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Tracy Clark-Flory examines the “Best Little Boy in the World” hypothesis:
This theory holds that closeted young men in bigoted environments often respond by overachieving in certain areas, like sports or academics — the idea being that it’s an adaptive means of finding a sense of self-worth where they can. It can also serve to distract from their sexuality: As Andrew Tobias wrote in his 1976 memoir, “The Best Little Boy in the World,” a key “line of defense” was his endless list of activities. “No one could expect me to be out dating … when I had a list of 17 urgent projects to complete,” he wrote.
Despite the prevalence of this idea in gay coming-of-age narratives, it’s never been tested empirically, until now.
In a study recently published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 195 male colleges students who identified as either heterosexual or a “sexual…
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