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June 20, 2005

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How did you resist the temptation to go over the top and call it the "anti-gay gulag"?

It's not that I'm against homosexuality, I just don't want my child to be unhappy. While this may on the surface seem like a logically defensible objection, it crumbles when you take into account the fact that if you assemble 100 gay and lesbian people in a room and ask them, "What's the worst experience you've ever had as a gay man or lesbian?" 95 of them will answer, "Coming out to my parents." (The other 5 will respond, "Being courtmartialed.") If you don't want your child to be unhappy, well, don't make your child unhappy.
"I still think homosexuality is an abomination, but you're my child and I'll always love you." The hate-the-sin, love-the-sinner thing works fine if you are a televangelist broadcasting your purported tolerance into the black void of TV Land, but your child is not just some fool with a checkbook and a guilty conscience. S/he will doubt very much that you can love him/her and at the same time be revolted by something that is part of everything s/he is and does. This "sin" is not something like axe-murdering, which happens only once in a while during moments of extreme stress. This is something your child lives every day, and more importantly it's something that your child sees (if s/he is lucky) as a beautiful and life-transfiguring thing. Sexuality and identity are so closely wrapped up together for gay and lesbian people that if you hate the sin, you are hating the sinner. If your child believes part #1 of that sentence, s/he will look upon part #2 skeptically at best.

from Chapter 3 of A Straight Person's Guide To Gay Etiquette

I have so totally never heard of the links you linked to. Are these sites I should be reading?

I'm thinking probably not, but possibly I'm in error.

So, what's the score on the battle over the recent centuries between science and religious authoritarian zealots? Have the zealots been right even once?

Umm. My more moderate, incremental self wishes to express my sorrow and anger at this situation. As far as I can tell, gays and lesbians are assimilating as fully open and productive members of society with little apparent damage to society, and this overreaction is madness. As far as for the anti-gay crowd.....well, wow.
If we call beliefs evil in themselves, or people who act out on sincere quasi-justified beliefs evil, then we can get to a point where we must decide on "good" versus "evil" ideologies and whether textualism or realism is the more evil method of constitutional interpretation.

I seem to have made a leap, but staying in moderate incremental mode is difficult. Is anti-Semitism evil, or just an error? Is an anti-semite evil for his beliefs, or only if he acts on them? If an anti-semite does not act on his beliefs, since from his point-of-view he should, isn't a quietist anti-semite as hypocritical as a Christian who doesn't proselytize of tithe ot otherwise witness? Is the anti-semitism a choice? If not a choice, should society make efforts, especially with the young, to help the anti-semite overcome his indoctrinated prejudice, even though the young anti-semite and certainly his likely hate-filled parents, would resist such a cure?

Am I suggesting, however obliquely, mandatory re-education camps for the homophobic members of society? Never never, I am in my moderate incremental mode.

I have so totally never heard of the links you linked to. Are these sites I should be reading?

Could you be more specific? I'm rather sure you've heard of the NYT, DKos, Andrew Sullivan, etc., so I'm not sure what you're talking about.

In a less moderate, less incremental mode, Zach would have much less difficulty if he wasn't the f%^&&***g chattel, the property of his parents. I favor a constitutional amendment forbidding any state or federal discrimination on the basis of age, to be interpreted according to whatever reasonable standards of scrutiny SCOTUS would apply.

For example a minimum driving age should be unconstitutional. Many 15 yr-olds could pass the test and be responsible drivers;few five-yr-olds would manage.

Children should have the full rights of adults, subject to individual case-by-case review.

And Zach, like a battered wife, should have a safe haven to escape to.

And if my above comments seem bland and without controversy, I may be back later in the mode that is not incremental and moderate.

I may be back later in the mode that is not incremental and moderate.

promises, promises

I favor a constitutional amendment forbidding any state or federal discrimination on the basis of age, to be interpreted according to whatever reasonable standards of scrutiny SCOTUS would apply.

Not coincidentally, Christian conservatives are also rather viciously opposed to children's rights. Focus on the Family's opposition to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was instrumental in the US's refusal to ratify for years; to my knowledge, America still hasn't ratified the convention.

"to see the pain his family is inflicting on him."

It has been interesting around the left blogosphere, for while the harsh conditions and ideology of the camp have been much discussed, there has been little questioning of the right of the parents to submit their child to this. Perhaps rightly, any change is unlikely.

I presume conditions have improved, and I presume much of the medical opinion above is a direct cause of the improvement, but I believe not too long ago Zach's parents, with the help of a friendly right-wing shrink and sympathetic judge if needed, could have helped Zach out with electro or insulin shock, or maybe even a lobotomy. After all, parents know what is best for their children.

there has been little questioning of the right of the parents to submit their child to this.

I am torn on this, and unlike many on both the left and right (think Sullivan), I stop short of calling this child abuse on the part of the parents. I think it is abusive on the part of the Refuge, but the parents, if they're sincerely ignorant of the harm they're causing, can't really be held responsible in this sense (i.e., they have every right to impart their values to their children). My hope would be that they'd trust their child enough to understand that nothing is worth the anguish such an experience would cause many of them and just learn to accept their children for who they are.

I am reminded of the time the parents of one of my friends from college found out he was gay. They tried to have him involuntarily committed. He fled back to college (in the middle of summer.)

Commencement was a treat: in addition to what I imagine must be the usual efforts by various gay and lesbian couples to configure themselves in male/female couples as they left for the prom, for the benefit of various parents, my friend also wrote an entire second senior thesis, since his real one concerned gay culture in Weimar Berlin. He had a copy of the fake one bound and gave it to his parents, only to have the whole thing almost come undone when he realized the one thing he hadn't thought of: that he might win the thesis prize in his department, in which case they would read its title (which made its topic obvious) aloud in front of everyone at the departmental reception, including his parents. They counted up from the fifth best; he won second (the last one whose title they did not read aloud.) So he escaped by the skin of his teeth. The whole thing was nightmarish.

The funny aspect of that story was that it was so completely, totally like this particular friend, who was absolutely brilliant, but also in various respects utterly clueless, never to have considered the possibility that he might win the prize. The rest of us, when he returned, completely shaking, to one or another of our haunts, all looked at him, since the idea that his really dazzling thesis would not have won some high honor or other had never really crossed any of our minds. Except, of course, his.

Edward,

I have a question. You've mentioned in the past that your partner is from that other monotheistic world religion that is not terribly friendly to gayness. How do the devout in the part of the world his family is from deal with having a child turn out gay? Is it the same sort of thing one saw in America fifty years ago with the closet, or is it something that varies from parent to parent and from city to country?

"promises, promises"

My immoderate, revolutionary mode.

Someone asked me in the 70s if feminism might destroy the family, and I answered:"Yup." My radical post was going to channel Marx(Oneida,etc), Emma Goldman, and Foucault or Abbie Hoffman on the necessary connections between sexual revolutions and economic and political ones. Free Love = Free everything else.

But it is probably above my pay grade, and might better be placed on the previous "baffling human behavior" thread or the following "pretentious cultural analysis" thread.

If it turns out that the Democratic Party stands up for equal treatment under the law, and the moral necessity for gay marriage or civil unions...and we end up with an even greater Republican majority, based on the unification of all major religious movements in favor of a single "moral" issue, that issue being the necessity of denying a legal right to a minority group...even though not a single person will be adversely affected by the granting of this right (unlike, for example, the repeal of slavery, or the Civil Rights Act, both of which made millions of white racists worse off than they had been before)...I guess we would have to all disband and join other countries.

Seriously, the reason the gay marriage debate is so infuriating is that it's a moral issue. One side's morality is based on a sense of basic kindness, respect, and equality, and the other side's morality is based on certain passages in the Bible which are wholly negated by other passages in the Bible. As a result, one side's morality is entirely nonsensical to the other side.

