Sexual and Gender Minorities Today (page 3)
Research shows that youth are beginning to question their sexual identities at earlier ages, acknowledging their same-sex sexual attractions to themselves and others at earlier ages than was true of previous cohorts (D’Augelli, 2006; D’Augelli & Grossman, 2001; Grov, Bimbi, Nanin, & Parsons, 2006; Peplau & Beals, 2004; Ryan, 2001; Savin-Williams, 2005). Increasing numbers of youth describe themselves as questioning and/or refusing to label themselves at all (Diamond, 2006; Russell, Seif, & Truong, 2001; Ryan & Futterman, 1998; Williams, Connolly, Pepler, & Craig, 2005).
Today’s youth also seem to be more accepting of bisexuality than was true just 20 years ago (Herdt, 2001). Some (Murdock & Bolch, 2005) even suggest that the interest and experimentation with bisexuality, or “bi-curiosity,” is a current fad among youth today. In general, more and more youth appear “gender ambiguous” due in part to unisex clothing styles and the increasing popularity of body modification practices, including tattoos and body piercings (Herdt, 2001).
Gender minorities are becoming more visible. Many have been depicted in television shows and in popular films, such as The Crying Game (Jordan, 1992), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Eastwood, 1997), and Transamerica (Tucker, 2005). While the research on gender minority youth is not as plentiful as it is for sexual minority youth, many (e.g., Burgess, 1999; Fish & Harvey, 2005; Hansbury, 2004; Pazos, 1999) believe there are increasing numbers of youth who are coming out as gender minorities. Some of these do not want surgery and do not seek services from gender reassignment programs (Eyler & Wright, 1997). Others, and increasing numbers of them, “find their lives unbearable without hormonal interventions” (Cohen-Kettenis & Pfafflin, 2003, p. 140).
Transgender activists and their allies are increasingly vocal in campaigning for significant changes in the medical and psychiatric care of infants who are born with intersex or sexual development disorders. Numerous medical professionals, bioethicists, and advocacy groups such as the Intersex Society of North America are working together to change the medical and psychiatric care of infants who are born with intersex or sexual development disorders. Many members of these organizations are particularly critical of past practices where children and families were deceived by physicians. Some have also experienced surgical complications, including impairments in sexual functioning and fertility rates (Lev, 2006).
Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, while the visibility of sexual and gender minorities has grown, signs of backlash and intensified hatred are also more evident. The impact of societal intolerance is particularly dramatic in the case of sexual and gender minority youth who, unlike adults, are dependent emotionally and financially on their parents and other adults. Trends toward earlier self-recognition are equated with increased vulnerability to harassment and violence (Friedman, Marshal, Stall, Cheong, & Wright, 2007). Sexual and gender minority youth are enrolled in schools, attend places of worship, and join social organizations (e.g., Boy Scouts) that are often less than welcoming and supportive. However, even practitioners with the best intentions are often intolerant and/or ill equipped to work with sexual and gender minority youth. According to Ryan (2001), “with few exceptions, counseling and clinical care professionals have not kept pace with the rapidly changing experiences of today’s generation of LGB youths” (p. 224).
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