Did You Have Good Role Models Growing Up? Many Queer Kids Don't
Updated: Feb 11
Imagine If George Santos Was The Only Role Model You Had!
A very old friend of mine is one of the most distinguished psychologists dealing with LGBTQ clients in the New York metropolitan area. I asked him to take a look at the George Santos Newsmax interview (above) and give me a quick off the cuff assessment based on that and any bits and pieces he may have picked up from the news on Santos. (He hasn’t been following the case diligently.) After he watched the clip he free associated:
He obfuscates, he shimmies, his eyes twitch and close out reality as he responds or shows lack of response— literally watch him take mini-naps as he shuts out unpleasant questions. He dissociates, and circumvents as part of his character makeup— clearly a personality disorder; admits to lying about his education because he couldn’t be a congressman without the degree!!! Well, hello— these are the dues you pay. He denies any insecurity and never addresses the issues of why he would lie— what goal it serves other than the college degree…
A person like that lives with deep shame embedded in self-hatred. I will never be loved for who I am is his core belief, so I must lie is his impaired thinking. And then he goes on a preoccupied ritualization of compartmentalization— the parts of his life don’t touch each other. He does not feel touchable, no one wants to touch him yet he seduces everyone to touch him, to see the false self.
(Maybe he can be productive — at least that is what he implies— he’s getting work done— really?)
He never came to terms with his true self— one only wonders about his parenting— loved only for what he would become, never for who he was; parents who looked away— or who engulfed him so that he is in a hot pursuit of rebellion, pushing them away, telling everyone to go fuck themselves— I’ll show you!
Rage, rage, rage in his hostile treatment of a world he both yearns to be part of and which he has contempt for… contempt by a contemptuous person— a hollow man.
Sexuality— what has that to do with it? Maybe roots of depersonalizing from himself; and then embracing the extremes (drag queen) to falsely show a faux acceptance— of his own sexuality… I am not lovable, I am narcissistic— self aggrandizing, yet the flip side of narcissism is self-loathing, no empathy only using others for his pursuit of his ends… Never lights on truth— like a butterfly or a hummingbird— suck up the juice and flee fast.
Hopefully, Santos will never be a role model for LGBTQ kids, not even conservative ones. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Jamal Jordan noted that LGBTQ youth want role models. He spoke with queer elders who have a lot of advice. Jordan noted that in his own years growing up queer, he had no “possibility models.” He wrote that he “had never seen— in real life or media— positive reflections of what it meant to grow old as a member of the LGBT+ community. Growing up in the shadow of a generation of gay men who were lost to the AIDS epidemic, I longed for something that said: You can grow old. Life will be okay. The challenge of generational isolation is common in today’s queer youth. Young queer people without positive role models are at much higher risk for ‘psychological distress’ in their adolescence and depression in adulthood.”
When the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides information and crisis support to LGBTQ youth, asked young people what brings them joy, respondents consistently pointed toward examples of the future. They cited things such as, “Happy LGBT Elders,” “Queer role models” and “Learning I’m not alone and that there are more people like me” as sources of hope.
This exchange of hope goes both ways: Many older queer adults enjoy sharing their stories with younger people.
“When I talk to older people, they often feel forgotten, invisible,” says Michael Adams, chief executive of SAGE, the country’s largest LGBTQ+ aging organization. “A large part of that is because they often have no connections to young people. They have no sense that younger generations care about what they have to say and what they’ve done.”
A wide array of research suggests that finding ways to transfer wisdom from generation to generation is vital to improving the overall health of the LGBTQ community. This summer, I visited with five queer seniors across New York City to hear their stories.
The rest of Jordan's story— his talks with several elderly LGBTQ men and women— is good reading and I recommend it. But I decided to ask Two political figures active in the LGBTQ community, southern California Congressman Mark Takano and southern California congressional candidate, Dom Jones. Takano, a co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ caucus, told me this morning that in his "youth, my sexuality gave me doubts about my ability to realize my calling in life. I came of age during the 1980s, a decade that put the LGBTQ community in the crosshairs of an AIDS epidemic that spawned fear and blame. Though I met gay mentors in college like future Congressman Barney Frank, I had thoughts like, 'I wish I were different' and 'Could I change?' I suffered because of my doubts, and my family and friends suffered too. An intervention by my brother changed the course of my life. I realized that I wasn’t going to change, and that it was irresponsible to want to change who I was. I was able to move forward, and reach where I am today, by understanding that being gay was a reality-- not only to be accepted-- but to be proud of."
Dom Jones is an exciting and independent-minded progressive candidate running for Congress in Orange County. "Growing up as a Black, Queer woman in America," she told me last night, "was a journey that taught me the importance of self-discovery, acceptance, and representation. As a young girl, I felt like I was constantly being told that I was not enough and that my experiences were invalid. This led to feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and a sense of not belonging. It was not until I reached adulthood that— with the help of a mentor— I found the courage to embrace my true self. She helped me blossom into accepting myself as a Queer woman who related to the world in a non-traditional way. I’m sure I would have benefited tremendously from having that kind of guidance sooner."
"Young people," she continued, "currently have more role models, inspiration, and potential mentors, but we must work much harder to create a world where everyone feels valued and accepted, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. It is essential that young people are provided resources and support, so that they can explore their identities and understand their worth. I want to remind young people that every person has a fundamental right to live the truth of who they are, unapologetically and proudly. As hard as it may be sometimes, there’s nothing better than living life authentically, I can attest."
Please consider contributing to Dom's campaign by clicking here or on her photograph above. The conservatives running against her are a bunch of multimillionaires and corporate shills. She's neither. Nor, I can guarantee you, will she, as a member of Congress, be anything like this circus of non-role models who just completed their first week of showing what Kevin McCarthy's House committees are going to be like for the next two years. It was worse than you probably imagined it would be: