There is a trend for kids to come out much earlier than in the past. This is increasingly happening between the ages of 13 to 17. See here for a New York Times article about a family whose teenage son came out to them at age 13. I think the parents in the article show a sane, compassionate and shrewd response. Most telling, the boy’s grades improved after he came out, and he became happier and much better adjusted socially. Read the article.
I think early disclosure of sexual orientation is a positive trend because it gives parents the opportunity to be a stabilizing influence as the child goes through adolescence. (Adolescence is a turbulent time and for a gay teen even more so.) It does not result in a higher rate of homosexuality than in the bad old days of the endless closet.
If your 14 year old son makes a tearful confession, you’d be wise not to just pass it off as a phase. The best parental strategy is to listen reassuringly and to occasionally remind the child that, even though they may be gay, they still have to do their math homework. :-)
A conservative LDS reader left the following comment:
For me, I don’t know how homosexual stigma would fall. ...
I tend to think that the successes many people have spoken of are reflections of them being good people and associating with good people who have seen such success. I have seen that success as well.
I have also seen failure in homosexual circles where the stigma is not an influence as much as hedonism and the lack of moral or relational commitment- things I would reflect small-scale community behavior than general community behavior.
I don’t think anyone can really tell how it would go for society as a whole. We just don’t know.
This is an interesting point. To state it another way, what can be done to make gay life more wholesome and goal oriented? How do we curb the excesses?
I know of no gay person who didn’t suffer to some extent from the social stigma of being gay. I think the social stigma contributes to the excesses the commenter mentions. It’s not as if the stigma just melts away once you find a circle of like-minded friends. If anything, the gay ghetto exists because of wider social disapproval. I’m no fan of ghettos, gay or otherwise. They are not a crucible of social integration. Instead, they tend to develop their own mores, for good and ill.
I think the way to encourage a serious-minded ethic in the gay population is to normalize homosexuality in society. If gay people know that they are fully and openly integrated into society they will also know that they have the same responsibilities as everyone else. This is why gay marriage is actually a conservative social policy. It reins in and civilizes gay sexuality just as it has straight male sexuality for millenia.
A good example of this approach is The Netherlands. Being gay is completely accepted, but you are cut no slack because of it, and nobody really wants to hear you talk about it. Dutch society, despite its reputation as permissive, is anything but. Community standards for educational achievement and civic participation are strict. “Slacking” is not acceptable in Dutch society. The Dutch have a self image as being tough, disciplined and resilient, and no whining is allowed. The result is that gay people blend into society in Holland and their social outcomes are good. In other words, in Holland you can be gay, but you still have to do your math homework.