I’m going to get right to the point on this one. According to the American Medical Association, the leading cause of death among LGB youth is suicide. The suicide rate among trans youth is even more staggering. This is beyond unacceptable. So what can we do about it? How can we, as society, stop this trend? How have we as society contributed to it? What are we going to do about it?
For far too long, we in the community at large have been preaching negativity, speaking negativity, and assuming negativity when it comes to our views on LGBT issues. For far too long, we have done everything but listen. So this, in my humble opinion, is where we should start. Listening. Just listen to the LGBT community and mental health professionals, as well as scientific researchers. Don’t speak. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, silence. Just listen. If even for a moment. And what if we do not?
Children are going to die.
I hesitated to write on this topic because I was afraid. I was afraid to be rejected by the conservative members of my inner circle and faith community. Afraid to have my faith questioned. Afraid to offend. Afraid to be wrong. Afraid, afraid, afraid. But lives are at stake, and those lives are worth more than my reputation, my pride, and my insecurities. Those lives are worth more than my fear. Those lives are precious. My fear is not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most important factors in preventing suicide in LGBT youth is through 1. Caring and accepting parenting and 2. Schools that create a “safe and supportive” learning environment. Negative attitudes toward LGBT put them at risk for increased violence, bullying, teasing, harassing, assault, rape, and suicide-related behaviors. This is why in the age group of 7-12, adolescents are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers, according to a nationally representative study.
The CDC has found through research, that LGB teens experience better health outcomes when their parents support their sexual orientation in “positive and affirming ways”. This can help reduce depression, suicide attempts, drug and alcohol use, and sexually transmitted diseases. This is not just opinion. This is scientifically researched fact.
Parents can further help by openly and supportively talking to their teens about sexuality, providing support, staying involved, and being proactive. This proactivity takes place by linking their teens with organizations and online info resources, and through learning more on how to support LGBT teens. Available resources are those such as the Gay-Straight Alliance and PFLAG.
As a community, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center suggests that communities should link LGBT youth with supportive adults, prevent violence and harassment in schools, and have culturally competent staff members (teachers, mental health workers, guidance counselors, etc.) Cultural competence is achieved through extensive training. Peer-based support groups are suggested, as well as support for advocacy programs for youth and families that include awareness, identity, and disclosure issues. Non-discrimination and non-harassment policies throughout all facets of employment, public organizations, government entities, and of course schools, is of the utmost importance.
As for me, myself, and I, the tragedy in Orlando has represented a turning point in my personal stance in the community and in public. I no longer struggle with conflicting emotions and beliefs. For myself, it is no longer allowed. I do not care if others question my faith, my beliefs, or my character anymore. I am not selfishly concerned about myself anymore. Besides, I know those things are intact. Let them drag me through the mud…. so long as they don’t take my LGBT friends and loved ones with them. No, I don’t care about my reputation among those who disagree with me….
I am more concerned with saving lives……
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Hold someone’s hand, get them through the storm. Help prevent the environment that leads to the storms in life, that damage and undermine self-esteem and hope. Yes, hold a hand and get someone through to the other side of the storm. At the end, there is a beautiful rainbow. One that will bind your hearts forever, and bless the both of you.