Focus on the Family's opposition to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was instrumental in the US's refusal to ratify for years; to my knowledge, America still hasn't ratified the convention.

I always thought that the non-signing was due to the fact that the US still executed minors.

Edward: if they're sincerely ignorant of the harm they're causing, can't really be held responsible in this sense (i.e., they have every right to impart their values to their children).

Short of child abuse. And I think that for a parent to tell their child that their sexuality is wrong - that the child is going to have to quit being gay or else - can indeed be child abuse.

Suicide rates are six times as high among gay male teenagers as they are among straight male teenagers. (Figures from the UK: I don't know about the US.) The disparity isn't quite as striking for lesbian teenagers, but it's there.

Part of that is being a teenager: the inability to really conceive that yes, things are going to get better a few years down the line, or yes, everyone may be sorry when you're dead but you won't be there to know it. But part of it is growing up in a hostile environment with no support at all - not even from your own parents.

Not every homophobic parent who tells their gay kid that they've got to change and quit being gay (an impossibility, of course) is committing child abuse. But a parent who sends their kid to this kind of boot camp to knock it out of them is, whether they think of it as child abuse or as doing their best for their kid. Parents aren't permitted to beat and suffocate and starve their children even if they honestly believe they're doing their best for their child: it is wrong that parents are permitted to abuse their gay children in the name of "imparting their values to their children".

I doubt if you would defend a white parent, bigoted against blacks, who had a black child*, who was determined to "impart the values" of hating all black people and believing them to be inferior to their own black child. Or would you? Would you honestly believe that a white parent determined to make a black child feel inferior and wrong because the parent's honest beliefs are that black people are inferior and wrong was just parental value-transmitting, and that parent had every right to do it? I wouldn't. I'd say that kid needed to be taken away from that parent, pronto.

So why defend homophobic parents trying to make their gay kids feel inferior and wrong? Never mind that they're trying to "cure" the kid of their gayness: we both know that's not possible. Is it any better than a black kid growing up as bleached as Michael Jackson because their white parent made them feel that black skin was ugly?

*Never mind how.

"they have every right to impart their values to their children)." Ed

Why? I guess for the same reason a man has a right to train his dawg. They ain't quite human, huh, half-human or sorta human.

"Part of that is being a teenager: the inability to really conceive that yes, things are going to get better a few years down the line,"

An example here...the attitude that kids are an inferior species leads to unjustified prejudices. Please demonstrate that teenagers in general have diminished capacity to such an obvious degree, so much more than the adult population, that we may legally discriminate. I do believe black males have a higher suicide rate, and adult females have a higher suicide rate than men. Anyway, assume those were true, could we then legislate as if diminished capacity were universal for black males?

Ah, bob, you got me.

What can I say? I was a teenager: it was sometimes extremely hard for me to believe that things would get better in a few years, when I was no longer legally compelled to live with my parents, when I would be allowed to get a job and my employer would have to pay me a living wage (well, more than they had to pay me as a minor), when if I was surrounded by idiots and bullies I wouldn't routinely be told "It's your fault for not trying to conform: be like them or accept that they're going to make your life hell."

And I knew - I really did know - that life wouldn't be so bad once I turned 18 and acquired the legal privileges that were denied me before then. I just couldn't always make myself believe it. And I could never - I realise, looking back - make myself feel how life was going to be once I wasn't a minor.

I didn't have parents who hit me or prayed over me or sent me to reform camps. They just didn't like me being gay, and made that clear: at a time in my life when I most needed their support and approval, they made it clear that I would never have that from them. (They have changed their minds about it since, but I didn't have that perspective at 17.)

I was never physically bullied at school - not enough to put me actually at risk of physical harm. (Hit, yes, my property damaged, yes, jeered at, yes, and made to feel unwelcome, yes.) And I did know - and reminded myself of this as often as I remembered to - that this wouldn't go on forever. I'd get to leave school. I'd get to leave this crowd behind. I did. But my parents were no help: they told me I needed to learn to conform and then I wouldn't be bullied.

What can I say, Bob? I think of what I went through. I think of how it felt when I was going through it. I know I didn't have the perspective, when I was a teenager, to feel that this would not last forever and things would get much better as soon as I could leave school/turned 18. And I know that what I went through was minor compared to the hell some queer teenagers go through at school and get from their parents.

I'm not arguing that teenagers have a "diminished capacity", bob. I'm arguing that teenagers aren't yet adults and don't yet have an adult perspective. I'm not offering this as a reason for legal discrimination against teenagers: I'm offering it as a reason why teenagers deserve to be protected against child abuse.

Andrew,

How do the devout in the part of the world his family is from deal with having a child turn out gay? Is it the same sort of thing one saw in America fifty years ago with the closet, or is it something that varies from parent to parent and from city to country?

Closet. sadly.

I doubt if you would defend a white parent, bigoted against blacks, who had a black child*, who was determined to "impart the values" of hating all black people and believing them to be inferior to their own black child. Or would you?

That's rather agressive, don't you think? Against me, I mean. Surely, you're not so offended by what I wrote that you need to go there, Jes.

I'm not defending the parents abusing their child. In fact, if you had read the rest of what I wrote (and not just what you quote), you would know that.

What you're ignoring, as is Bob, is that many parents who believe homosexuals can change honestly feel they MUST do all they can to try. They're wrong, yes, but rather than take their children away from them, something not even the kids would want, don't you think it's better to treat the parents with respect and show them the harm they can do, while respecting their beliefs. In other words, why this absolute intolerance for who they are?

Edward: That's rather agressive, don't you think? Against me, I mean. Surely, you're not so offended by what I wrote that you need to go there, Jes.

Yes, I am.

What you're ignoring, as is Bob, is that many parents who believe homosexuals can change honestly feel they MUST do all they can to try.

I'm not ignoring it, Edward. I'm just saying, they're wrong in their beliefs, and in enforcing their wrong beliefs on their children, they're being abusive.

They're wrong, yes, but rather than take their children away from them, something not even the kids would want

How do you know? When I was sixteen, I desperately wanted to leave home, to get away from the atmosphere of unremitting disapproval. In theory I could have done it - but only if I were so unhappy at home that living homeless without an income or an education would have seemed better. Things weren't that bad for me: they are that bad for some teenagers.

don't you think it's better to treat the parents with respect

I have no more respect for parents who abuse their children in this way than I would for a parent who forced their daughter to have cosmetic surgery because her breasts weren't big enough, or who abandoned their son by the side of the road for "wearing short-sleeved shirts". I will not pretend to a respect that is utterly undeserved.

In other words, why this absolute intolerance for who they are?

Because they have absolute intolerance for what their children are. And that is appalling: but it is offensive that you should argue that they deserve respect for it.

A Ministry of Love. America in 2005 only wants that. Meanwhile, I'm getting a great big sadomasochistic vibe from Love In Action's "we truly loooove you, but hate who you are."

Here's a camp where kids are sent to have their nubile young sexualities molded by people older and more powerful; by people who frequently have unresolved sexual issues of their own. That's creepy--and potentially dangerous--on so many levels.

I'm not opposed to power-play games between consenting adults, but I don't think they should be inflicted on children.

if they're sincerely ignorant of the harm they're causing, can't really be held responsible in this sense (i.e., they have every right to impart their values to their children)

I really pretty strongly have to disagree with this here. Parents have a right to try impart their values to their children up to a point; they do not have a right to force their sexual orientation on them - to program them in camps. That is monstrous, and that is abuse.

"They're wrong, yes, but rather than take their children away from them"

Whoa, never said that. Kid-lib might have some complexities in practice, especially for younger children, but the basic idea is that the 16-yr-old is a free independent agent. Jes wanted to leave home, I want to provide that option. I am betting most children would most of the time wish to stay with their parents. I would like a minimal safe haven available, dormitories with food, clothes and medical with some responsibilities and light household duties. Just enough so that a kid could survive, but not so nice as to be a very attractive alternative. Again, my gut says that most parents would negotiate a return home under conditions acceptable to both.

