Our community has been shaken by the wave of suicides related to homophobic bullying and parental rejection. The latest tragedy struck a mormon family in Utah. Colt David Hansen, age 28, took his life after an argument with his parents over his sexuality. Despondent, cornered and afraid, LGBT youth face the highest risk of suicide when they face rejection by their parents. Its important to recognize that the constant shame and rejection associated with homophobia takes a tremendous toll on the psyche of all LGBT people. This wound is likely the core factor in the increased rates of substance abuse and suicide among LGBT people.
Bullying and Homophobia are not new.
Did you know that?
Oscar Wilde was tried and sent to prison for writing about gay love.
Early colonialists justified violence of the indigenous tribes because of the inclusion of Two Spirit people in their communities.
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake because she refused to stop wearing men’s clothing.
ALL youth are at risk, not just gay and lesbian youth.
What’s happening today is an extension of the historic persecution of gender non-conforming people. Bullies target their prey based upon their PERCEPTION of sexuality and gender non-conformity. Many of the youth suicides of late were not gay identitified youth. However, they were targeted because of perception that they were too different.
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LGBT youth are FOUR TIMES as likely to take their lives as their straight peers. When they experience rejection or condemnation by their parents, that risk increases two fold.
Each of us can play a role in changing the violent environment that LGBT youth experience.Here’s how you make a difference:
Dispel Fear with Facts
Learning the facts about sexuality and gender can reduce fear and bias. Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up is an excellant film that addresses gender bias, homophobia and the everyday experience of gender roles.
Take a Stand
The best way to stop a bully is to confront them. If you are in a position to speak up, do so. Letting homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks go unchallenged conveys a passive social acceptance to bigotry. As a society, we can change the environment simply by signaling that such remarks and attitudes are not welcomed.
Let Youth Know You are SAFE
Youth feel safer when they know where to go for help. You can be a beacon of safety for the kids in your life simply by letting them know you are here for them. If you interact with kids in a professional capacity, you can find more resources for creating safe zones here.
Reduce the Isolation
Until very recently, LGBT youth have grown up in the shadow of silence about sexuality and gender. With no guidance and sometimes no language to capture their experience, they have struggled alone. Almost every LGBT person who recalls their youth will say…I thought I was the only one. Make sure they know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WE ARE EVERYWHERE. I’m From Driftwood Project is a great resource for worldwide stories of coming out.
BE a Role Model
Thanks to increased visibility and of course, the access of information online, youth have begun coming out at younger ages. Athletes like Kaye Allums of George Washington University shine a light for LGBT youth and model pride and dignity for all of us. You can be a role model by taking these steps or even mentoring youth.
You can find more resources for LGBT youth and their parents at my websites.
“be the change you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi)
Peace on your journey,