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The Situation of Gay Youth Today Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Martin Kuplens-Ewart, Canada Jun 8, 2002
Human Rights , Child & Youth Rights , LGBT Rights   Opinions
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Gay youth are among the most critically under-supported segments of Canadian society (Underserved, 1). Taking a look at the community directory in the back pages of “Xtra!” magazine, we find fewer than ten services offered to gay youth [not studying at University]. Of these, only one provides an environment in which they can meet socially, to discuss topics of relevance to themselves, their lives, and their experiences. But even this group is very much limited in its ability to work with and for gay youth. Matters of no relevance to the lives of gay youth constantly influence the decisions made by the group’s executive, and the lack of financial resources restricts the number and level of materials available to a minimum, consisting mainly of generic pamphlets target toward the gay ‘society’ at large. In order to gain a greater perspective on the current situation here in Toronto, I believe that it will prove to be invaluable to have an understanding of the lives and experiences of gay youth in the Western world – in particular Germany, Britain, and Canada

Choosing to look at lives of individuals in other countries requires some careful thought as to the choice of countries to study. Before we begin to look at the lives of these young people, it might therefore be useful to consider the reasons for my choices in countries. Germany emerged as my chief focus for the simple reason that I have personally experienced life there, from 1988 to 1997. Focussing on Germany provides us with the added benefit of seeing the issue from the perspective of a traditionally more conservative nation. It gives us the opportunity to be perhaps surprised by attitudes and feelings displayed by individuals there. I will bring in additional information and material about other countries [such as the Netherlands, and Britain] throughout this paper to contrast or highlight certain aspects of the situation in Germany, while maintaining a perspective relative to Canada to provide us with some context pertaining to the Canadian situation.

The majority of my material for this paper is derived from a study performed by the German state of Niedersachsen. It is the single most far-reaching study of gay youth that I have found to exist, and, to my mind, serves as the ideal model for research in this area. Involving 353 respondents throughout 1998 and 1999, this study was performed through both print and online media, allowing for an unprecedented cross-sample of individuals from all walks of life. Of the 353, respondents, 36.5% were between the ages of 15 and 20, with an average age overall of 21.3 years (Niedersachsen, 5). In addition to this study, I was able to find a large quantity of relevant material on assorted websites for gay youth, by gay youth, mainly in the form of informal polls which provide an up-to-date picture of the reality of life as a young gay man.Points of contact:
For the majority of gay youth today, the first point of contact with their peers are the websites maintained by young people themselves and their supporters. In North America, these websites have largely served to mask the lack of social services for gay youth. The lack of meeting places and opportunities for these vulnerable individuals to safely develop into their true selves is hidden by the social connection created in a virtual world. But these websites do not serve an underlying, core need. It is true that they provide short-term affirmation of the self – the very exposure to like others that is so very important. But they cannot help the gay youth grow to their full potential. That can only be accomplished by individuals working with the youth in real life, with knowledge and understanding of the individual’s situation within the greater scope of their environment.

If we look at the situation of pro-youth organisations here in Toronto, we are faced with a bleak picture. The main organisation professing to be working for gay youth in this, the largest city in Canada, has ceased actively working for gay youth – its last conference on gay youth was held more than five years ago. We have a single youth group serving the entire GTA since the local school board cut the funding of the second one. The situation is shameful. If we look at Münster, a moderately sized town of 450,000 in north-western Germany, we find an entirely different situation. There are three organizations that exist solely to run meetings for young gays in the town, organizing gatherings at local gay-friendly pubs, a gay soccer team, community television station, and many, many more services directly for gay youth (muenster.de, search result).

