There are two things on the net recently which I think back me up on this.
One is the outpouring of Facebook support for a young male of indeterminate age looking sad and making the statement that he's homosexual and is worried that people won't like him.
I find it remarkable that (as far as I can see) no media outlet dealing with it has questioned the delicate matter of the age of the boy. The reason is pretty obviously because it has become terribly, terribly politically incorrect to question whether a person is clearly understanding their own sexuality, regardless of their age. (And sure, there are some people in threads following reports on this who are questioning whether the kid is "jumping the gun" here, but my point is that journalists seem loathe to raise the matter.)
Some media reports put him as a "young teen", which many would say is an age at which the sexuality self identification may very well be established. Apparently, the Facebook site he appears on never reveals age, so it is all a guessing game. (It's very hard to be sure, but I would say he is pre-teen.) To some commenting about him, he could be as young as 7 or 8, and the issue of at what age kids clearly understand their sexuality simply doesn't matter to them.
I know this for sure as I was listening to a discussion of the Facebook post on local ABC radio yesterday, where the two people specifically thought he looked all of 7 or 8, and the matter of whether he fully understood self identification as homosexual at that age was simply not an issue to them at all.
So, at what age do most adult gay people say they realised they were gay? I've heard it said in a couple of places lately (one was Julia Zamiro - a dislike of whom I find impossible to fathom - talking to British comedian - who I don't find very funny - Matt Lucas, who came across as much more likeable than I expected) that it was a case of waiting for an expected attraction to the opposite sex to develop as a teen, but it never arrived. I think this makes some sense, and appears confirmed by some survey evidence:
A national survey of 1,752 college students found:
48% of self-identified gay and bisexual college students became aware of their sexual preference in high school while 26% found their true sexuality in college
Allowing for the fact that there may well be a bit of retrospective revision going on here (where what at the time of grade school was an understanding that they were different, with a later identification that it was homosexuality) I think it seems pretty safe to say that a clear self identification as homosexual at the age of 7 or 8 is quite unusual. Dare I say, but it may not even be entirely reliable.
20% of self-identified gay and bisexual men knew that they were gay or bisexual in junior high school, and 17% said they knew in grade school
6% of self-identified gay or bisexual women knew that they were gay or bisexual in junior high school, and 11% knew in grade school."
So why do people not factor that in to their response to this story? It's clearly a case of an over-reaction to previous conservative shaming or even criminalization of homosexuality, but can't people see an over-reaction when it's in front of them?
The second story is the terribly interesting one about the attack a decade ago on J Michael Bailey, who questioned whether all transexuals' self understanding was really accurate. This is dealt with in a recent book which is mentioned on Greg Laden's blog, but I first read about this via a link earlier this year from Jason Soon to some (I think, conservative?) site that had a lengthy interview with Bailey. Bailey's theory, as explained by him, sounded quite plausible to me, and I meant to link to it at the time but forgot to.
I see that Bailey is probably continuing to upset the transgender activists by weighing in on the "Caitlyn Jenner" kerfuffle, where, again, it is viewed as completely improper to question the self reporting of transexuals as to how they got there, so to speak. Here's Bailey talking about it:
WT: Do you believe that Caitlyn Jenner is autogynephilic? If so, why?Well, that'll upset the transgender support movement, which appears to be reaching some sort of zenith at the moment in the West.
MB: I believe it is very likely that Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was motivated by intense autogynephilia. I believe this because the best science suggests there are two completely different reasons why natal males become women: because they are feminine androphiles (lovers of men) or because they are autogynephilic. Jenner’s history shows none of the former and is very consistent with the latter. I refer specifically to his previous heterosexual marriages and secretive crossdressing.
WT. She says she always had gender dysphoria and that there was no erotic component. Would she say this if she were autogynephilic? Why?
MB: Autogynephilic individuals experience gender dysphoria, typically beginning in adolescence, when their intense erotic longing for female characteristics almost always begins. There is evidence (John Bancroft published an article long ago) showing that after changing sex, some show memory distortion. They begin to assert that their gender dysphoria began in early childhood and was far more overt than they had alleged before. They also deemphasize the erotic component, even if they admitted it before. I think they do this for at least two reasons: shame (because: sex is involved) and the desire to believe they really have the brains of women (as Jenner suggests she does–um, how does she know that?). I think also that Jenner (and others in the spotlight) likely enjoys the media spotlight, and the mainstream media loves the “was always a woman trapped in a man’s body” story and can’t deal with the “experienced intense sexual arousal when crossdressing or imagining I had a woman’s body” story.
WT: If Jenner doesn’t want people to think her transition was due to autogynephilia, why shouldn’t we just go along?
MB: This inaccurate denial of autogynephilia is not for the good, because being honest could help lots of males struggling with their autogynephilia. (And there are lots who are.) It might help them understand themselves. It might help them accept themselves. It would at least say “Autogynephilia is nothing to be ashamed of.” I would say that people who admit and deal with their autogynephilia are even admirable.
Falsely misrepresenting one’s gender issues is also bad for science. It’s not good for people to believe false things merely because journalists don’t want to go certain places. Even among scientists, too many don’t bother to learn about the relevant literature and just listen to transgender people’s explanations (“I have the brain of a woman.”). This leads to bad scientific studies and ideas.
Update: Some survey results from 2013 in the US (although not with all that many participants) indicates that relatively few adult gays find their sexuality is a "negative" factor.