My basic assumption is that most children would be fairly rational actors, if given the opportunity and the credit. Under no circumstances do I think the "state" should be the default raiser of children. But neither should parents be in total control without any consent of the child.

I judt find it incredibly offensive that children have no legal rights. Should he/she be even abused, someone has to found to file assault charges in the child's behalf. This is outrageous.

I've drafted several responses to the disbelief that I respect the opinions of these parents. None led to what I feel is important here: these parents are people too.

The only rationale I can accept for why a parent would send their children to the Refuge is that they panic. Otherwise, I agree, it's something they should be criticized for doing. But rather than blame the parents, I blame the organization for offering the parents this fake alternative to acceptance. The parents, I believe, mean well. Honestly, I truly believe they become convinced that this will HELP their child. So I cannot bring myself to condemn them.

I do believe parents are entitled to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong, like anything else. Otherwise we enter the nightmarish territory of mind control.

Edward: I do believe parents are entitled to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong, like anything else.

And so you would also support the right of a white parent to teach their black child that being black is inferior and wrong? If not, can you explain what the hell the difference is between the black kid in whom a racist parent is instilling racist bigotry/self-hatred, and the gay kid in whom a homophobic parent is instilling homophobic bigotry/self-hatred?

Jes,

I believe parents can teach their children what they feel is important. My parents taught me all kinds of things I rejected, but I won't have other people coming in and insisting they were wrong to teach them to me. It taught me something totally invaluable: who my parents are. Did it sometimes cause pain, sure. Would I have it any other way, no.

Why limit it to race, why not extend what you think parents shouldn't teach their children to ideology, politics, and religion? Where do you draw the line? Seriously.

Edward: My parents taught me all kinds of things I rejected, but I won't have other people coming in and insisting they were wrong to teach them to me.

My parents taught me that being gay meant I would always be bullied and discriminated against and that I'd have an unhappy life: and that I should regard myself as a failure for being gay. And while I rejected those teachings, and I have grown to forgive and to love my parents, I won't have anyone insisting that they were right to teach me these things. They were wrong. (As they themselves might admit. If you got them in private. And promised not to tell me. Because I'd gloat.)

Where do you draw the line?

I say that a parent does not have the right to force a child against the child's nature.

I'm being open-ended here, because I do think it applies to politics and religion, as well as race and sexuality.

It's a grey area, yes.

But a parent who got the bleaching pills that Michael Jackson took and made their child take them because they wanted their child to grow up light-skinned would be committing abuse. A parent who forced a child through Confirmation (or any other religious ceremony against the child's will) would, in my view, be committing abuse. (And I know of devoutly religious people who'd agree with me.) A parent who drags a child along to a demostration against the child's will is committing abuse.

And yes, a parent who, not content with unremitting disapproval (which, however uncomfortable it is to live with, does fall inside the area of "bad things parents do to children that you can't stop them doing") tries to force their gay child to stop being gay, is committing abuse. However the "forcing" happens - public prayer*, beatings, rape, verbal abuse, chemical castration, electroshock, mind control - I do not concede that I have to respect those parents.

*A parent who kneels down in absolute privacy and asks God to make their child straight is entitled. As someone said, "God answers all prayers. But sometimes the answer is 'No'."

We agree more than we disagee Jes, I think, except that you're condemning Zach's parents for buying Love in Action's sales pitch and I'm not.

Possible impasse-bridging suggestion: we typically grant parents a lot of latitude in bringing up their kids. This more or less requires that we distinguish two questions: (a) are the parents right? and (b) are they so wrong that it would be worth interfering with their efforts to bring up their child, given that this would require giving someone the right to decide that some crucial line had been crossed? I normally have an easy time deciding that parents are wrong, and sometimes quite badly wrong, in some cases. But they can be badly wrong (imho) without crossing the line in (b), which I normally feel comfortable invoking only in cases of clear abuse and neglect, where 'clear' doesn't just mean 'clear to me', but 'clear enough that I would be confident letting, say, some judge decide the matter.'

Consider this case, reported (I think) by Scott Peck: he (Peck), a psychologist (I think), is asked to evaluate a kid (maybe 16), who is more or less completely uncommunicative. The only thing he knows about this kid, other than whatever infraction has gotten the law and thus, indirectly, Peck involved, is that this kid's older brother recently shot himself. After trying to make any sort of conversation with this kid, and failing completely, Peck asks, in desperation, so what did your parents give you for Christmas? The kid answers: a shotgun. Peck, appalled: but isn't that the same kind of gun your brother used to kill himself? Kid: no. Peck (confused): oh, I thought... Kid: not the same kind of gun. The same gun. Peck: they gave you the gun your brother used to kill himself, for Christmas ??!! Kid: yeah. (back to monosyllables.)

Later, Peck talks to the parents. They see nothing wrong with this Christmas present. The Dad (iirc) says: "any boy his age would give his eye teeth for a gun like that. And it's not as though we're made of money."

I think this is completely horrible. I think it's one of the clearest cases of emotional abuse I have ever heard of. I can imagine that the parents really didn't see what was wrong with giving their kid the gun his brother had killed himself with, but I think this just shows that there are forms of culpable blindness. Likewise with sending your kid off to indoctrination camp: I can imagine a parent being homophobic and desperate, but I don't think this makes it OK at all. There are states of blindness that we are responsible for not being in. I do not, myself, think that homophobia per se is such a state (where homophobia includes things like: thinking there must be something wrong with gays, never having met many of them, as far as one knows; the sort of vague squeamishness that a lot of people of my parents' generation seem to have). But I do think that any version of it that would lead to sending your kid off to a camp like this is. (And not having checked out the camp is no excuse: you obviously have to check out any place you're going to send your kid to.)

That being said, I cannot think of any test that the parents Peck describes would fail, and that I'd be at all comfortable having, say, judges apply. That being the case, I think, much as I'd rather not, that the latitude I think society should grant parents extends even to that. I hate that fact. But it surely doesn't interfere with my thinking: these parents are wrong. Horribly wrong.

I have to say I agree with Edward here. The problem for me is that the standards for what sorts of values or ideas are "abusive" to teach a child will change depending on who is currently in power. Suppose the government decides that teaching children about the functions of the reproductive system is "abusive"? Or that failing to properly inculcate them with patriotic values is "negligent"? Or that speaking another language in the home is detrimental to their upbringing?

But a parent who got the bleaching pills that Michael Jackson took and made their child take them because they wanted their child to grow up light-skinned would be committing abuse. A parent who forced a child through Confirmation (or any other religious ceremony against the child's will) would, in my view, be committing abuse.

The former would be clearly abusive based on objective standards, and I think this makes a world of difference. Children are forced to go through religious ceremonies they don't want to go through all the time, and this is done by good and bad parents alike. Children are also forced to go to the dentist, forced to go to bed on time, forced to eat vegetables they don't like, forced to go through drug rehab programs, and so on. There are very sound reasons why children don't get to make all their decisions on their own, and a government that takes more and more of these parenting decisions out of the hands of parents, and puts them into the hands of children would be a very bad thing. I'm not saying there aren't forms of emotional or psychological abuse that warrant removing a child from the home, but the state simply can't take a position on Confirmation. This is written into the U.S. Constitution (unless you listen to the "no separation between church and state" crowd, who probably don't have this possible consequence in mind anyway).

Of course, this is not to say that parents should escape criticism for making terrible decisions that are well within their rights as parents. Zach's parents, if the story here is true, deserve all the scorn that will be heaped on them. But that doesn't mean it is necessarily the place of the state to step in.

