Health & BodyMore and more bad stuff is happening in our semi-tolerant country. Boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, who display different behavior at school, are sometimes literally bullied into the closet. by Wil Groot
- 24 January 2020
| length: 5 min. |
|Accessible GGZ for gayboys looking for help|
Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 5 minuten
In the changing room, the teacher is often no longer present when showering, so especially the non-straight boys have to pay the price. The teacher perhaps is in the vicinity, but many are hesitant.
These are the first notes I made after a short telephone conversation with Bram. Bram is thirty-five and his husband Willem thirty-two. They have been happily married for ten years and have two beautiful adopted children. Both have been working in mental healthcare for years. For a number of years now, they have their own mental healthcare facility because they wanted to do things “differently” from the established institutions. They have a shared ambition, and combined innovative ideas with scientific knowledge regarding the psychological health of gay boys, which is one of the target groups that is closest to them.
Research shows that GLBT people are increasingly reporting psychological complaints, and that these young people experience emotional and behavioral problems, and problems with hyperactivity twice as often as the norm. Suicide occurs no less than 4.5 times more often in this target group than among their heterosexual peers.
I take this in for a moment, and my thoughts go to the GLBTI+ homeless youngsters in the Netherlands, whom I focused on last month. The West Friesland youth I had conversations with during the Rainbow Week also spring to mind. Acceptance of being “different” remains a dilemma.
Why the term “gay boys,” Bram?
“Our ambition and driving force is to focus primarily on gay youth. The phrase ‘gay boy’ most closely matches the language use of young people. When a somewhat older practitioner in the regular mental healthcare institutions uses a term such as homosexual, it immediately creates a distance. Knowing what is going on in the world of young people and speaking the same language contributes to the client-practitioner relationship.”
For several years it’s known to me that in counselling it is important to know the professional jargon of the client, or to be able to speak and understand the language of youth. Bram and Willem are active in greater Tilburg. Especially in the rural communities, boys are mainly focused on soccer, and girls on other sports. The parents stimulate their children in this. There are expectations set, something youth has to deal with. I can relate, as I was also forced to join a soccer team even though I was much more inclined to artistic matters.
This also has to do with acceptance, as you have to tell your environment that you want different things than what your environment expects of you. Bram and Willem notice that young people do not have the courage for that. They fear their social circle’s response and therefore hide their feelings.
Could our educational system play a role in this?
“That is a good question. There is a clear difference between rural and urban communities. In urban communities, they are more focussed on diversity. The schools in rural communities are largely Caucasian schools with some immigrants, but not many. At a number of schools, their religious foundation and associated rules take centre stage. This sometimes complicates the acceptance and integration of other ways of life. They rather not have a gay teacher telling them a different kind of story. "
"However, it is important that this will be considered normal in the future. Standard sexual health education is still focussed on straight behavior - ‘You have a man, a woman, they can do it together. Use condoms, and that’s it.’ However, this should be changed in ‘people have feelings for other people, male or female.’ That would almost bring about the preferred situation, since nobody has to come out of the closet anymore. Although sex education is now mandatory, half of GLBT youths say that GLBTI education has not been given at secondary school, according to a 2015 survey by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research.”
It reminds me of what a friend recently told me, that her daughter came home and told her that she had fallen in love with a person.
“Yes, and we notice that with youth, as social media is global. Young people quickly become worldly-wise. What I like is that not only gay young people, but other young people as well say that they’re in love with a certain person. They don’t necessarily assume that you have to fall in love with the opposite sex. That is acceptance and progress, to a certain extent. It may exist between young people, but that is it. A student must be accepted in his or her choice. We share this in schools where especially older teachers are happy with this simple approach, even though their upbringing was different from ours.”
Some work clearly still needs to be done. With colleague practitioners, with whom Bram and Willem work in the region, it is natural that they bring their new approach to them. To them, it is just the way it is. The mental health institutions become more accessible this way, with higher scores for client satisfaction. It is something they should be proud of.
So these are cases involving boys who come with a request for help that requires coaching. Yet there are also young people who are suicidal and have attempted suicide, or youth that is severely depressed because they are not accepted as gay by their environment. Consequently, their treatment is focussed on dealing with trauma. They are currently very much focused on gay boys, because the demand in this group is high. This could change in the near future.
Today’s young people carry the world in their pocket in the form of a smartphone. About being in love, many say, “I haven’t met anyone yet." Bram and Willem work with Instagram to get and stay in touch with young people, because they learn as much from them as they do the other way around.
“Roses are not as beautiful as are your cheeks,
Tulips not as tender as your naked feet are,
And in no eyes I read more of,
Such an immense longing for friendship.”
(Jacob Israël de Haan)
“Such an immense longing for friendship” is timeless indeed.
www.seksengezond.nl, advice, coaching and psychological treatment.
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