Minor Disregard: The Legal Construction of the Fantasy that Gay and Lesbian Youth Do Not Exist

64 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2014 Last revised: 13 Nov 2014

See all articles by Teemu Ruskola

Teemu Ruskola

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 1996


This article examines the nature and consequences of the social and legal denial of the existence of gay and lesbian youth. Part I of the article sets out the politically and culturally contested topography of any debate involving children and sexuality, and it considers the risks posed by the seemingly indestructible myth of “homosexual recruitment.” Part II explicates the contradictory meanings of homosexuality as both radical Otherness located in only a few individuals and as potentially latent in everyone. It explores the implications of those views for lesbian and gay youth and suggests that such views make the notion of a coherently gay adolescent inconceivable and, in the broader epistemological contest over the sexual definition of youth, provide the conceptual framework for the fantasy that gay and lesbian youth do not exist. Part III turns to an analysis of the role of the law in the construction and regulation of homosexuality and illustrates how the legal system produces (apparently) heterosexual youth in its regulation of the family and school. It suggests that the laws governing child custody, adoption, and employment of queer teachers seek essentially to protect “confused” children with latent homosexual proclivities from becoming gay and lesbian adults. The article concludes, in Part IV, with a call for the law to recognize and protect the youth who identify themselves as gay and lesbian by naming them as gay and lesbian, rather than as confused, presumptively heterosexual future adults.

Keywords: Gay, lesbian, queer, children, teachers, school, custody, adoption, homosexuality, legal theory, psychoanalysis, heterosexuality, epistemology

Suggested Citation

Ruskola, Teemu, Minor Disregard: The Legal Construction of the Fantasy that Gay and Lesbian Youth Do Not Exist (1996). Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 8, No. 269, 1996; Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-280. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2406147

Teemu Ruskola (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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