16 December 2009

Youth in the Tribe - Essential Traits & Responsibilities

Last week I started to explore our society in terms of its views on youth, adults, elders and ancestors.  I felt it was vital to first break down some of the less helpful ways that these are constructed in our society and now would like to look at the first phase of identity, youth.

Although these archetypes are largely associated with age brackets, I submit that they are not necessarily age dependent, with two exceptions: youth begins with birth and continues until you otherwise transition your position in the tribe and ancestry begins at death and does not eevolve.  I have all sorts of fancy ideas about progression, regression, and even maintaining dual identities, but for now, I will examine the basic aspects of youth identity.

The essential traits of youth is that they are:
  • in the care of adults materially, educationally, and spiritually.
  • generally not called on to provide material, educational or spiritual care for themselves or others.
  • in the most active stage of mental, spiritual and (typically) physical growth and development of their lives.
The responsibilities of the tribe to the youth are:
  • The adults of the tribe must provide for all material needs of the youth, as well as their education and spiritual instruction.
  • The adults (and sometimes elders) must provide mentorship.
  • The elders must advise and plan for the next seven generations* of the (a responsibility that they have to both the adults and youth)
  • The adults must provide support and celebrate the transition of youths to adults.
The responsibilities of the youth the the tribe are:
  • The youth must learn the traditions, customs, and history of the tribe.  These will continue to be important through all identity stages.
  • The youth must stir up new ideas and challenge traditions and customs that are no longer useful, and question history when it has a bias and disadvantages those learning it by teaching untruths. 
  • The youth must respect their tribal elders and receive their wisdom.
  • The youth mus respect their adults and work with them to receive mentorship.
  • Less a responsibility and more a seeming inevitability of human nature, the youth will largely rebel against the adults at some point and do whatever their cultures version of drugs, sex and rock 'n roll is.
In another blog I'll parse what this means to the different tribes in which I personally participate and other thoughts on youth in the tribe.  For now, I think that's a good chunk to start with. =D

 *Seven generation forethought is includied in the branding of numerous eco friendly products and services and even an eco focused charter school, according to a quick Google search.  My mentor Chris Bartlett suggested this number, and it rang a bell as I'd used a product by Seventh Generation whose label I vaugely remember mentioning a Native American custom.  Another quick Google search points me in the direction of a seven generation consideration of action originating with the Iroquois.  However, seven is a significant number regarding the complete of a cycle in many spiritual beliefs from the Judeo-Christian Creation of the world in seven days to belief in the seven major chakras of the body and their spiritual evolution in seven year cycles.  Because it is a number of such wide and accepted cultural and spiritual significance, I continue to use it here.


  1. All very interesting - curious about where someone like me fits in - given that I am chronologically one age, hormonally quite another, and psychologically another still. What do you think?

  2. Funny you should ask this my dear Faunboy, as I've been wanting to blog on that very topic. There are lots of reasons that any person might be in a position in the tribe is different than most people their chronological age. In an article about a lack of gay adults in the tribe by Don Kilhefner (Which you can read in its entirety here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2347437/Gay-Adults-Gay-Adults-Where-Are-You ) he theorizes (as I often have myself) that the lack of adults in gay tribes is often attributed to not having children, to coming out late and having a second adolescence, and to the AIDS crisis. Considering the literal second puberty involved in a transition, I would actually like to write about this experience as well. However, as the experience is not my own, I feel I need to do some research first on trans experiences with shifting back from adult to youth, or maintaining two roles such as youth and adult if ze/she/he is a parent and also transitioning, etc.

  3. I'm specifically interested in how this relates to the gay leather communit(ies). I started a discussion group on FetLife. If you're signed up, you can view it here: