I just started reading a novel about an overweight gay middleschooler whose nipples begin talking to him one day. It’s a story about a pubescent/newly adolescent boy coming to terms with himself, which should place it in the same category as other novels about the pubescent set though it’s listed as “speculative fiction” because I guess there’s no such thing as “queer children’s literature” (but perhaps that’s a rant for another day.)
What it got me thinking about was, we’re quick to note that by the time they reach young adulthood a lot of queer people are riddled with “complexes” and whatnot. This is true; there’s nothing quite like being of a marginalized, reviled minority to mess you up. Many young LGBTIQA children suffer bullying and isolation, and the double-bind of learning early on that not only is sex a taboo topic but their particular sexuality is even more so. They learn to cover up their tracks, hide as much as possible about themselves from those closest to them, who may often genuinely love them otherwise. A crash course in fear, self-loathing and duplicity does not a well-adjusted adult make. It also makes them more vulnerable to predators and robs them of the sense of community that should be our inheritance as human beings. In my experience, it often takes years for queer children to find a queer-friendly group and subsequently develop a feeling of social camaraderie and belonging.
But what if instead of waiting to pick up the pieces once these children reach adulthood, we could help them out of their isolation right now? What if we could somehow provide for them a queer-friendly and child-safe space within which they could grow and develop their sense of self without having to shoulder the immense burden of growing up radically and intrinsically different from many of their peers–alone? This goes for other children too of course: children with disabilities, children from ethnic and religious minorities, children with atypical minds or bodies, children from underprivileged backgrounds, and even female children. But whereas I find there ARE other people raising their voice for those children, often receiving public and political support at the least, there is nobody speaking out for these children. Children who cannot even find their own stories sorted onto the shelves of the children’s section in bookstores and libraries, their narratives safely kept out of reach of the little hands that need to hear them the most.
How would we go about this?