In an abstract for the 2019 World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children submitted by Terence Friedrichs (U.S.), Fiona Smith (Australia), Frans Corten (Netherlands), Susan Jackson and Orla Dunne (Canada), it was described that, “Gifted LGBTQ youth are safer and happier in some parts of the world than they have been in previous times. Yet, depending on their nation and sector of their country, these youth face very different situations in terms of the extent to which they have access to resources that empirically-supported research has shown to be necessary, including physical safety, psychological support, teaching role models, LGBTQ curriculum, and professional learning for their educators to support all of these elements”. This is unsurprising given the range of geopolitical and religious beliefs, but is a clear and blatant reminder of the need to advocate for change.
It is certainly a starting point that some “Educators and researchers have acknowledged identity issues associated with GTC [gifted, talented and creative] children and young adults. Those labelled as gifted often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, and may choose solitude over socialization ... For those who desire social contact, gifted students may reject their label [in order] to fit in with non-gifted peers ... [while] LGBTIQ students must function in school environments where they would like people to accept their true identities. Nonetheless, teachers and parents frequently inform them—directly and indirectly—of the intolerability of their true identities” (Wexelbaum and Hoover, 2014). I feel the need to note here, that on a personal level, the term “issues” really grates with me as it is a loaded term.
Wexelbaum and Hoover suggest that “GTC [gifted, talented and creative] students who find it difficult to relate to their peers - particularly the highly gifted - may fall in love with someone of the same sex with whom they share common interests and the same worldview”, something which I would dare to suggest underpins most relationships disregarding gender or sexual identity. What troubles me though is the suggestion that gifted young people feeling isolated, misunderstood and lonely is so prevalent and, even more worrisome, the belief held by many among this group of adolescents and young adults, that sexual activity is a way to somehow shift beyond this.
What I take from this is the urgency for facilitating opportunities that support our young people to a) develop deeper levels of understanding of self, and b) recognise shared experiences with those who are gifted, those who are LGBTIQ+, and those with duality, and c) appreciate what healthy relationships look, sound, and feel like.
Another perspective worthy of awareness is that from those who have desisted from a transgender identity, also referred to as detransitioning. Lisa Marciano (2017) cites a higher than expected prevalence of transitioning among those with Aspergers, shedding light on an array of research as well as experiences from those in the field. Further to this, is an equally poignant finding that a larger than expected proportion of those autistics who have transitioned tend, after some time, to detransition. She proposes some unique attributes of those with autism and/or whom are gifted, that she believes contributes to these phenomenon.
Many of these are aspects already covered in this blog, however some not yet considered here include: an awareness of difference from an early age (read a seminal piece from Miraca Gross on this); propensity for being bullied for being different and subsequent attempts of escapism from bullying via transition; the existential thinking common to gifted learners which leads to questioning everything, as highlighted in the quote below; as well as the roles of perfectionism and anxiety.
“In reality, most GTC [gifted, talented, creative] students think outside the box and most will challenge what a teacher or peer presents as “the facts” if they have read, experienced, or discovered something different” - Wexelbaum and Hoover, 2014
Again, these are important aspects we need to consider when we are seeking to wrap supports around our young gifted LGBTIQ+ kids for the purposes of promoting good health, positive development and wellbeing.
So where to from here then? Well, the American National Association for Gifted Children have compiled a fabulous ‘gifted LGBTQ toolbox’ which is freely available to use. I highly recommend you take the time to explore this rich resource as you being to consider, having engaged in the contents of this blog, what the impacts on your practice might be,