In a number of surveys, gay youth have indicated that youth groups are not very useful (UK Polls). I would suggest that this is because of the format in which they are run. In areas where youth groups are well-frequented and effective, they are quite casual social gatherings allowing for breaking off from the larger group for individual conversation and discussions. On the other hand, those which are less, if at all popular, are usually akin to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – participants sit in a circle of chairs and choose an identity which they will use for the duration of the meeting. Issues are usually discussed in a very broad manner, as the situation simply does not permit for opening up. The evidence points to a need for something other than a twelve-step program for gay youth.Two examples of this European-style youth group are those run by the “Youngs!” in Muenster, and the Godiva Young Gay and Lesbian Youth services [GYGLY]. The key difference between these two groups is the origin of their funding. While “Youngs!” is supported entirely by non-profit organisations in the area, GYGLY is a successful government-funded program: a fact which would be good to keep in mind as we consider the funding of gay youth services in our day-to-day lives. Being a government-funded organisation provides some benefits to the GYGLY, not least of all the provision of space – an entire youth center is made available to this group during its’ meetings. “Youngs!” chose an even less defined structure than is usual, and meet at “Cuba”, a neighbourhood gay-friendly pub.

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A really interesting study...
Umi A. | Jun 9th, 2002
I have realized that the main reason homophobia presists is due to stereotypes and misconceptions about homosexuality. The fact that you brought important surveys and statistics to light really helps creating a more positive image of gay youth, and creates a sense of awareness regarding the problems and obstacles they consult in their lives. A very very good article. Hope to read more from you in the future! :)

Joel Solow | Jun 13th, 2002
Truely an important issue, and a good article. Despite living in New York, one of the more tolerant/liberal of all American cities, I understand the challenges that face 'queer' teens, whether in the mid-west, or Canada. I'm actually working on a gay issues-focusing chapter in a book, and if you'd like, I could send you an interview, maybe get some of your opinions in the chapter. just e-mail me at insearchoffaith@yahoo.com if you're interested. -Joel

Ha Thi Lan Anh | Jun 24th, 2002
dont have time to go through all rite now but denifitely come back and dig it :) interesting study.. i do believe there are quite some youth gays in my city and the number is rising.. but in Vietnam and asian countries as well i think people are really afraid of gays,hate them even,thinking they being gays means they have deseases.. lots of mistereotypes about them and also misunderstandings.. the thing is we havent really cared and theres noone really dare to talk about youth gays problems..

well done
Karis | Jun 25th, 2002
Yes, I finally got around to fully reading it. Hahahaha, it was interesting, don't you fret about the flow of your writing. Yes, Deutschland has a reputation around the world for being very gay-friendly (from my experiences), and Canada is a little cold (hahahaha). I didn't know that the gay youth group sit. was so pathetic here in Toronto, I really am interested in trying to fix it! I really am! And it is really good to look at the things homosexual teens have to dealwith in other parts of the world. I remember speaking with someone in Manila, and they gave me some excellent insight. It goes with what Angel says, actually, and it makes me sad. Online communities aren't as fulfilling, true, but there's a start. There is a start. I don't know! I'm thinking about all this... thanks for reminding me!

Adam Dexter | Jul 25th, 2002
This is a pretty big issue, and I am glad that there are more and more people that are concerned (not just homosexual youths). Humans may have differences that set them into categories (which is sad) but if you draw the line in reverse, you will come to the concept of everyone being human. And this in itself is the greatest generalization anyone can make.

Just my opinion
Courtney Rider | Apr 21st, 2004
I'm not into writing tons but this is a huge issue for me although I myself am not a gay youth. Many friends I have are though and are persecuted because of it. For example, just last week my friend "Joey" was canned and rolled down the hill in a garbage can. I can't stand to have these things going on. I commend you for being bold enough to put your opinion on here and I can only hope that i try to make an example like you.

Human Rights
shirley lokito | May 24th, 2004
It's a basic human right to choos their path of life and have the resposibility of their own body, including their reproductive system. I strongly agree that there should be more gay studies, being taught at school, etc. in the belief that our society would be a better place to live in, without any clash between this group of people and that group of people. That kind of dislike between gay poeple and normal people is always exist but there something we have to do to suppress it. APART FROM THEIR SEXUAL ACTS, THERE"S NOTHING SEPARATING.

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