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Gifted and Gay* Youth *Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) A Panel Discussion Sponsored by Boulder Valley Gifted and Talented www.BVGT.org.

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Presentation on theme: "Gifted and Gay* Youth *Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) A Panel Discussion Sponsored by Boulder Valley Gifted and Talented www.BVGT.org."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gifted and Gay* Youth *Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) A Panel Discussion Sponsored by Boulder Valley Gifted and Talented What We can Learn from Some of the Research Findings Gifted and Gay: The Adolescent Experience, Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D. Beyond Analysis by Gender: Overexcitability Dimensions of Sexually Diverse Populations and Implications for Gifted Education Alena R Treat, Ph.D. Barbara Mitchell Hutton Thursday, December 3, 2009 Boulder Valley School District

2 GIFTED AND GAY: A Study of the Adolescent Experience Jean Sunde Peterson Gifted Child Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4, (2000) A r etrospective study of 18 gay, lesbian, or bisexual young adults who self identified as both gifted and gay/lesbian/bisexual (12 male, 6 female) Some Results Depression and Self Destructive Behavior  Feelings of differentness and isolation with a variety of different factors: social awkwardness, level of maturity, ability and interests, depression and behavioral choice. Some mentioned sexual orientation as contributing to social awkwardness, some mentioned shame and guilt  Positive experiences in school when discussion of issues related to GLBT and validation of sexual orientation as important to understand and explore  Negative experiences not necessarily associated with overt hostility – uncomfortable atmosphere or perceived lack of support  61% reported they had felt in danger at some time whether directed specifically or by inference – from both students and teachers  83% (15) reported depression during Jr. High/high school; 28%(12) reported improvement after grade 10  72% (13) reported being suicidal during Jr. High/High school; 80% (12) of those feeling depression discussed it with friend, counselor or both; 33% told parents; 0% told teachers  85% (11) of those reporting suicide ideation talked with friends or counselor or both, none with teachers and 31% (4) with parents Sexual-Identity Formation  Half reported awareness by the end of elementary school; all but one convinced by grade 11; attraction, crushes, dreams, personal journals, “not just a passing phase”; Self analysis, perceived pressure fear and either –or thinking resulted  Half responded with behavior – becoming ultra hetero, depressed, anti-gay, achievement/involvement  Half identified a absence of attraction/interest in other gender

3 GIFTED AND GAY: A Study of the Adolescent Experience Jean Sunde Peterson Gifted Child Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4, (2000) Continued (2/3) Other Developmental Aspects  Academics:  High achievement became outlet or balance for 78% (14)  22% (4) who became underachievers in high school became achievers in college  Social Development:  High school better than junior high  33% (4) felt they went downhill socially in high school; 58% (7) felt “OK; 17% (2) continued to pass as straight  Special Needs as Gifted Adolescents  Considerable reference to hyper-sensitivity regarding labels, homophobia, fear of the future, narrowing field of possible friends and relationships; Most reported using intelligence proactively – writing, humor, political activism, creativity, debate Coming Out  For most (72%) coming out at 18 or older considered with leaving home and was preceded by depression and stress  Parents of 33% (6) were supportive initially or with time; 61% (11) had supportive peers; 61% reported good relations since high school Strategies for Support  Recommendations to educators from GLB participants - three comments are typical: "Know there's so much going on in their heads." "They need role models." "There is almost no support for coming out of the closet.“

4 GIFTED AND GAY: A Study of the Adolescent Experience Jean Sunde Peterson Gifted Child Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4, (2000) Continued (Page 3 of 3)  Specific Suggestions to Educators:  "Let them know they're OK." "Let them know they are not 'bad,' 'evil,' 'sick."‘  "Let them know they're not alone. To have known even one gay person would have helped, or to have had famous or respected people come out of the closet, or to have had the gay-friendly movies of the last few years"; "I wish I had had a couple of other gays I could ask the questions I had"; "When students read Tennessee Williams, mention his sexuality, if for no other reason than to know it's out there."  "Entertain the reality of gayness more. I wish all educators could look out at a classroom with an understanding that there probably are GLB students-who are proud, scared, confused, in love with someone of the same gender, lonely.“  "Be alert to the possibility that sexual orientation may be the reason for someone's being suicidal, being involved with substance abuse, or dropping out.“  "Treat them with compassion. They have rough lives. It's amazing any of them survive.“  "Never show disappointment or dismissal of youths' sexual feelings.“  "Challenge their over involvement. I suppose I was such a model student that they didn't feel an urge to change anything."  "Ask, 'Is my classroom safe, respectful?"‘  "Stop the name-calling in the classroom. Say something!“  GLB Issues and Gifted Education "Gifted education, in my experience, has been open to controversial issues. Therefore, it seems there would be room to explore these issues.“ "I think gifted education would be a good place to explore sexuality concerns because of the greater ability of students to think through the subject.“ "Gifted GLB students who aren't secure in themselves are at great risk for suicide and other emotional problems. Not everybody had the liberal, confidence-raising family that I did.“ "Many people who realize their homosexuality at a young age are gifted.“ "There are a lot of us."

