15 APRIL Easter Sunday die-in outside St Patrick's Cathedral to highlight Archbishop Pell's anti-gay statements and gay youth suicide
The series on male suicides and the letters following their publication (The Age, August 2003) all seem to have ignored one of the main at-risk groups - gay males, particularly in the 15-24 year- old age group.
Is this because our society continues to be so homophobic or is it because the mainstream media continue to ignore the issue? The recently issued report: "Don't Ask Don't Tell - Hidden in the Crowd: Documenting the links between sexuality and suicidal behaviours among young people" (Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, 2003) states that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds in Australia.
The report further states that research in Australia has identified that same-sex attracted young people may be up to six times more likely to attempt suicide than the population in general, with those in rural areas being particularly at risk. Nowhere in your reports or letters were these matters raised. Maybe you should now spend some time on asking questions about these at-risk young people in our communities - or are we now a society that no longer worries about our younger people, particularly if they are gay or lesbian?Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne.
A pilot study into the issues faced by young gay and bisexual men with suicidal tendencies looks set to pave the way for more detailed research and prevention programs. The study Sexuality Issues and Risk Taking Behaviour amongst WA gay and bisexual youth has highlighted several key areas where prevention programs would he able to tackle issues that face young gay and bisexual males who have suicidal tendencies.
The Western Australian AIDS Council (WAAC) and the (lay and Lesbian Counselling Service of WA will jointly co-ordinate the Sexuality and Youth Suicide Project with the aid of $20(1.000 gram from the Department of Health Services (Mental Health Branch).
The project hopes to assist other youth suicide prevention programs across the country.
The pilot study found the majority of respondents were aware of their sexuality by their early teens, hut rarely considered approaching teachers, counsellors or nurses at school for support.
It was also reported in the study that "since realising they were gay. the contemplation of suicide dropped to half of the sample and less than a third attempted suicide.
. The majority of respondents wished they were able to meet other gay people to help in "coming to terms" with their sexuality. They also cited isolation and limited knowledge of support agencies as problem areas.
Jeff Kennett's homophobia is well known, and is emphasised yet again by the following two articles in the Sunday Age of today's date:
AUSTRALIA'S national depression body has abandoned the gay community and ignored its high rates of suicide, self-harm and mental illness, lobby groups claim.
beyondblue, chaired by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, has knocked back repeated funding requests to support depressed young people struggling with their sexuality.
The suicide rate for this group is up to eight times higher than their straight peers, often due to homophobic bullying, abuse and anxiety about coming out.
Despite isolation and discrimination being known risk factors for depression, a suicide prevention program for young gay Victorians in rural areas has twice had beyondblue grant applications denied.
Sue Hackney, who runs the WayOut program, said children growing up in country areas were particularly at risk.
"Because there's less visibility of adult gay and lesbian role models in their community they can feel like they're the proverbial 'only gay in the village'," she said. Since its inception in 2000, beyondblue has set up programs targeting specific groups such as indigenous Australians and postnatal mothers but has done nothing with the gay and lesbian community. Gay rights advocate Rob Mitchell, who is on the State Government's ministerial steering committee for governance and inclusion, said the issue was "screaming out for attention".
"Why are they ignoring this area?" Mr Mitchell asked. "It can't be because the research tells them they don't need to do anything because it does, so the only reason I can think of is for some perceived political reason. How is there a political risk in stopping same-sex-attracted kids killing themselves?"
beyondblue chief executive Leonie Young said research commissioned by the charity and released a fortnight ago looked specifically at depression among gay, lesbian and bisexual Australians. Among the findings were that up to 31 per cent of gay people suffered anxiety disorders and depression compared with between 4 and 14 per cent of heterosexuals. Seventeen per cent of young gay women had tried to harm or kill themselves in the previous six months, compared with 2 per cent of straight women.
However, Mr Mitchell said the research was only released after pressure from him, that beyondblue did not promote it and that there was no immediate plan to address the findings. Ms Young conceded there were no specific support programs targeting the gay community, but results of the study — conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society — would be used to remedy that. "Young people and young women are two high-risk groups within the gay, lesbian and transgender and bisexual community, so we're listening, we're acting," she said.