Hilzoy: are they so wrong that it would be worth interfering with their efforts to bring up their child, given that this would require giving someone the right to decide that some crucial line had been crossed?

Yes. The kid should have the right to decide that some crucial line has been crossed.

Gromit : The problem for me is that the standards for what sorts of values or ideas are "abusive" to teach a child will change depending on who is currently in power.

Yes, that's so. The people currently in power in a parent-child relationship are the parents, and they have all the power to decide what values/ideas are not abusive, and the child has none. I am not suggesting (I have never suggested) that the government should be given the power to decide what line has been crossed: I am saying that the child needs to have the power to decide that their parents have crossed the line, and get out.

I go for Bob's suggestion of refuges which a child can opt to leave the family home for. If they'd been available when I was 16, I'd have left. And, just possibly, if my parents had been forced to recognise that they were making me so unhappy I'd rather live in a refuge than with them, they might have tried to quit doing it.

but the state simply can't take a position on Confirmation.

I used that as an example. I think that forcing a child who loathes the idea to go through a religious ceremony - whatever religion - just because their parents can't stand the idea that their child has a mind and ideas of their own, is a minor form of abuse - minor because (not being religious myself) I would resign myself to it and just tell myself it was meaningless: but then, I suppose a religious child might feel rather worse about it than me.

But that doesn't mean it is necessarily the place of the state to step in.

The state should step in to give the child the ability to decide "this crucial line has been crossed for me". Whether that's "I want to graduate from high school, not be forced to leave school at the age of 16 so that my parents can marry me off to a member of the Church": or "I do not want to be Confirmed, because I have decided I am a pagan and I will not go through a ceremony which denies my beliefs": or "I do not want to go to the solstice bonfire circle, because I have decided I am a Catholic and I will not go to a ceremony which is blasphemy": or "I do not want to go to the psychiatrist who will give me electric shocks while I look at pictures of cute guys in order to turn me off men" or "I do not want to go to 'straight boot camp'" - all of those things are things which I do not think that parents should be allowed to do to children against their will.

all of those things are things which I do not think that parents should be allowed to do to children against their will.

The Refuge bob suggests would be overflowing with teens suffering from nothing more serious than common teen rebellion and angst. I'm not sure you could filter that contingent out very easily. Lord knows I would have run away several times too if someone had made it easy for me, more than once just to punish my parents for being good parents (and not letting me drink, for example).

So that leaves us with a needed solution, IMO. Surely there are horrible parents out there, but as convinced as you and I are that sending your child to "straight boot camp" is abuse, other people are convinced that letting a teenager "date" someone of the same sex will end in their getting AIDS, getting bashed, or messing up their opportunities later in life for good. Whose opinion should dictate what ALL parents have to do? (Say for example you prevented parents from sending their son to a straight camp, but later, while holding the hand of a boy he liked, he was gay bashed...would the parents be right in insisting your actions led to this abuse? No, it's not logical in the overall scheme of things, but since when have humans been logical about wanting to protect their children?)

I'd like to see the Refuge investigated by the government and have the doors slammed shut, myself, but that won't change the minds of parents convinced that being gay's a disease. That's where you have to change things IMO. So long as they believe being gay is harming their child, they'll justify doing anything to save their child from it.

Jes, but what if your standard gets applied to "I do not want to go to the psychiatrist to be treated for antisocial and violent behavior" or "I do not want to go to drug treatment for my methamphetamine addiction". Letting the child decide could be very damaging in a lot of cases.

And there is probably a good argument that aversion therapy of the type you describe is sufficiently abusive to warrant state intervention. But it's a long way from there to saying a child gets to do make all his own life decisions.

"we typically grant parents a lot of latitude in bringing up their kids."

Sharia and other Islamic systems...heck many non-Islamic systems...grant husbands great latitude in the way they treat their wives, and fathers great latitude in the way they treat theie daughters. The basic justification for this of course is that the female is a weak, incompetent critter that must protected from dangers from society and from herself. This is the way it has always been, and must always be.

Or without full property rights, maybe parents will have no incentive to have children.

The basic arguments hilzoy and Edward keep making seem to have the form of society having rights over other people's children, or all children. Parents have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the state's property wisely?

Are y'all capable of looking at these arguments and attitudes in light of hundreds of years of other liberation movements?

Why? Why, hilzoy, are children property? How can you justify this without excusing practices in cultures that I can't even bring myself to mention?

bob: Are y'all capable of looking at these arguments and attitudes in light of hundreds of years of other liberation movements

Somehow I don't think so.

Edward: The Refuge bob suggests would be overflowing with teens suffering from nothing more serious than common teen rebellion and angst. I'm not sure you could filter that contingent out very easily.

Why would I even want to try? If a teenager is sufficiently miserable at home that they prefer to go live in a refuge, whether or not that misery is dismissed as "common teen rebellion and angst", let them. Maybe after two or three days sitting in a bleak bare room eating basic food they'll prefer to go back to their parents: maybe two or three days separation from their parents will be a good thing. What harm would it do, in any case?

Gromit: Jes, but what if your standard gets applied to "I do not want to go to the psychiatrist to be treated for antisocial and violent behavior" or "I do not want to go to drug treatment for my methamphetamine addiction".

What if your standard - the parent gets to make all the child's life decisions - gets applied to "I will not send my child to the psychiatrist to be treated for antisocial and violent behavior" or "I will continue to addict my child to methamphetamines and refuse my child help to kick the addiction" or even "I will not send my child to the dentist - s/he's only crying and saying it hurts because s/he's wilful"?


"more than once just to punish my parents for being good parents (and not letting me drink, for example)."

And at 18 we let these kids go off to college, where they often drink themselves into flunkout or even death.
....
Husbands and wives or partners have tough arguments all the time without one person leaving or the union dissolving. Why? Maybe because the partners realize that each has that option, and therefore never ever try to argue from authority? Because they grant each other a level of respect and autonomy? Because the arguments are forced into reasonable forms?

There are families who use methods other than simple commands to keep their kids from drinking, including example, education, controlled and supervised experimentation, incentives. When simple authority is available, however, it sure is convenient for the lazy or irresponsible. And hasn't a great track record.

Edward: We agree more than we disagee Jes, I think, except that you're condemning Zach's parents for buying Love in Action's sales pitch and I'm not.

We profoundly disagree on the most important point: I think Zach should have the right to decide that his parents have crossed the line, and get to leave. I'm not willing to permit parents to treat their children as their own disposable property.

You refuse to condemn Zach's parents for committing child abuse because they're doing it with good intentions. But I don't think there's ever a good enough excuse for child abuse.

I think Zach should have the right to decide that his parents have crossed the line, and get to leave.

Perhaps I've seen too many kids who opt for that end up hurt far, far worse because they were unprepared for the reality of being on their own.

Hell is relative, as they say.

I think the program is horrendous, and am sorry to live in a country where social pressures push the parents into thinking this kind of thing is all right.

That said, I have known several people who self-identified as gay for a time, and then didn't any more. None of these people had reprogramming or anything, they just took some time deciding who they really were. I suppose that the basic truth of human sexuality is that rather than a binary straight/gay choice, we naturally fall along a range, maybe with most people at or near one pole or the other, but with plenty falling in the range in between.

As all of you who have, or have had, teenagers know, there is a lot of identity changing that goes on. My daughter turns 19 a week from today, and while I'm not aware of her ever identifying gay (or having an issue) she has certainly tried out and discarded a number of different identities over the past five years. Mostly you just wait for these lifestyle experiments to end, but when you see one that is particularly potentially self-destructive, you intervene, as unintrusively as possible, to head off the worst consequences.

Now I'm not one who thinks that gay people will burn in hell for all eternity. If I did think that, however, and thought -- as I will bet many parents of gay teenagers think -- that it was just another identity being tried out, I can see trying to head it off.

