Sexualizing childhood in the name of harm reduction is the latest roll in our rolling sexual revolution. We are told that childhood sexual education is necessary to prevent suicide and interpersonal violence, prevent AIDS, avoid pregnancy, and build a safe environment in schools. According to what is known as “minority stress” theory, people with non-heterosexual orientations experience an endless series of microaggressions, overt rejections, invidious discrimination, or stigmatization that undermines their psychiatric and physical health.
And indeed, the social environment has become much less stressful for sexual minorities than it was 50 years ago. The average age for coming out of the closet among Americans has decreased from 26 years old for those roughly born in the 1970s to 16.9 years old for those born in this century. The average age for same-sex sexual activity is decreased from 19.2 years old for those born in the 1970s to 16.3 for the younger cohort, driven by “marked improvements in the social and legal environments for sexual minorities,” according to UCLA epidemiologist Ilan Meyer.
But less stress has not brought with it the better health that the minority stress model predicted. In fact, nearly all psychological and physical problems persist at just about the same rate they did before the gay rights movement.
According to Meyer’s study, “we found little evidence that the social and legal improvements during the past 50 years … have altered the experience of sexual minorities people in terms of exposure to minority stressors and resultant adverse mental health outcomes.” Younger cohorts have higher suicide attempt rates (30 percent) than the older cohort (21 percent). The younger group reports more everyday discrimination, more psychological distress, more stigma, and more internalized homophobia. All in all, according to these scholars, “our findings are clearly inconsistent with the [minority stress] hypothesis.”
In another study, J. Michael Bailey, an early adopter of the minority stress model in the 1990s, could find “no evidence to support” minority stress predictions and, he acknowledges, that “there is much evidence against it.”
Greater tolerance of sexual minorities has not led to better health outcomes or lower suicide rates or to decreases in neuroticism among gay men. Health and psychological results in the tolerant Netherlands, Bailey points out, are not much different from the results of the supposedly intolerant United States. Suicide rates barely budged in nations that have adopted same-sex marriage.
Appealing to widely-accepted values like safety and prevention in order to promote sexual identity education to children was a deliberate rhetorical strategy from LGBT advocates. Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), delivered a speech to gay activists on March 5, 1995, laying out the strategy:
If the Radical Right can succeed in portraying us as preying on children, we will lose. Their language — ‘promoting homosexuality’ is one example — is laced with subtle and not-so-subtle innuendo that we are ‘after their kids.’ We must learn from the abortion struggle, where the clever claiming of the term ‘pro-life’ allowed those who opposed abortion on demand to frame the issue to their advantage…
We immediately seized upon the opponent’s calling card — safety — and explained how homophobia represents a threat to students’ safety by creating a climate where violence, name-calling, health problems, and suicide are common.
GLSEN developed “Safe Space Kits” under Jennings’ leadership. It supplied these kits to schools free of charge. These kits recommended the establishment of ally clubs, playing short films, and using gay-friendly lesson plans and special LGBT themed books in classes. They were all designed to address anti-LGBT prejudice. It was all about prevention.
For Meyer, continued psychological and physiological health disparities are sufficient to show that minorities must be stressed. As they put it, their findings “call attention to the continued need to recognize threats to the health and well-being of sexual minority people across all ages and to remind us that LGBT equality remains elusive.”
Clearly, the only answer LGBT advocates see is to step on the gas. We must accelerate the sexual revolution and expand sexual identity awareness education to ever earlier ages in order to relieve the stress of sexual minorities. Improvements in their health and safety will only come when the sexual revolution has achieved its end. Even incremental improvements cannot be expected until then.
Sexual revolutionaries care about the revolution — not safety or prevention, so all data to the contrary will be ignored or turned to the advantage of the revolution. We see this in the current monkeypox debate, where the transmission of the disease is obscured so as not to stigmatize the gay community by calling attention to certain extreme sexual practices that many gays consider essential to their identity. Whereas masking and social isolation were widely accepted as the indicated means to prevent the spread of Covid, asking gay men to limit their sexual activity to stop the spread of monkeypox is called unrealistic and hateful.
Scientists who are interested in reality must see that health problems are endemic in the gay community, and not because of a lack of sensitivity on the part of society. Suicide is more prevalent precisely because of dynamics sown into rejecting one’s body as a guide to one’s identity. Anal cancer among gay men is not caused by stigma.
When confronted with reality, sexual revolutionaries embrace an endless, rolling revolution. Science is not likely to guide us out of the revolution, but a willingness to see will — and sometimes science still would have us see.