It’s PRIDE month and I’d like to focus on celebrating the best depictions of LGBT kids. You don’t just become gay the first time you have gay sex. Many kids spend their childhood and teen years knowing there is something different about them. The unfocused confusing desires that crop up in early adolescence are that much harder for any group that can’t find role models or sympathetic figures in their culture’s cycle of fiction. Society’s hesitancy to talk about what it is like to be gay before being fully mature is a flaw that makes children in that position feel abnormal and alone.
Having positive depictions to identify with is important at any age, but especially depicting non-heteronormative kids — from their own perspective — is sorely lacking.
So I’m asking you to help build a catalog of positive depictions of LGBT kids to celebrate the ones you’ve found and help each other discover others.
Here is a short list of some of the best depictions of LGBT kids I’ve ever found. I am dismayed to realize all these characters are white and desperately hope that as you guys add to the list, we’ll be able to increase the diversity of examples.
The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein is about a thirteen year old boy in 1978 New Jersey. It deals with the dangers of being a gay boy in a world with no safeguards and learning to be ok with being alone, mostly because he has to be.
Wild Tigers I Have Known is a 2006 film by Cam Archer that deals with a 13 year old who faces ridicule and confusion as he deals with his sexual identity. The version I saw makes it pretty clear that it ends with the child deciding to become sexually active with an older boy, which is a controversial choice for a movie but definitely a part of some boys experiences.
The Garden God by Forrest Reid is a 1905 novella about two fifteen year old boys who share a short but intense romance. While the term used is “passion of friendship,” the quoting of Shakespeare, Rossetti, and Socrates makes the romantic nature clear, as does the physical compliments the boys give to each other repeatedly. Henry James cut off his longstanding friendship with Reid over this book. It is significant to the topic at hand because it describes the aching energy of an infatuation that exists before it is even recognized . Reid is especially good at capturing that point in youth where one feels ambiguous attraction but doesn’t know how to articulate it.
Peace Talk (I fred) is a 2004 short film by Jennifer Malmqvist about a couple of 13 year old girls who begin to recognize an attraction to each other, an attraction that scares one of the girls’ mother. Played very realistically, the girls react exactly as you would expect children to and I saw echoes of my own experiences in them.
Ma Vie en Rose is a 1997 film by Alain Berliner about Ludo, a girl (played by 11 year old Georges du Fresne) who was assigned male at birth. It’s mostly delightful, though there are some scenes that make you question the sheer parental fitness of the adults. It does a good job sticking to Ludo’s perspective and is a film I think parents should at least consider having their own kids watch. Ridiculously, the MPAA slapped an R rating on it. ( Also, if you want to go reading about it, be prepared for some language that would be considered transphobic by todays standards in even the positive reviews. )
What are yours?
(non-LGBT: feel free to participate, just be extra sure you are suggesting characters that further positive depictions, not flat stereotypes. Also, feel free to ask questions, why not?)