Edward: Perhaps I've seen too many kids who opt for that end up hurt far, far worse because they were unprepared for the reality of being on their own.

Hurt far, far worse than suicide? How much further worse that a kid getting driven to suicide can you get? I can't think of anything.

That's why I'm so not in favor of letting parents abuse their children as much they please and making sure the kids have no way to get away unless they can prove to another adult that they are being abused in a way in which the state will feel free to step in - not to give the kid any further freedom of choice, of course.

I've seen kids hurt badly because they were unprepared for the reality of being on their own, too. You don't magically become ready to leave home at age 18 and one day, however badly you want to but weren't permitted to before that. Parents who refuse to teach their children life skills are also treating their children badly...

CharleyCarp: That said, I have known several people who self-identified as gay for a time, and then didn't any more.

Yes. I've known many people who self-identified as straight for a time, and then didn't any more.

Now I'm not one who thinks that gay people will burn in hell for all eternity. If I did think that, however, and thought -- as I will bet many parents of gay teenagers think -- that it was just another identity being tried out, I can see trying to head it off.

Indeed. And Jehovah's Witnesses parents famously have been prepared to let their children die rather then permit blood transfusion. (I remember this being illustrated in a really chilling first-season Babylon 5 episode, where you felt for the parents and for the child and for the doctor who eventually acted...) Regardless of the parents' religious beliefs, they must not be allowed to destroy their child to satisfy them.

"Edward: Perhaps I've seen too many kids who opt for that end up hurt far, far worse because they were unprepared for the reality of being on their own."

Yeah, the streets of all metropolises are lined with casualties, many of whom had options not accessed. Predators and exploiters will always arise in unjust systems, and mystification, objectification are part of the system. And what I propose is certainly radical, a total restructuring of society and attitudes, as radical as feminism and gay liberation. And just as promoting feminism in Afghanistan will definitely get women killed, kid-lib would have costs, tradeoffs, and casualties.

I don't know, is it part of feminist or queer theorey that any power structure supports all other power structures? All irrational state-enforced authoritarian institutions have to go.

My first worry about mentioning my beliefs on kid-lib was that someone would come along and say:"NAMBLA would just love you, Bob." and I wouldn't have a clear compelling response.

And what I propose is certainly radical, a total restructuring of society and attitudes, as radical as feminism and gay liberation.

What is this, like Stephen Gaskin without the ham radio guys? ;^)

bob; My first worry about mentioning my beliefs on kid-lib was that someone would come along and say:"NAMBLA would just love you, Bob."

I was part of a queer youth group for a couple of years that had a couple of adult male "stalkers" - or "predators" is perhaps the better word. They managed to do some extremely exploitative things to some of the young men in the youth group. Our youth group was unfunded and unsupported - we were just a bunch of teenagers (and a few people in their early twenties, but not many) who got together every week and kept each other sane.

One of the ways in which life has got better for LGBT teenagers is just that gay youth groups these days tend to be supported - to have access to adults whose job it is to make sure that they're going on okay, they have a safe space to meet, and that no predatory adults are misusing the group. At the same time, the main defense against outright predators - the two I mentioned had been driven off before I joined - was that we were consciously determined to protect each other and to give each other self-respect.

I think that the main defense against predatory adults - whether parents who want to chew up and digest their child, or older men (and it is usually men) who want sex with teenagers, is to give teenagers the right to make decisions, a strong sense of self-respect, and a base for support they can come to if their decisions turn out to be bad. Making bad decisions is how people learn.

So, no, I don't think NAMBLA would love you, at least as I've encountered "boy lovers" among older gay men.

I have to admit that I'm impressed that no one has pulled the line out on Jes that if she were a parent she would understand (I don't know, maybe she is) I can resist anything but temptation, I suppose.

If you aren't a parent, I can't really explain how helpless you feel at the prospect of making life decisions for someone and doing it in a way that doesn't make them hate you for the rest of your life. I'm only getting the faintest taste right now (6 and 1 year old), but they both are supposed to decide whether they will choose US or Japanese citizenship when they are 20. Maybe the choice will be clear, but if my memories of being a 20 year old are correct and predictive, I would really doubt it.

However, I wanted to take a year off before going to college (which I think would have been a good decision, as I'm sure that I would have gone to university with a much better attitude) and when I told my mother, she nearly had a cow. I think that of all the parenting decisions they made, that was the one bad one (hindsight tells me they have an impressive batting average) I remember mentioning it once to my mother, much later and I remember the hurt look in her eyes. I realize that she made that decision because she came from a time where if you dropped out, you generally didn't go back.

This is not to accuse them of child abuse, but if questioning a decision as small as that can score a palpable hit on my mother, I really wonder what it would do if we began declaring decisions like the ones made by Zach's parents as child abuse.

Furthermore, I believe that there is a problem that the parents of Zach face, in that in their social circles, is there anyone really facing the same situation as they are? The friends I know who have come out have parents in similar situations. Sure there are a number of books you can recommend, but it's a bit like someone playing doctor with a bunch of other people with no medical training. Wrapped up in all that is the notion that the family line ends and all that other stuff, which is obviously below the surface, but there nonetheless. Failing to understand and empathize with those emotions (not sympathize, empathize) is a bit hard hearted, I think.

I also think that we need to overcome the ever increasing tendency towards separation and cliqueishness that is taking over society. The parents find themselves doing what they do because, I think, they have not had the opportunities to get out. This red/blue divide is just one manifestation of this and if we really want to overcome this sort of problem, it might require making ourselves uncomfortable a little (I hasten to add that this shouldn't be taken as accusing you of anything)

Rather than get angry at the parents, what really needs to happen is for camps like these to have to file their curriculum and allow for transparency. At least that is my thinking.

I hope this doesn't come off as an attack on your opinion, but everyone has a hard time stepping back. What we think is best is always so intertwined with what we (think we) want as to be part of the human condition. That we try and understand why Zach's parents took the road they did, as much as you think what they did was unconscionable, is a vital step towards dealing with the problem.

Later, Peck talks to the parents. They see nothing wrong with this Christmas present.

Which book was that, The Road Less Travelled, or People of the Lie? I've read them both, but I don't think I own either of them anymore. Sometimes you just have to houseclean the bookshelves, to keep from having your house just be a place where you keep your books.

Yes. The kid should have the right to decide that some crucial line has been crossed.

Respectfully, this is insufficient. First, the temptation for some young adults to abuse this privelege will practically ensure that it will be abused. Second, buried in hilzoy's question is something that's not been addressed: who will be the kid's new parents if intervention takes place? You, Jesurgislac? I submit that it's much easier to opine that the state ought to intervent than to step up and volunteer to take on the parenting job for the next few years. I don't think you're unaware of this so much as that you've failed to fully anticipate what happen to the family after an intervention by the state has occurred. I'm not saying there's no situation in which the state ought to intervene, I'm saying that one ought to approach this idea with just as much skepticism as is possible to muster, so that by opening up yet another avenue of state intervention into family affairs, the state doesn't provide a net increase in the screwed-up-ness of family life.

Failing to understand and empathize with those emotions (not sympathize, empathize) is a bit hard hearted, I think.

Thank you!!!

I literally tossed and turned all night wondering how wrong I might be about a parent's POV on this (not being one myself).

Generally, my emphathy for Zach's parents (and it does not extend to the Refuge) comes from having watched my own parents' torment with me. I know they love me, that was never even remotely a question, but they simply came from a POV in which there was no doubt that homosexuality is wrong, and my being gay was incredibly hard for them.

My father has met me half way. My mother's still 90% in that camp. Both are incredibly gracious to my partner (good public manners above all else), but it's not what they want for me. Even still. Perhaps if we lived in the same location and they got to know Bambino better than a short trip allows, they'd change their mind, but the deep-rooted aversion is strong, and personally, I give them credit for being as tolerant and accepting as they are. If I were to force the issue, demand they accept homosexuality, I'd most likely do more harm than good. The longer they see me and Bambino in a lasting, healthy relationship, the more they'll come around. It's not something that can be rushed or forced on them. But they're trying. The least I can do is be understanding of their feelings in return.

