By an Anonymous Queer Student
Content warning: mention of sexual assault, mention of drug use.
Hello, I am a high schooler, currently in the process of becoming an adult (I’m 18). I feel so grateful for this opportunity to get my voice published, because youth are so often silenced. To be honest youth are an oppressed marginalized group, but there is a massive lack of cognizance around this issue.
Bottom line: kids are abused and taken advantage of by adults constantly, they have little autonomy over their own bodies, choices, or life, and are disrespected by adults all the time. I feel like I need to take this opportunity I have been given and this platform for youth perspectives to highlight this injustice.
I am queer and non-binary. I have lived in Portland my entire life, and literally all my friends are queer. I’d like to say we have a thriving population here.
“There really isn’t a way to justify pursuing young teens when you’re in your 20s.”
I can see so many of my friends and people in my community are seriously devoted to being good human beings and creating safe spaces for those who are marginalized, like ourselves. Many of us are disabled, mentally and/or physically. Lots of us are poor or broke. Many of us struggle with addiction. Many of us are survivors—of abuse, sexual assault, or rape. These key pieces of our identities are invisible in many cases, so us youths are seriously lacking in support from adults.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to some disillusioning realizations. For instance, when I was younger, I’d say about 11–16, I thought that being with older people and experimenting with drugs made me and my friends more mature. That’s how the older people taking advantage of us justified it. Really we were just kids (smart and cool kids mind you).
There really isn’t a way to justify pursuing young teens when you’re in your 20s. Now that me and a lot of my friends are the ages of a lot of those older people (16–22), I realize how unhealthy those dynamics are, and how significant those age gaps can be. There is this delayed trauma I’m seeing. Even if you think you’re consenting to things—like sex or drugs—with older people, the severity of those situations can really hit you later on. You start to see the ways you’ve been manipulated and damaged, and how many adults punished you for it or failed to support you.
“This whole mess just makes us afraid to talk to adults when we are struggling.”
I am very frustrated with my new found wisdoms. I wish more adults had educated me on these concepts from an early age. I think a lot of adults think that if you are a “good kid” (which most are) you don’t have issues, or they think it isn’t their place to talk to someone else’s kid. But we are not the property of our parents. Support the young people in your life—they don’t have to be “yours.”
This whole mess just makes us afraid to talk to adults when we are struggling. Especially in schools where there are zero tolerance policies around drugs, and teachers are required to report anything illegal to police (like statutory rape). Plus queer kids often don’t have trusting relationships with their parents. If you are in a position to support a young person, there is a good chance that you may be the only adult they can turn to.
In Oregon, where sex ed is actually more comprehensive than a lot of the country, it’s still failing Oregon youth. Growing up afab all my life I’ve heard, “You are too young to date.” I was always told never to get myself “knocked up.” Meanwhile, two-thirds of pregnant teens were impregnated by someone over the age of 20. I wonder who teaches kids and men not to have sex with youth when they’re in their 20s?
I did not learn about statutory rape or consent from my teachers or parents. In fact, in the media, among celebrities, and in my personal life, large age gaps are common. Adults need to wisen up if this cycle of trauma is going to end, and stop failing youth.