5 Beyond Analysis by Gender: Overexcitability Dimensions of Sexually Diverse Populations and Implications for Gifted Education Alena R Treat, Ph.D. Copyrighted Dissertation December 2008 Sample of 965 participants completed OEII and BEN Sex Role Inventory; 61.8% (596) identified as gifted; 38.2% (369) identified as general education; 32.2% (311) male and 67.8% (654) female; 20.5% (198) Gay, 19.1% (184) Bisexual, 60.4% (583) heterosexual; 12.3% (119) Gifted Gay individuals, 14.4% (139) Gifted Bisexuals, 35.0% (338) Gifted Heterosexuals, 8.2% (79) General Education Gay individuals, 4.7% (45) General Education Bisexuals, and 25.4% (245) General Ed Heterosexuals DABROWSKI’S OVEREXCITABILITIES Psychomotor: Heightened excitability or personal energy level (Piechowski, 2006) of the neuromuscular system Sensual: Heightened experience, or sensory aliveness (Piechowski,2006) from sensual input emanating from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). Intellectual: Intellectual aliveness (Piechowski, 2006) or heightened need to seek understanding/truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991) Imaginational: Highly excitable imagination (Piechowski, 2006) or heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams. Emotional: Emotional aliveness (Piechowski, 2006) or heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings and strong affective expression (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Piechowski, 1991). Dabrowski perceived personality development as emotional development (Piechowski, 2006).

6 Beyond Analysis by Gender: Overexcitability Dimensions of Sexually Diverse Populations and Implications for Gifted Education Alena R Treat, Ph.D. Copyrighted Dissertation December 2008 Continued (Page 2/2)  ONLY the Gender*Sexual orientation interaction effect was statistically significant  Sexual Orientation Main Effect:  Bisexuals scored significantly higher than heterosexuals  Intellectual: Gay – Bisexual – Heterosexual –  Imaginational: Gay – Bisexual – Heterosexual –  Emotional: Gay – Bisexual – Heterosexual –  Sensual: Gay – Bisexual – 3.82 Heterosexual –  Psychomotor: No statistical significance  Gender PLUS Sexual Orientation was significant in four Overexcitabilities  Intellectual: Bisexual females and heterosexual males scored higher than heterosexual females who scored the lowest;  Imaginational: Bisexual females, gay females, gay males and bisexual males scored higher than heterosexual males and heterosexual females  Emotional: Gay females, bisexual females, heterosexual females, and gay males scored higher than heterosexual males  Sensual: Bisexual females scored higher than heterosexual females; Gay females and bisexual females scored higher than heterosexual males; gay males and females and bisexual female and male scored higher than heterosexual of both genders  Psychomotor: No statistical significance  Unexpected outcome:  The number of participants identifying as gifted and bisexual and/or gay exceeds the predicted.1-.3 % prediction of percentage of gay individuals in the general population. This begs the question: Do gay/bisexual individuals represent a larger percent of the gifted population than traditional statistical extrapolation would suggest?

7 BARBARA MITCHELL HUTTON’S CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS (The following represents my view only. Although incubated and influenced by my review of numerous research articles and writing about the juxtaposition of the gifted, gay and overexcitabilities phenomena's, no one else should be held accountable or responsible for these conclusions!)  Gifted gay/bisexual/transgendered youth are an at-risk population requiring accommodations and modification of multiple aspects of the learning environment to create an environment of personal/self recognition and acceptance, and institutional support of this twice exceptional group;  Trent’s research supports numerous other researchers and writers - sited in her work as well as the work of Peterson and others - regarding the high incidence and correlation of over excitabilities as typical characteristics of gifted, gay and bisexual individuals. Transgendered individuals were not identified as a group in this study nor Petersons. I am making a leap in assuming that at least some of these finding would transfer to this group as well.  The occurrence of emotional, imaginational, sensual and intellectual overexcitabilities falls within the range of normal for gifted and gay/bisexual individuals;  A purposeful and intentional effort should be made by school systems, school administrators and others to inform educators, counselors, parents and others interacting with gifted learners about overexcitabilities;  A purposeful and intentional effort should be made by school systems, school administrators, teachers, parents, counselors and others to educate gifted individuals about overexcitabilities beginning at least in middle school through the high school years when it appears gay, bisexual and transgendered young people appear to be struggling most with their sexual identity and face the greatest pressure for conformity to the heterosexual norm;  Continued effort should be made to create and maintain a place of physical and emotional safety and to offer a role models for gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals through, among other means, curricula modifications, hiring for diversity, mentorship programs and leadership training.


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