Book review: LGBT Youth Issues Today, David E. Newton

LGBT Youth Issues TodayNewton, David E. LGBT Youth Issues Today: A Reference Handbook. [Contemporary World Issues Series]. ABC-Clio. 2014. $55. 318p. HC. 978-1-61069-315-8.

Literature on LGBT youth prior to the 21st century in both monograph and article form was extremely sparse and often took the form of studies of homosexual teens within a counseling or education context, the latter first appearing in the middle and later 1990s. Even such major reference works in LGBT studies as the LGBT Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History in America (Scribner’s 2004) and LGBTQ America Today (Greenwood, 2009) mention youth as a part of the community but fail to examine their needs and condition in substantial detail.

Part of the Contemporary World Issues series produced by ABC-CLIO, this new volume illustrates the growing maturation of LGBT community attitudes toward youth of all gender identifications, the recognition of problems and challenges specific to them, and the acceptance of responsibility for them as the future. The author notes in the preface that “ the purpose of this book is to review what is known about the role of LGBT youth in history and the way societal attitudes have shifted over the past century on this issue“ (p.xvii ).

The text opens with a section on “Background and History” that examines the ways in which various cultures from the Sumerians to contemporary time shave regarded same-sex relationships, the process of creating an LGBT community and its culture, and the question of where and how LGBT youth fit into this larger picture. Particularly useful is the discussion of the evolution of the meaning of words used to describe and discuss LGBT people, from “sex” and “gender” through the classic “homosexual” up to the many-faceted “queer.”

The content of the second chapter, “Problems, Controversies and Solutions,” will be more familiar ground for anyone who has heard or dealt with youth and LGBT issues. It covers bullying, coming out (to oneself and family, friends, and peers and the consequences of each), school issues, homelessness, and suicide. This is balanced by the third chapter which presents eight essays written by LGBT people who offer their personal “Perspectives” and give depth to the more formal discussion. The fourth section, “Profiles,” offers a sampling of 32 organizations and individuals, some deceased, who have been involved with LGBT youth. They range from familiar groups such as the ACLU, PFLAG, GLAAD, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to Dan Savage’s ItGets Better project and some lesser known groups such as Campus Pride and the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.

The complex and sometimes tangled contemporary legal and statistical record of the LGBT youth population is clearly presented in the fifth chapter, “Data and Document.” This title is slightly misleading, as the “Data” portion is only five pages long but references government sources and research studies done between 2011 and 2013. The remainder of the chapter provides the chief legal points of six court cases adjudicated between 1969 and 2001, including the suit against the Boy Scouts of America.

Books, articles and Internet websites, and full-text documents in the last section, “Resources for Further Research,” are all post-2000. Hidden at the very end of the book is a chronology of significant events in LGBT history, not all related to younger people, and a valuable glossary of 46 terms widely used in literature on LGBT youth ranging from such classic terms as androgyne to the contemporary abbreviations for transsexuals.

To his credit, the author has a massive number of reference works as either author or consulting editor, including the earlier work for ABC-CLIO, Gay and Lesbian Rights: A Resource Handbook (1994, 2009) and the 2010 volume Same-Sex Marriage: A Reference Handbook. The work is well organized and should be available in libraries from high school through college.

Reviewer: Robert Ridinger
Founders Memorial Library, Northern Illinois University

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