Jan 052011

I will grant that this New York Times article has good intentions. It wants everyone to remember that gay teens aren’t the only teens that get bullied, get depressed, and kill themselves. Unfortunately, it tries to do this by erasing the differences between the experiences of gay and straight teens, offering a diluted sort of “everybody’s different, everybody gets bullied” argument that undermines recent activism and awareness around queer youth suicide risks.

The article quotes Dr. Savin-Williams, stating “We hear only the negative aspects from research. We don’t hear about normal gay teens. It’s hard to get studies published when researchers don’t find differences. A large number of studies found no group differences between gay and straight youth, but these have not been published.” Whatever a “normal gay teen” is, I would hazard a guess that they are not the target of mass bullying.

Savin-Williams further comments, “Bullying is less about sexuality than about gender nonconformity. There are straight youth who are gender-atypical and they suffer as much as gay kids.” That’s the thing about bullying. It doesn’t matter if you agree with what the bullies call you. If you’re a gender-non-conforming teen, you’re going to get bullied as a queer— whether you identify as one or not.

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