“Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity” by Mary Robertson— Young and Queer Today

Robertson Mary. “Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity”, NYU Press, 2018.

Young and Queer Today

Amos Lassen

In “Growing Up Queer”, Mary Robertson looks at the changing ways that young people are now becoming LGBT-identified in the US. “Through interviews and three years of ethnographic research at an LGBTQ youth drop-in center, Robertson focuses on the voices and stories of youths themselves in order to show how young people understand their sexual and gender identities, their interest in queer media, and the role that family plays in their lives.”

 The young people who participated in this research are from the first generation to embrace queer identities as children and adolescents. It is through them that we see how sexual and gender identities are formed through complicated, ambivalent processes as opposed to being natural characteristics that one is born with. We also see how young people navigate queerness within a culture where being gay is the “new normal.” Using Sara Ahmed’s concept of queer orientation, Robertson argues that being queer is not just about one’s sexual and/or gender identity, but is understood through intersecting identities including race, class, ability, and more. In showing how society accepts some kinds of LGBTQ-identified people while rejecting others, we get evidence of queerness as a site of social inequality. This is not just an oversimplified examination of teenage sexuality and it shows, through the voices of young people themselves, the complicated terrain of queer adolescence.

 Robertson examines how youth today form queer identities and she does so with clarity and detail. Robertson tells the story of growing up queer and the community organizations and institutions that help today’s LGBT youth. She documents the new ways queer is being embodied, experienced, and democratized by LGBTQ+ youth. This is written with a critical self-reflexivity regarding her own identity statuses showing us how queer young adults are neither simply resilient in the face of homophobic harassment nor precariously at risk for Rather, Robertson documents the complicated ways queer youth thrive and deal with their social experiences in a supportive space. This supportive space permits and welcomes queer youth group to “explore their gender and sexual fluidity, embrace the trans-affirmative practice of stating preferred gender pronouns, and to simply connect to one another.”

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