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Sunday 09 April 2017

By all means come out, just don't fall in..

Posted in: NZ Writing
By Lisa Michelle - 10th August 2010


I watched with tense amusement the item on60 Minutes (entitled Is Gay the New Black?) regarding the increase in NZ teens coming out of the proverbial closet, and experimenting with friends of the same sex just for the hell of it. My mind raced with plausible reasons and I came up with a few: were these kids seeking attention? Have they been so influenced by pop culture and the media that they were merely imitating what they see? Or was this possibly a social change due to hurt and mistrust on the part of the opposite sex?

For centuries psychologists have conducted research into human behaviour around attraction and mating. The debate continues as to whether homosexuality is of genetic origin or environmental – nature versus nurture – and the findings remain inconclusive. Some say the orientation is due to genetic makeup (fewer or more chromosomes than others of the same gender) while some believe homosexuality results from sexual abuse in early life and /or lack of quality relationship with a same-gender parent.

The 60 Minutes news item however, portrays something very different emerging from our youth. A group of young people spoke about how indeed it seemed to be a new party trick among the straight kids. While one young girl admitted some of it was attention-seeking, she also shared how some at a party may think “I want to make out...oh, I'll just do it with my girlfriend”. A male friend of hers agreed, saying, “it's not so outrageous, especially if there's alcohol involved”.

So what is causing this new phenomenon? School counsellor Kim Osborne is aware of the influence of celebrities and pop culture on today's youth. One celebrity or another seems to be “coming out” nearly every week. Recent stars include Lady GaGa and Adam Lambert. Osborne sees these societal changes in a positive light, however, bringing “changing views and greater acceptance”. Yet while this is good news for gay students, what of the students who are being influenced by pop stars who are not actually gay but assume a gay persona in a music video? Surely this infringes on the battle for freedom of choice that gay people have had to fight for for decades? One lesbian student from Avondale College agreed “coming out” was difficult. She and her partner decided they “may as well be judged now instead of later”, and then shake their heads in disbelief as she tells the reporter no sooner had they come out than many other kids declared they were gay. Josh James of Whangaparaoa College, while “out” at home and at school, says it's still hard to be gay and accepted in society today. “A hundred people can tell you something is wrong,” he says, “then a celebrity tells you it's right and you believe them!”

This leaves us to wonder what is being done for those who have been experiencing same-sex attraction for years, or those who are genuinely unsure of their sexual identity. I would hate to see New Zealand go as far as a high school in Manhattan that has been set aside just for gay students. Although they receive more information on the gay forefathers and pioneers of our time, there is still an air of segregation about having a gay-only school. As we are all too well aware, segregation can breed dissention which, surely, is the opposite of what this school's board is trying to achieve? New Zealand schools have the opportunity to incorporate a Gay Education programme as part of the health curriculum, and Whangaparaoa College is one of the few schools that have a Gay Support Group on campus. Principal Brian O'Connell saya having the group available means they are exhibiting one of the school's core values, that of respect.

My own view is simple: no matter what our beliefs are about whether a person falls in love with another's spirit despite what gender body that spirit inhabits, surely the safety and purity of relationships is the most vital thing to be taught in our schools today? Having many partners (whether the sex is unprotected or not) is not healthy for all involved. Sexual intercourse is the one act that literally and physically brings people together the closest. It is not just about mutual pleasure. It is about loving and respecting and desiring to be near the person of your affections. It is about being with someone you trust, to be vulnerable, to bare all. Many hearts are broken within relationships that progress physically too soon. No wonder our kids are looking elsewhere for affection. We need to teach them intimacy can be found in sharing time, love and resources, and that physical intimacy is really just the icing on the cake of friendship: indeed very enjoyable, but would collapse if there was no solid foundation to place it upon. Maybe then they will view others as partners in life, as free spirits made in the image of God, and become more secure in their own sexual identity.

- Lisa Michelle is an Auckland writer. welcomes diverse contributions from the community. If you have an issue you would like to write about, feel free to contact us at

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Lisa Michelle - 10th August 2010