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The “Q” of PFLAG

Lori Grisham asked in USA TODAY, What does the Q in LGBTQ stand for?

“Those who use the Q to mean ‘questioning’ refer to people who are in the process of exploring their identity,” Ross Murray, the director of programs at GLAAD, told USA TODAY Network.

Questioning means someone who is figuring out their gender identity and figuring out how they want to identify their sexual orientation.”

The point I am trying to make in discussions around identity is that we are probably all “Q” in the age of discovery – in that we are questioning what we are and who we are.  It might be said that this is one of the essential journeys of what it means to be human. 

In such an important journey as it is, some would have us think that when a child questions what gender or sexuality they are, this is to be done entirely on their own, apart from the wisdom & care of the family and village. Or, conversely, if a community is to be involved, these questions are to be answered only in the context of others who have self identified in the LGBTQ communities.

Even when a family is involved (as we find in the new television series springing up – such as “Becoming Us“), they appear untethered from the wisdom of the ages. It is ironic that “Becoming Us” is not about the process of becoming more authentic; it is the process of becoming part of this contemporary fad of being diminished to a reductionistic label.

The Problem is not with the Question – it is with the Context of the Answer

The problem with Q is when it is only allowed to be discussed in a context that cannot be answered in any other way than by a LGBTQ worldview – when it is answered outside the love & responsibility of one’s family/community. During adolescence especially, there are five recognized psychosocial issues that teens deal with during their adolescent years. These are taken from Adolescent Growth and Development:

“Establishing an identity. This has been called one of the most important tasks of adolescents. The question of “who am I?” is not one that teens think about at a conscious level. Instead, over the course of the adolescent years, teens begin to integrate the opinions of influential others (e.g. parents, other caring adults, friends, etc.) into their own likes and dislikes… People with secure identities know where they fit (or where they don’t want to fit) in their world.

[The way we come to know “who we are” is profoundly important. I can think of no more distorted way than to reduce an adolescent’s identity to confused gender or sexuality].

Establishing autonomy. Some people assume that autonomy refers to becoming completely independent from others. They equate it with teen “rebellion.” Rather than severing relationships, however, establishing autonomy during the teen years really means becoming an independent and self-governing person within relationships.

Establishing intimacy. Intimacy is usually first learned within the context of [gender friendships], then utilized in romantic relationships. Intimacy refers to close relationships in which people are open, honest, caring and trusting. Friendships provide the first setting in which young people can practice their social skills…

Becoming comfortable with one’s sexuality. The teen years mark the first time that young people are both physically mature enough to reproduce and cognitively advanced enough to think about it. Given this, the teen years are the prime time for the development of sexuality. How teens are educated about and exposed to sexuality will largely determine whether or not they develop a healthy sexual identity.

[Notice the assumption that adolescence is “prime time” for developing sexuality. In fact, it is prime time for exploring what sexuality means in the safe and healthy context of family and community; and it is prime time to learn impulse control in areas like sexuality, addictions, sleep patterns, appetites, etc. It is not, as the authors contend, prime time to develop sexuality. Furthermore, the issue is not “becoming comfortable with one’s sexuality;” the issue is becoming aware of the awesome force of one’s sexuality, and learning to understand & direct some of the fire of it’s impulse. Becoming comfortable comes much later; there is absolutely no comfort in adolescence (as you know), either in the search or with the power of exploring one’s sexuality. Only in a process of healthy maturity comes the ability to “become comfortable”].

Achievement. Our society tends to foster and value attitudes of competition and success. Because of cognitive advances, the teen years are a time when young people can begin to see the relationship between their current abilities and plans and their future vocational aspirations.”

Erin Morgan, Research Associate, Human Development, Virginia Tech; Angela Huebner, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Human Development, Virginia Tech in Adolescent Growth and Development.

Where we get Answers is answered in One to Whom we go

I contend that these five psychosocial issues are best answered in the context of the one’s family/community, and are most profoundly answered in the ultimate Q of questioning who we are, first of all, as Persons – created by the One who made us for Himself. Our spiritual journey is walking with the One who answers this in Us – in Him.

In the mean time, I agree with Amy Julia Becker who advocates: Let Kids be Kids instead of Sexualized Little Adults.