Slarti: People of the Lie, I think. What a horrible story.

Slarti: who will be the kid's new parents if intervention takes place?

Where in all this is a need for the kid to have new parents? What Bob (and I) are proposing is something more revolutionary - not that a teenager must have an authority figure in their life to make all important life decisions on their behalf, and that's either their parents or the state, but that teenagers need to be given the ability to resist an authority figure who is making life decisions for them that they don't want.

I submit that it's much easier to opine that the state ought to intervent than to step up and volunteer to take on the parenting job for the next few years.

I submit that it's much easier to say "Leave the kid with their parents, no matter how abusive the parents" than it is to say "We cannot permit this to happen." A couple of hundred years ago it would have been considered as revolutionary to intervene between husband and wife: obviously a woman can't be trusted to make her own life decisions, and obviously her husband has to be permitted to force her to do things against her will, because otherwise that would be the end of family life! Well, we think differently now - at least, mostly! - and, strangely enough, family life did not end: it only changed.

Edward: I know they love me, that was never even remotely a question, but they simply came from a POV in which there was no doubt that homosexuality is wrong, and my being gay was incredibly hard for them.

And, being the nice person you are, I get the feeling that you are caring more for the distress this caused them than for the distress they have caused you? I don't know: maybe you're not. But I know that initially this was my feeling: that this was my fault. (Certainly it was my parents' reaction.) But then, no, it's not. I didn't "decide" to be a lesbian - and certainly not in order to cause my parents distress. My parents decided to care more about their feelings than about mine, and to make this clear to me. That their distress was sincere, I accept: but so was (and is) mine. And I couldn't do a thing to change myself - to stop being a lesbian - whereas they could (and eventually, have) change themselves to quit being homophobic.

I respect the love they have for me that kept them attached to me through it. I do not respect their homophobic feelings.

And to be quite honest, I would not write so explicitly about my feelings about their rejection and disapproval except that this is under a pseud which I absolutely never intend to share with them.

If I were to force the issue, demand they accept homosexuality, I'd most likely do more harm than good. The longer they see me and Bambino in a lasting, healthy relationship, the more they'll come around.

You hope. I have read far too many stories of parents challenging (and winning) their children's wills that left a partner's legacy to their same-sex partner to have absolute faith in this. There was a recent case resolved in West Virginia where two women had a child, the biological mother died, and the biological mother's parents showed up to take the child from her other mother and the only home she knew. The court was divided, but the judgement was that the child should go to her "psychological parent" - the two women had been together since a year before the child was born.

that teenagers need to be given the ability to resist an authority figure who is making life decisions for them that they don't want

I'm not saying that's not a nice idea, but there are loads of nice ideas out there that haven't yet been executed, and it's not for lack of trying. And believe me, I completely disagree with how Zach's parents are dealing with him, just as I completely disagreed with the parents of my first girlfriend, who were Christian Scientists and decided that broken arm would just have to be healed by God.

I submit that it's much easier to say "Leave the kid with their parents, no matter how abusive the parents" than it is to say "We cannot permit this to happen."

And I in turn submit that it's much easier to say "We cannot permit this to happen" than it is to imagine a way in which this sort of intrusion into the way this family is (granted, highly dysfunctionally) run can be accomplished in a way that doesn't screw things up even more.

A couple of hundred years ago it would have been considered as revolutionary to intervene between husband and wife

And if you had a time machine and went back to perform such interventions, what then? I think it's the paradigm shift that permitted the interventions and not vice versa.

I'm not saying nothing can be done, just that it's not going to be easy. It's going to be on the other end of the spectrum from easy, and it's going to take at least the leading edge of a paradigm shift in order for it to even be workable. Because once you introduce the notion that outside intervention in the parent-child relationship might occasionally be Good and Necessary, you've still got to figure out what it is you're going to do. With the husband/wife relationship, the shift was that at least sometimes, divorce is a preferable (and, shockingly, workable) alternative to, say, a couple of decades of having the living crap beat out of you. In this case, the issue is between two adults. In the case where children are involved, there's a whole, huge layer of complexity added by parental responsibility. Once you intrude on that, what happens then?

once you introduce the notion that outside intervention in the parent-child relationship might occasionally be Good and Necessary

Wait -- what I thought Bob & Jes were saying was just that children who want to leave home should be allowed to. Seems to me that by giving the parent the legal power to force the child to return home, the state already is intervening in the parent-child relationship.

I'm not clear on the exact limits of what Jes and Bob are proposing (and of course it's likely that their proposals are different). Is it the complete abolition of the concept of age of majority? I guess those who like to try children as adults would like that, but I'm less sure.

Certainly any age cutoff is arbitrary, and I could imagine improved systems, but what is the proposed standard? Can six-year-olds who don't want to eat their beets run away to the state-supported shelters as well?

The issue seems to me quite different from that of women in earlier times, because women are adults. This isn't just an arbitrary distinction. Teenagers are not just younger adults. Their brains are different, not fully developed, and our current system treats teenagers and children -- quite rightly -- as not as capable of making decisions for themselves and not fully responsible for their actions (having "diminished capacity", as Bob says). Now obviously we're talking about lots of different levels of capacity -- 13-year-olds, mature 18-year-olds, immature 18-year-olds -- but if we're going to abandon the age of majority, what do we use instead?

And to be quite honest, I would not write so explicitly about my feelings about their rejection and disapproval except that this is under a pseud which I absolutely never intend to share with them.

So, is this just venting, or do you want to see parents "disturbed" as long as it's not you who has to do it? Again, not to be harsh here, but it seems that you want someone to fight your battles for you, to provide the social pressure on your parents to behave the way you want/wanted them to, yet you don't want to disturb them yourself. I don't want to suggest that homosexuality is a choice, but you do have the choice on how to deal with your own personal choices. To ask someone else, be it public opinion, or the state, to do what you think should be done, is an abdication of responsibility.

This isn't to deny that straights have a role to play, but it's that old sig of embodying the change you want to see.

I have pretty strong opinions about parenting, but it would take something really out there to get me to get between a parent and their child. Really out there. And equally, if someone is going to get between me and my child, they have better have a really good reason. A really good reason.

You also said that 'Making bad decisions is how people learn.' But parents have just as steep a learning curve as teenagers do, if not steeper. You may be unhappy that there is a power differential here, enforced by society and however many thousands of years of human society. One should also note that we have pushed back the age at which we make people responsible so that young people can have more chances to make mistakes. Yet that responsibility doesn't just disappear. Someone has had to take it, and it has fallen to parents. That you propose some vague system that allows teens to draw the line at decisions they don't feel are right to replace this seems utopic at best. It seems to me that what is needed is more gay people to be open about their orientation without making it an 'in-your-face' idea of confronting prejudice. You might say that this is unfair and prejudicial, because I am demanding that you do something that I don't think I have to do. I would totally agree, but that is what prejudice is, putting someone in a situation where they have to be that much better, that much more conforming, that much more of a model than members of the majority are.

I'd also point out that the first site you linked to provides a sort of Die Hard coming out, with the 'outcomer' acting like Bruce Willis. (from another forgettable BW movie, the henchman says 'I want to hear you scream in pain', and BW replies 'play some rap music') Maybe some people come out like that, but when I've had friends that have come out, the reason it is so hard is because they didn't want to hurt people that they loved. Again, you seem to acknowledge this motivation, but view it as totally irrelevant to the matter at hand, which is trying to define the actions of Zach's parents in such a way as to invite social approbrium. Yet if you persist on trying to make outcasts of the parents, you are going to find that they will band together and seek validation of their opinions, not try to expand their horizons to try and understand something that is probably so far outside their ken as to be completely alien.

