Blake Kanewischer

June 1997

Well, I must confess, I'm a little at a loss about what to write this month. So, I'm gonna write, and we'll see when I decide to end the column!

Here's one I don't think I've seen addressed -- breakups. Now, I have to admit, I'm a relative veteran of these things -- I've broken up with five boyfriends and one girlfriend. As a peer counselor, this is one of the issues I deal with the most. Especially among gay and lesbian youth, it's a really tough thing, because they generally have two major contributing factors to increase stress over relationships (compared to the straight population): They cannot rely on familial / friend support networks as frequently, if at all; and they frequently have to deal with their own sexual identity issues, which exacerbate the problem.

Families of straight children tend to be quite supportive of their child's dating at the appropriate age -- certainly most parents are more than willing to let their child date around age 16 to 18. If they break up with their boy/girlfriend, parents are generally quite understanding about these things -- after all, they generally have dated (and broken up with) people before their most recent love of their life. In fact, many of today's parents are experiencing divorce and marriage -- even more traumatizing, in terms of the depth of commitment (theoretically). So, you've got straight parents who have "been there, done that" when their straight kid breaks up.

They'll be able to offer their perspective on the matter and perhaps (if they're really rockin' cool parents) even offer a shoulder to lean on or (heaven forbid!) a reassuring hug. Now, contrast this to the parents of a gay child. Chances are he or she isn't out to her/his parents. Strike one. How many parents have broken up with someone of the same sex? Strike two. Worse yet, the kid, even if he/she is out to her/his friends, what are the chances they're 100% comfortable dealing with a same-sex breakup? Strike three...you're out! In short, the deck is stacked heavily against gay kids breaking up with support from family and friends.

That brings me to issue number two. When gay and lesbian teenagers and youths break up, they frequently question their sexual identity as a result. Their thought pattern works along the lines of "If I'm gay, why did I just break up with such a great gal/guy?"..."If I broke up with a gal/guy, that must mean I shouldn't be dating guys/gals...so I'm straight!" This is an issue that straight people don't have to face...they're inundated with straight sexuality from day one. The natural assumption is that they're straight -- and all the structures within society gravitate towards that. On the other hand, kids who have gone through a difficult period in their life to figure out that they might be gay/lesbian and who think they've solved the problem, really haven't been inundated with gay and lesbian sexuality long enough to be secure in it. Thus, they tend to doubt their self-assessment.

So, that's kinda boring and academic-like. Let's make it practical, relevant, and useful. How *do* you go about breaking up with someone and keeping the "post-relationship" relationship a good one? The last two boyfriends I've broken up with (one a fellow Oasis columnist) and I are still good friends. In fact, if I were to get married tomorrow, they'd both be my best men. So, how did we manage to keep our friendships alive after the breakup? First, I was completely honest about the reasons why I was breaking up with them. In one case, sad to say, I cheated. In the other, I had trouble dealing with the gender identity of my boyfriend. Second, we kept talking...this was hard to do in one case, but after a couple weeks of relative "deep freeze," we got back to normal. Third, we had shared quite a bit as boyfriends -- in fact, they both know several things about me which very few other people know, not to mention there was mutual love and trust between us -- use that to your advantage!

So, just try to keep an even keel and be honest and not vindictive. If you should need help dealing with the ramifications of a breakup, go to the IRC channel #gayteen and ask for help...there are lots of people who have been there.

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