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Life is Not Suitable for Children

I was 15 years old when I came out. My parents did not support me in any way when it came to understanding myself or dealing with the homophobic attitudes in the small town I grew up in. In fact, my ex-cop dad would just as soon never have to look at me again, which he pretty much hasn't in six or seven years.

At 15 I was reading stuff about what it's like to be gay, if I could find it -- what it feels like to fuck another guy or be fucked by one. I wasn't ready to actually do anything. I wanted to read about it. Did I read slash fanfic? I really didn't know where to get my hands on it, because this was before it was all over places like LJ. I found some gay novels at the bookstore, and I hid them in my room.

I realize this country arbitrarily determines who has the maturity to read certain things or see certain images, from a legal standpoint. The MPAA, for instance, decides what movies you can see. And according to television executives and media watchdog groups, for a long time nobody was really mature enough to watch gay themed programming. Until the Logo Channel and 'Queer As Folk,' we couldn't even see two guys kissing on TV, much less pretending to have sex. Gays on TV never really fucked, they just acted funny.

The examples I had of what my life was going to be like were few and far between. And although that's changed a bit since I was 15, it seems like there are people who would like to change it back. And now LJ is doing the same damn thing. If you're not at least 14, you can't read this post. And if I end up getting flagged by enough bitches, you won't be able to read any of my shit until you're 18. And no doubt that will end up happening to *all* my slash fanfic.

Yes, I'm a writer of slash fanfic. No, I do not advocate slash fanfic as a way for gays to learn about being gay. Generally it's not realistic enough for that. But I try to keep it as realistic as I can. I've had some great feedback from women (who mostly write and read slash) saying they have shared my stuff with their relatives who are gay and need something to read. I've even had at least one woman send me a detailed email explaining what it feels like for *her* as a chick to get it in the ass, and how much it conforms with the stuff I've written for a male character.

(Now writing that in this entry means it can get flagged and censored from anyone under the age of 18.)

Do we realize that the suicide rate for teenagers is higher than ever? Less than every two hours a young person kills himself (and they're three to one male). It's the third highest reason for death of young people, while it's the 11th for older people. And statistics show that 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide! A gay kid is FOUR TIMES MORE LIKELY TO COMMIT SUICIDE THAN A STRAIGHT KID!

Being a kid often sucks. You don't realize that soon enough you'll be able to control your own destiny if you can just hang in there long enough, that the feelings of angst that often accompany the teenage years will eventually pass. Sometimes you figure the only control you have over your life is to end it.

LJ has several communities where kids coming out can talk to each other and get advice from older people. Is there potential for abuse here? Sure. There's potential for abuse anywhere on this fucking planet and all over the internet. But this is not MySpace! This is a completely different platform full of thousands of very thinking people, both over and under 18 years of age.

Am I saying that more kids will kill themselves because they can't automatically read what they want or join the communities that interest them at LiveJournal? Of course not. I'm just saying we're making it just a tiny bit harder for kids to relate to the adult world and to work out their issues through journaling by limiting their access and/or censoring content.

When all these journals and communities go ADULT and/or EXPLICIT, we will have given the young people who come to LJ another reason to think they either have to lie about their age or forget about having access to the thoughts and feelings of people who might actually be able to give them insight and hope about their futures, gay or straight. And, NO, not all parents are doing that. And if you really think the parents in this country should be the final arbiters of what a 15-year-old reads or sees or writes about, you probably are not intellectually developed enough to be reading the censored stuff yourself.

ETA: And how ridiculous is it that all a kid needs to do is gack the URL, log out and then use the URL to view the journal from his or her browser? This proves one thing: LiveJournal's massive database will then have no record of that user visiting the offending journal, and thus no responsibility for that visit from a legal standpoint. Folks, this censorship is about a corporate entity protecting its ass. Don't believe for a second it's anything else.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
As always, Joey, I'm so impressed by what you have to say -- and the way you say it.

And it's true, Life is Not Suitable for Children. (sigh) I think of what you went through and it makes me feel terrible.

Of course, Marilyn and I have had so many people share their stories of abuse. Yes, some of it was sexual, but much of it was verbal and non-sexual physical abuse... Childhood apparently isn't much fun for many people. (I have my own negative tales, too -- but as you know, I prefer not to dwell on them...)

Thanks for sharing this here, Joey. I think it's important.

Dec. 4th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
I haven't read beyond this entry, which makes me think about how I've viewed society in this country. Americans love to put everything in cubicles...age groups, gender groups, income groups, study groups....with rarely overlapping any of them unless absolutely necessary. My experience in growing up was strict due to my foreign cultural/religious family. Still, it left open avenues because the old mixed with the young, the intellects and ordinary folk visited, discussed, argued together in a social setting. There were no restrictions in 'experiencing' various aspects of life because the 'group' had the flavor of many views, yet still socialized together, mixing all ages, and sexes.
My German schooling, my Romanian heritage, my Dutch influence as a kind of foster child there, all helped me to learn more tolerance, acceptance, and respect for different lifestyles and peoples. My husband and I tried our best to leave all possibilities open for our children by not censoring but discussing, by not condeming but explaining. One chose a conservative lifestyle yet is very open-minded, the other took a more liberal path and still accepts the other. There are many who are looked upon as conservative yet are more open-minded for their own children and others and fight for their rights to choose life as they see fit for themselves, not as others want it to be.
Society and parents who fear changes in their own lives/beliefs tend to be quite restrictive, hence, making it difficult for persons like you to comfortably choose your own path. The emotional impact at an early age can carry guilt long after the issue is resolved.

(Sorry if I wrote too much. It's late for me and I ramble when I'm tired. Just wanted to share my opinion.)
Dec. 4th, 2007 10:42 am (UTC)
Sounds like your kids were lucky to have you as parents. It's great when people can live and let live. This sure wasn't true with my dad, but I 'spose he has reasons to be the way he is, too. I'm not a parent, so I don't know how hard it is. But I hope if I were one, I'd accept my kids and encourage them to be accepting.

I doubt you'd find anything offensive in my LJ, to tell the truth. Most of it's political stuff or about fandom or pop culture, when I bother to post at all. I'm usually pretty ironic or trying to be funny, although not everybody gets that.

But I'm pissed about this censorship thing at LJ. I don't think people should have to censor their content or that kids shouldn't be able to read it (because they can always log out and read it anyway). The whole thing is stupid.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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