A sexually transmitted disease roared through a few high schools in Minnesota a couple of years back. The mini-epidemic inspired a great deal of handwringing in the straight press about young people and STDs--justifiable handwringing, of course, since STDs are a serious business, and chlamydia, the disease roaring through Minnesota's high schools at the time, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if left untreated.

But what I found most interesting about the "STDs and young people" stories written in the wake of the mini-epidemic were the calls to action that invariably came at the end. The calls all went something like this: "Parents are going to have to wake up! They're going to have to get involved in their children's lives! Guide your kids, Mom! Protect your kids, Dad! Wave condoms under their noses! Drag them to an STD clinic and get 'em tested!"

At the same time chlamydia was roaring through student bodies in Minnesota, there were stories in the news about other teens and young adults contracting an STD far more worrisome than chlamydia. These stories occasioned a lot of handwringing and included impassioned calls to action. But the calls to action were very different. Because these stories were about gay teenagers, not straight teenagers, and because the disease was HIV/AIDS, not chlamydia, the calls to action all went something like this: "What is the gay community going to do about this?"

The moral of these two stories is this: When their straight kids are doing something risky and dangerous, straight parents are told they have to take responsibility for protecting their children and get more involved in their kids' lives. But when a child is gay? Then straight parents are off the hook. Suddenly the child isn't the responsibility of Mom and Dad, but of the "gay community," that hardy fiction. Straight parents don't have to look after their gay kids. They're absolved of all responsibility for their care and protection. It's supposedly my job, as an adult gay person, to look after their gay kids--to guide them, protect them, and wave condoms under their noses.

Well guess what, straight moms and dads of gay and lesbian kids: Besides not fucking "gay youth," there's not a whole hell of a lot gay adults can do for them. While we can offer some help to the ones who run away from the miserable small town you chose to live in (or the intolerant high school you sent them to), and to the ones you kick out on their asses, we simply don't have access to that many gay youth. Most are deeply closeted and live far from urban areas, far from gay neighborhoods and organizations. Even if we wanted to help them, we couldn't.

And even if we wanted to help them, you wouldn't want us to. Do you really want adult gays and lesbians taking your place in your children's lives, giving them, um, advice, and telling them how to live? Probably not, right? So why don't you step up to the plate?

Protect your gay kids, Mom and Dad, and keep 'em safe. But don't confuse keeping them safe with keeping them straight. You can't make a gay child straight. But you can make a gay child crazy--and self-destructive, and self-hating, and a runaway. Instead of making them straight, Mom and Dad, make them understand: first, that you love them, and second, that you won't tolerate behavior from them that you wouldn't tolerate from your straight kids. Some straight parents confuse accepting their gay children with approving of anything their gay kids want to do. If you wouldn't let your straight daughter date a man in his 40s, don't let your gay son. If you wouldn't let your straight son get "Boys Rule" tattooed on her arm, don't let your lesbian daughter get "Dyke Power" tattooed on hers.

So, straight people, appropriate gay youth. Of all the things you're being asked to appropriate in this issue, this may be the easiest. America's gay youth already live in your homes.

And, finally, let's take the opportunity that your appropriation of gay youth provides, and drop the term "gay youth" altogether. Talking about "gay youth" creates the wholly inaccurate impression that gay teenagers are our problem. They're not. They're your kids, your responsibility, your problem. Just because your kid is gay doesn't mean you get to stop being his parent.