This post also appeared on the Good Vibrations Magazine.
An article on the Stranger.com asks the question “why are so many gay kids killing themselves?” And the answer is that queer kids have always been at higher risk for suicide, drug abuse, depression, and sexual assault. For example, queer kids comprise up to 30% of teen suicides. And although we don’t know how many people are queer, it’s safe to say that it’s less than 30%, so there’s clearly a disproportionate impact.
Queer youth are also more likely to be homeless, mostly because their parents kick them out of the house when they come out (the awful term for it is “throwaway kids”). Imagine having to choose between being true to yourself or having a roof over your head. Actually, some of you had exactly that choice.
The reason for all of this? Homophobia. Plain and simple.
Queer youth have always been bullied, beat up, harassed, blackmailed, sexually assaulted, shamed, shunned, and tossed away. This has had a huge impact on the psyches of queers, as individuals and in communities. Even if no single event is particularly traumatic, an environment of constant, low-level abuse causes deep wounds that take courage and a lot of time to heal. It’s not being queer that causes mental health problems- it’s being attacked for being queer that does it.
So although I appreciate the intention behind the post on the Stranger.com, I think it’s worth pointing out that this is nothing new. The only thing that’s different now is that more people are paying attention.
If you’d like to support queer youth, check out the Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center (LYRIC) and Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG). Support the Gay-Straight Alliance at your community’s schools or help start one. Call people out when they’re homophobic. Do what you can to stop bullies. Don’t let people get away with using the word “gay” as a pejorative. Offer youth & young adults a safe space to talk about their experiences. Use gender-neutral language. Celebrate in your local Pride parade. Don’t assume your kids or their friends are straight. And bit by bit, we’ll change the world.