Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The times, they are a changin'

The Teenager came from school the other day and as usual I asked about her day. 

"Mum, you know my friend Lois?"
"Well, she's got a girlfriend.  She's gay."

There was no scandalous undertone to her voice, she was just passing on some new information in a very matter of fact way, just the same way she might tell me that her friend had a new hairstyle. 

I was so impressed that her friend had been confident enough to talk to her friends about her sexuality. When I think back to when I was a teenager I didn't know anyone who was gay. Well, that's not true of course - I did know people who were gay, I just didn't know they were. In those days there would be a huge amount of shame and guilt placed upon young people if they felt their sexual preferences were not 'the norm'. I'm sure that some of that shame and guilt is still around today, but it must have been so much more difficult  to 'come out' over 30 years ago compared to now.

When I was the Teenager's age there was a boy at our school who everyone thought might be gay.  Nobody had any proof, and he certainly never said he was, but just the suspicion was enough to ensure he was taunted mercilessly by others.  I remember he only had female friends because the boys wouldn't hang around with him in case they caught it.

Compare this to the two slightly older  boys in The Teenager's dance class who are also openly gay, and another boy who recently discussed with his friends his wish to have a sex-change when he's older.  These boys are popular at school and socialise with a group of (straight) boys and girls. How amazing that these young people are so open, and how fantastic that they have such accepting, non-judgemental friends. 

My daughter's relaxed attitude to her friend's sexuality wasn't a surprise. We have some very close gay friends and as a result my girls have always known that men can have relationships with men, and women with woman. Not because I have been lecturing them about it in a very right-on, pc-way, but because that's what they've seen in their everyday lives.

A couple of years ago they were flower girls at a friend's civil partnership ceremony and Tall Daughter took this news into school to share during 'show and tell'. She came home and said that she'd had to explain to some children, who didn't know what it meant, how the law had changed and what a civil partnership ceremony was about. The idea of a child explaining this to another child in a non-judgemental way was the perfect way to learn about it, I thought.

But maybe I'm living in a little bubble here. Am I alone in thinking that younger people are finding it easier to be open about their sexuality?  Or are the majority still being persecuted because of it?  I don't think that's the case anymore, but maybe you know differently.  Over to you.