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The New Gay Teenager

The New Gay Teenager

Ritch C. Savin-Williams

ISBN 9780674022560

Publication date: 11/30/2006

Gay, straight, bisexual: how much does sexual orientation matter to a teenager’s mental health or sense of identity? In this down-to-earth book, filled with the voices of young people speaking for themselves, Ritch Savin-Williams argues that the standard image of gay youth presented by mental health researchers—as depressed, isolated, drug-dependent, even suicidal—may have been exaggerated even twenty years ago, and is far from accurate today.

The New Gay Teenager gives us a refreshing and frequently controversial introduction to confident, competent, upbeat teenagers with same-sex desires, who worry more about the chemistry test or their curfew than they do about their sexuality. What does “gay” mean, when some adolescents who have had sexual encounters with those of their own sex don’t consider themselves gay, when some who consider themselves gay have had sex with the opposite sex, and when many have never had sex at all? What counts as “having sex,” anyway? Teenagers (unlike social science researchers) are not especially interested in neatly categorizing their sexual orientation.

In fact, Savin-Williams learns, teenagers may think a lot about sex, but they don’t think that sexuality is the most important thing about them. And adults, he advises, shouldn’t think so either.


  • That there has been a sea change in attitudes about sexual minorities in the past few generations is not news. What is remarkable, however, is the growing nonchalance of contemporary adolescents about their own sexuality. Savin-Williams, a pioneer in the study of sexual minority youth and the author of several groundbreaking books, admits that ‘gay’ may be a misnomer for the teens he interviewed. Many reject labels altogether and prefer to see themselves as free agents. Savin-Williams, likewise, rejects the developmental-stage ideas of sexual identity that have dominated psychological theory for over 30 years. Most important, by carefully listening to the experiences of the teenagers, he confirms what many other observers have noted: the generation coming of age now has increasingly open ideas about sexuality that will likely create huge cultural shifts in the coming decades.

    —David S. Azzolina, Library Journal


  • Ritch C. Savin-Williams is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 0-3/4 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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