Lyn Morgain, chief executive of Victoria's biggest gay and lesbian community group, the ALSO Foundation, said she had lobbied for years for projects to be funded by beyondblue with no success. "I think it's a real travesty because it's quite clear there's a real vulnerability in those young people."
Kat Ettwell stresses the need for funding to help gay youth. (Photo by Pat Scala not yet available)Jill Stark
For young people grappling with their sexuality, support can mean the difference between life and death.
"DYKE. Faggot. Poofter." The names thrown like missiles in the school playground were hard for Kat Ettwell to forget. As a teenager coming to grips with her sexuality, she watched in fear as bullies targeted her classmates for being different. She knew to keep her secret hidden.
From the age of 14 she thought she might be gay or bisexual but with homophobia rife in her small country town in Victoria's Macedon Ranges she was too scared to come out. On top of the school bullying, two incidents are seared into her consciousness: a lesbian couple who ran the local video store had their shop trashed; and then vandals elevated the hatred when they destroyed a gay hairdresser's salon, killing her dog in the attack.
Ms Ettwell, now 24, was only a child at the time but the message from the two attacks was clear. "As a young person it definitely puts into your mind, 'No, I'm not coming out in this environment, I'm not going to question my sexuality, I can't speak to my friends about how I feel because then I'll be the subject of that abuse," she says.
"I couldn't tell anyone, not my best friend, my mother, my sister. Having seen what potentially could happen to me or my family and witnessing first hand the homophobia at school I just had to keep it to myself."
Like many young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, Ms Ettwell's fears about coming out led to severe mental distress. At 14 she was diagnosed with depression and, with other personal issues compounding her isolation, she tried to take her own life.
It would be another three years before she felt secure enough to come out as a lesbian. Her courage was boosted by work with her local council's youth advisory committee, where she was involved in setting up a gay and lesbian support group for young people.
The safe environment provided by the WayOut project — which aims to end the isolation and discrimination faced by young gay and lesbian Victorians in rural areas — helped pull her out of depression. "I don't know where I would be or if I would even have come out if I didn't have that support from my friends but also access to information and services the WayOut project provide," she says.
Ms Ettwell would like to see beyondblue take a leadership role and fund similar projects throughout Australia in a bid to help young people who are grappling with their sexuality. "In my country town there was no information at the health centre, there was no information at school, no queer-friendly materials in my community and nowhere where I could identify with something that I had seen. It's so important those services are available."
This letter was in the Sunday Age on 5 July 2009 in response to the two articles above from the previous week's Sunday Age:
HOW archaic that beyondblue seems unwilling to support the dire need to recognise depression in gay youth, almost 35 years after the American Psychological Association did just that.
The broader community needs to understand many youth commit suicide because they feel there will be no support if they come out as gay or lesbian, as suggested by the article. Adult gays and lesbians need to provide positive role models to the young, and powerful organisations such as beyondblue need to reassess their target demographics.
If beyondblue wants to ignore depression in gay and lesbian youth, then it's up to the rest of the community to help. If you're having problems coping with your sexuality, there are lots of good people out there with advice to help you. Start by contacting the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard. Joy FM (94.9) is also an excellent community resource for those struggling with coming out.MALCOLM PACEY, Richmond
˜The blues’ is a colloquial term for depression. One of the most high profile players tasked with promoting awareness of depression is beyondblue.Â Beyondblue is a multi-faceted organisation -” they help develop depression prevention and intervention programs, provide training for GPs and health professionals, and are involved in research.
With regard to its work with GLBTI people, beyondblue has come under critical scrutiny. This was due to two factors: high profile comments made by chair Jeff Kennett linking bisexuality to pedophilia, and a seeming lack of recognition of GLBTI people as an -˜at risk’ population for depression and anxiety.
The lack of recognition of the problems many GLBTI people face with mental health further stigmatises a group already significantly at risk of depression, anxiety and suicide. However, this should not be seen as the beginning and end of this story.