I also think it is terribly rude to question Edward's view of his parents the way you have. Telling him essentially to 'watch out, they are going to stab you in the back, because I've seen it happen too many times' given the level (or lack) of knowledge you have of his history, I think you owe Edward an apology.

Wait -- what I thought Bob & Jes were saying was just that children who want to leave home should be allowed to.

See KCinDC's comment. Plus...and go where? Who decides? Under what conditions?

libjap: So, is this just venting, or do you want to see parents "disturbed" as long as it's not you who has to do it?

No. If I were writing this and I knew it might be read by my parents, I would be considerably more detailed, I would be specific as to which parent had done what rather than treating them as one unit, and I would make more clear, throughout, that I do still love them and have learned to forgive them. And I would speak differently again if I were talking to them face to face, just us or just family. Indeed, I have. But there isn't room here to speak thoroughly of my entire experience of twenty-odd years of coming out. What I have written here is truthful, but I'm purposefully avoiding identifying detail (including carefully eliding both parents into one unit).

I have pretty strong opinions about parenting, but it would take something really out there to get me to get between a parent and their child. Really out there. And equally, if someone is going to get between me and my child, they have better have a really good reason. A really good reason.

And I hope you never give anyone cause to get between you and your child. But if you were to send your child off to boot camp for reprogramming, I hope someone would.

I also think it is terribly rude to question Edward's view of his parents the way you have. Telling him essentially to 'watch out, they are going to stab you in the back, because I've seen it happen too many times' given the level (or lack) of knowledge you have of his history, I think you owe Edward an apology.

That wasn't my intent, but if it came across as that, I do apologise for giving that impression.

You might say this is a general, generic warning, that applies to all same-sex couples - Always make a will, and make it as legally solid as you can, and make it clear to families and friends exactly what you have done and why you have done it. Because like it or not, there are homophobic parents who will swoop in the aftermath of a death and snatch whatever they can away from their child's partner - including even the right to attend their partner's funeral. It's happened to so many people, and it's never safe just to assume that it won't happen to you.

And I would make that recommendation to anyone. It never hurts to have how you want your property disposed of in the event of your death clearly and tightly laid out and made utterly legal.

But I'm sorry for the personal slur that I (unintentionally) aimed at Edward/his parents. No offense was intended.

Slarti: Plus...and go where? Who decides? Under what conditions?

See bob's proposal of refuges.

So, I'm confused . . . Jes and bob are going to be sinking their time, money and effort into providing these refuges . . . when, exactly?

(It would be cheaper to just provide low-cost legal resources to children seeking emancipation from their parents, I would think.)

In rereading my comment, it sounds a lot more aggressive than I feel comfortable with (and on preview, I see Jes has provided a very useful answer). I wouldn't have any (well not so many) qualms with a gay person, because s/he had been treated so badly, to decide that they were going to simply cease to acknowledge their parents. But I would also hope that someone who was treated badly could rise above that treatment and forgive. Perhaps it would be meaningless and the parents would die never having renounced their way of looking at the world. Perhaps it would be that someone just couldn't forgive them. But if the possibility of redemption is denied, we simply repeat the problems of the past.

When I came to Japan the first time, it was on a program that brought college graduates to teach in secondary schools and one of the 'rights of passage' I suppose, was bringing your parents over, in part to show how well you could handle this totally alien culture. I noticed that quite often, when the situations were reversed, you could see all of the strains and insults that had occurred in their history, but going in the opposite way. 'Oh, mom, don't do that, you are going to embarrass me' 'Geez, Dad, can't you remember that I told you to take the number 7 bus?' On one level, it was funny, but on another it was quite sobering to realise that the hurt that is dealt out continues and continues until someone makes a concerted effort to nullify it and reject it. And the process of nullifying it, if accompanied by a passive aggressive acknowledgement ('you always treated me like I didn't know what I was doing, but don't worry, I won't do that to you') simply amplifies it.

In some ways, (and I know this is getting rather sermony here, but indulge me), the struggle is a gift, because without it, there would be no opportunity for redemption. While I'm not suggesting that we think of new ways of ostracizing gays (that job seems to sadly be well covered lately) one should realize that it is the struggle that gives meaning.

Again, apologies for being so preachy. Now turn in your hymnals to...

See bob's proposal of refuges.

I missed that. Are these legal, aboveboard refuges, or are they covert and extralegal? Bob appears to have some misconceptions about the legal status of a sixteen-year-old kid, too, or at least some conceptions that aren't consistent with the law in every single place I've ever lived in this country.

"Bob appears to have some misconceptions about the legal status of a sixteen-year-old kid"

The legal status is exactly what I want to change. If you see above, a Const amendment forbidding discrimination on the basis of age, with levels of scrutiny. Meaning lowering the age of majority to zero, or however close we can reasonably come. Read all my comments.

If I have misconceptions or delusions, they are in the degree to which minors would be rational actors if we treated them as such and provided the opportunity. There would be massive psychological changes involved, including parents and children treating each other as partners, with negotiation instead of command.

Or we can keep the idea that children are property like dogs and cattle, and keep the practices of many cultures of selling or killing their daughters. Or not, but with vague lines based on traditions instead of principles, it is more difficult to argue.

"but if we're going to abandon the age of majority, what do we use instead?"

How about empirical evidence, case-by-case review, and levels of scrutiny? How about we actually provide driving tests, perhaps much tougher, and instead of simply decreeing that all 15-yr-olds are incapable, we actually allow individuals to demonstrate or not their capability? I doubt many 5-yr-olds would even bother to apply?

"Teenagers are not just younger adults. Their brains are different, not fully developed,"

This is exactly what was said about women, physical & mental differences and societal dangers made their liberation a cruelty. Still is, in large parts of the world? Heck, in the US Congress(eg, combat).

Now I don't deny there are differences between children and adults. But the restrictions we place on children should not be arbitrary. I see no reason a ten-yr-old would vote based on significantly different factors than many adults. I definitely believe that there are some ten yr-olds who would vote based on a more reasoned review than most adults. I cannot justify this discrmination against all ten-yr-olds.

The legal status is exactly what I want to change.

Without hearing your entire design for how this is supposed to work, I'm going to have to vote "no" in advance. As will pretty much everyone I know who's a parent. I'm not completely unwilling to listen, but you're going to have to do a great deal more talking.

with negotiation instead of command.

Ever tried this with a two-year-old? Or even a four-year-old?

keep the practices of many cultures of selling or killing their daughters

That'd be a telling point, if we had those practices to begin with. Seriously, this point doesn't belong with the rest of the discussion.

"Without hearing your entire design for how this is supposed to work"

I am not sure I need an entire design. I simply posit a principle of as much autonomy as feasible. Perhaps some some kind of daycare of refuge could be set up that even you would find trustworthy, and my strong bet that if your 2-yr-old got mad because you forced her to sleep or eat peas, and ran to refuge, she would be back the next day, The vast majority of parents offer a deal better than anything else available, including the pleasures of family. Under 10 may be too young, I don't know how it would work. The scrutiny above would be important.

But as I said, I think children are, or would be capable of rational decision at a much younger age then we assume, especially if they know it is expected of them. I think most children would stay with their families, go to school, accept unwelcome restrictions if explained, etc.

The idea is for the 12 yr old abused girl (or Zach) to have a simple option of three hots and a cot, rather no options or catastrophic ones. And for her and her parents to know that option exists, which would probably be enough to change the dynamics.

And I know I am beyond controversial. Most parents want the right to control their 16 yr olds daughter access to abortion.

Most parents want the right to control their 16 yr olds daughter access to abortion.

Most parents want to control their 16-year-old daughter's access to other things, too. Like heroin, for instance.

