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Myths and labeling. (Letters).

Janice Barton's concerns (Letters, May) are based on myths about sexual orientation.

She says labeling a 12-year-old "gay" may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Very few people want to label a 12-year-old "gay" or "straight." But I do see family and friends asking very young students who they like (of the opposite sex), and whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend yet.

I also see 12-year-olds in the halls forming heterosexual couple relationships and calling anyone they don't like "gay" or "queer." These children are already labeling themselves and each other, and being labeled by their peers. They are learning about oppression, and I think they deserve our input.

I would worry less about self-fulfilling prophecies and more about trying to teach children how to be compassionate and nonjudgmental.

Barton brought up the risks and responsibilities of sexual activity. This is a separate issue. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals can choose to wait for sex. Both can choose healthy sexual relationships or risky, destructive behavior.

Twelve-year-olds may or may not know their sexual orientation, but they definitely know what it means not to fit in and to be called names. If they are called "gay" but are not gay or don't understand the idea, how confusing and hard for them. If they are called "gay" and know they are truly gay, is this a promise to them of the treatment they can expect all their lives?

And if we adults pretend we didn't hear, what are we teaching these children?

Jennifer Needles Seattle, Washington

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Author:Needles, Jennifer
Publication:NEA Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:252
Previous Article:Student laborers. (Letters).
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