Children of Horizons
September 29, 2010
A sure-to-be controversial volume on inducting self-professed homosexual teenagers into the gay and lesbian culture of the 1990’s. Hackles rise merely at the idea that teenagers can know whether they prefer the same sex or the opposite. Adolescence is the age of experimentation, most people contend, one in which no decisions have been made. But Herdt (Human Development/University of Chicago; ed., Gay Culture in America, 1992, etc.) and Boxer (Psychiatry/University of Chicago), both of whom are gay, disagree, their findings based on two years spent interviewing teenagers at the Chicago-based Horizons center, which offers refuge for teens troubled about their sexual identities. The authors’ interviews and questionnaires show that, in some cases, children as young as nine years old have the beginnings of a same-sex preference. As puberty arrives, some of these kids accept their homosexuality, while others deny it and struggle against their feelings. Horizons offers the support of peers and of gay and lesbian counselors, as well as an introduction to the gay and lesbian community. Herdt and Boxer describe that community in often tedious detail, including the geography of Chicago’s gay neighborhoods; the history of homosexuals in the US; and the rituals and organizations–from political groups to choruses and sports teams–that help define a gay/lesbian culture. Most of the children who come to Horizons have kept their sexual orientation a secret except from a close friend or two, and they use the confidence they develop there to “come out” to families and at school. As the authors describe it, though, “coming out” is a continuing process, about “the death and rebirth of a new self.” Repetitious and sometimes academic-sounding, but still useful information about a new generation of gays who are coming out in the daylight and not in a closet or a dark and dangerous bar. — Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.