Most parents want to control their 16-year-old daughter's access to other things, too. Like heroin, for instance.

I would suspect that is more easily controlled outside the house. If your daughter wants heroin, she can get it more easily than she can get an abortion.

Inside the house, best bet is to make sure she doesn't ever want it. I didn't, and most people I know didn't.

In any case the problem is Zach. My solution is radical but I want Zach to have options, and I do not want any gov't micro-managing parenting decisions. This religious camp ok, this one not, nudism bad, makeup and styling camps for twelve yr olds ok. "X" is abuse, "Y" is within the bounds of discipline. To get the gov't out of family decisions, seems to me the most reasonable way is to grant the kids autonomy.

And parenting as a right just strikes me wrong. A right to make your kid a Presbyterian or Communist...when does the kid get rights. I started attending a Baptist Church when I was 11, got dunked and everything. My non-practicing Catholic parents didn't care. But the point was that I was entirely capable of making that choice myself.

I guess I just don't get it.

A few general thoughts, which won't do more than touch on what I might say on the topic, due to length considerations.

I'm sympathetic to Bob McManus's positions on "children's liberation/agism" issues. I read mightily on the subject when I was a child, and I developed some powerful opinions on the subject. I think there are a great many things worth questioning about the conventional wisdom and prevalent practices in which children have few or no legal rights under our present systems, and probably some things worth changing. I share some core opinions with Bob about the injustice of children being treated like property and the calm acceptance of this; length of time of customs and practices do not actually prove their worth and justice, as familiarity with history shows.

I also left home at 15, and thereafter was not supported by, nor lived with, any parental (or pseudo-parental) units, some sporadic and relatively incidental aid aside. This was non-ideal, but better than the available alternatives. (Nor did my relationships with parents ever grow significantly better; my father died almost twenty years ago still largely a crazy bipolar unable to hold a job or cope much with living, and the last time my mother (or any other blood relative) and I spoke was about a decade ago, with foregoing decades lacking any better narrative.)

On the other hand, I'm not so radical, at least any more, that I could simply support granting everyone at birth full legal rights with adults; there are some practical difficulties here, some surmountable, but others vast and great.

However, giving children, say between the ages of 7 and 18, certain rights, such as, perhaps, the right to consult an attorney, and the right to petition for either autonomy or limited autonomy or a change of guardianship, under various circumstances -- which we already do by granting "emancipated" status under very limited, and rather inconsistent, circumstances -- is something that might legitimately and practically be expanded. I think that's very worthy of examination and consideration if we wish to be at all consistent and open-minded about pursuing justice, rather than custom. Rights are principles, not manuals for every circumstance.

I'd note that, obviously, allowing for greater possibilities of being granted sanctuary or escape from sufficiently injustice and damaging parental circumstances -- such injustice and damage being extremely widespread and serious, I'd suggest -- is not to call for an absolute right to simply be divorced from one's parents at any age under any circumstances.

I'd also point out what I was going to say before Hilary covered the point at considerably greater length, which is that just because something is wrong doesn't mean that someone doesn't or shouldn't have the right to do it. Nor, to rephrase, does it mean that if someone has a right to do something, it isn't a wrong thing to do. Most of us don't, in fact, want everything wrong proscribed and only that which is right allowed. That would be, in fact, I think, Bad.

"Most parents want to control their 16-year-old daughter's access to other things, too. Like heroin, for instance."

Ditto for 19-year-olds and 22-year-olds. But we don't let them, despite there being a downside.

Like most things, there are no magic solutions to these issues without downsides. Including solutions that include "our tribal custom aren't worth questioning, and besides they're far better than those of others, especially when we're being completely arbitrary about who 'we' are and aren't.'"

Digressing, there are times I think no one should be allowed to have kids unless they can prove that they're qualified. The trivial problem, of course, would be whom would you trust to make such judgments. I want to go firmly on record as saying I believe neither Sith nor Jedi would be a good choice.

there are times I think no one should be allowed to have kids unless they can prove that they're qualified. The trivial problem, of course, would be whom would you trust to make such judgments.

I find this notion horrifying, quite frankly. JFTR.

If the bootcamp is really bad, you should aim at forbidding the bootcamp IMHO. Or alter the agegroup it aims for, so only adults who can choose for themselves can enter.

Parents decide for children. We assume the do so in the interest of the children but we also choose for a society that allows people to have different idea's about what is right for kids. So all you can do is have basic rules about what is NOT allowed or what rights all kids are entitled to.

My mother taught me that girls should not be smart and that I should stop discussing things with boys - how else would I get a nice husband? Fortunately I am rather stubborn and I know she did it from her own background (had to stop school and work when she was 13, the legal age in those days) and with my best intrests at heart. Egality for women became much more (well, not that much, the Netherlands is not great in womens lib) standard in our society and my mother learned that women can actually support themselves quite well without a husband if they want to. Times change, society changes, norms change.

As a society we have to protect kids by defining unacceptable behaviour. But if you allow gay discrimination in your society, you have to allow parents to impose the appearantly acceptable norms onto their kids. Or at least try to. I try to impose my norms on my kids too and plenty of people think that I should raise them more in line with THEIR standards than with those of spouse and me. Though ours of course are much better ;-)

Since the imposed rules are not bad enough to be considered abuse I think it is rotten luck for the kid that he did not have more understanding parents, but such is life. Frankly, I think that things like the possibility of deciding your own medical treatment when you are 16 (living will when you have a terminal disease for instance) is more important.

"imposed rules" in that last paragraph should be "bootcamp rules".
It is too late, I'll go to sleep now, tomorrow will be tropical here and I'll have three energetic young boys to impose MY rules on ;-)

there are times I think no one should be allowed to have kids unless they can prove that they're qualified. The trivial problem, of course, would be whom would you trust to make such judgments.

I find this notion horrifying, quite frankly. JFTR.

Whereas, JFTR, I was obviously advocating for such a policy. Or maybe not.

But you have to admit that it would cut down on the number of abused children. Clearly anyone who would oppose that it is objectively pro-child-abuse.

;-)

there are times I think no one should be allowed to have kids unless they can prove that they're qualified. The trivial problem, of course, would be whom would you trust to make such judgments.
and
I find this notion horrifying, quite frankly. JFTR.

*closes his eyes and imagines how quiet and peaceful the world would be with a few billion less people* ;^)

Bob: To get the gov't out of family decisions, seems to me the most reasonable way is to grant the kids autonomy.

Yep. But hell hath no fury like a group with absolute power seeing even part of that power taken away from them.

But hell hath no fury like a group with absolute power seeing even part of that power taken away from them.

Of course, why didn't I think of that? And here I'd been thinking maybe it had something to do with commitment, at least for some of us.

Slarti: And here I'd been thinking maybe it had something to do with commitment, at least for some of us.

Where did I say it didn't?

I do not feel that a parent's committment to their children (or a child's committment to their parent) is devalued or ceases to exist when the parent ceases to have absolute power to make all life-decisions for their child. As witness evidence: I know of many parents and offspring who still feel committment to each other, even though their offspring reached the age of majority and the parents no longer have absolute power over them.

Committment of parent to child, or child to parent, is not, if well-grounded in love and respect on both sides, such a fragile thing that it will end because the child has the legal right to leave home. You must know that's so - think of all the families I'm sure you know where children do continue to respect, love, and sometimes live with their parents after the age of 18.

Why assume that committment will die the death and be no more if there is a way for children under 18 to get to leave home and live independently of their parents? If it will die under those circumstances, it may never have been there in the first place.

Where did I say it didn't?

In the passage I quoted. Or did you really not mean to imply that the only reason for any resistance is loss of power for its own sake?

No parent has unbounded, sole power to make life decisions for their child. Make bad decisions, and the power to make those decisions is taken away.

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