Beyondblue has recently commissioned a scoping study, Feeling Queer and Blue, into the prevalence of depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders amongst gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. While anecdotal and other research has pointed to the GLBTI population being an at-risk group, few studies have been able to get a handle on the prevalence of these mental health conditions.
Unsurprisingly, the review of the Australian and international research in the Feeling Queer and Blue report informs us the rate of depression, anxiety, self-harm and related conditions in non-heterosexuals is roughly three times that for heterosexuals. These results are concerning. At the heart of this is the many queer Australians experiencing poor mental health need support, education and access to services. Beyondblue’s website and helpline provide users with education about mental health conditions, treatments available, descriptions of different types of mental health professionals and help on where to find a local mental health professional.
The helpline in particular has been a successful venture. It runs 24 hours a day and has proven popular. The line has been good at reaching at-risk groups such as rural people and men, who are typically poor health service users. When you call you speak to a professional operator who has a background in psychology, psychiatric nursing or social work with a mental health focus, and the staff on the line are welcoming of caller diversity.
Recent beyondblue marketing material mailed to homes shows that beyondblue understands the nature of depression and issues around help seeking. A list of signs of depression can help people realise that the bad mood they’ve been in for eight months might be a bout of depression that can be addressed by a range of treatments, not just medication.
Also in the marketing pack was a fridge magnet with the helpline number and web address on it. This shows that beyondblue understands that people, particularly men, can take some time to mull over if and when they will seek help for health problems, particularly mental health.
Having the number on the fridge increases the likelihood that someone like this will call. So while beyondblue still has work to do to heal its reputation and relationship with queer Australians, boycotting this service would deny many vulnerable GLBTI people the benefit of an accessible, effective and important mental health service, essentially throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
info: www.beyondblue.org.au or phone 1300 22 4636
The following letter appeared in the online edition of the Southern Star in response to the above article, and was published in the letters section of the paper on 3 September 2009:
The VAC’s contribution in highlighting the work to be done in GLBTI mental health is a welcome development. It is however necessary to correct gross inaccuracies, in what appears to be a cut and paste job from the BeyondBlue spin doctors, if our community is to have a realistic version of events.
Firstly, BeyondBlue were asked, then cajoled, then pushed into engaging Latrobe University to produce a summary of the current research with Same Sex Attracted ( SSA ) people around depression and suicidal ideation. It needs to be crystal clear that BeyondBlue didn’t do it under their own volition, and even though they have funded research and programs targetted at other groups such as indigenous and neo-natal, SSA is a population that they have consistently refused to address.
Secondly, the VAC article gives the distinct impression that BeyondBlue have only just received the research, and prior to this ‘ …few studies have been able to get a handle on the prevalence of these mental health conditions…’ This is, of course, complete unadulterated crap. BeyondBlue have had the research summary from Latrobe University since October 2008, and only started doing anything when the press, inlcuding this paper and The Sunday Age, enquired as to the progress on the issue over the last few weeks.
It is also a fact that BeyondBlue have known for some years about the state of SSA mental health, particularly in our youth in regional areas, and done nothing. They have also refused to fund programs such as Wayout, the award winning program based in Kyneton in regional Victoria, and Dr. Lynne Hillier from Latrobe University summed it up eloquently when interviewed on national radio that “…BeyondBlue has enormous resources, and none, none at all have been put into young people who are same sex attracted…”
The VAC may well believe that by offering BeyondBlue an olive branch from our community that this will translate into an epiphany, and a consequent flow of funds into addressing an issue that has until now been resolutely ignored. The VAC should remember that there is an extraordinarily high amount of anger within our community around BeyondBlue, and that sending out a few fridge magnets is not going to reverse years of neglect.
For our part, we will keep advocating in a robust and consistent manner, until the mental health of GLBTI is given more than lip service by BeyondBlue. Improving GLBTI health will undoubtedly provoke difficult and sometimes combative conversations both within, and outside, our community. It has ever been thus.
The media have been very busy over the last few weeks discussing whether the television programme, which was to go to air about the suicides of 4 young people from the same Geelong school, should be released at all.
A great deal of the fuss was being made by Jeff Kennett who started an organization called “beyondblue’ to deal with depression in the community.
The trouble with all of the fuss is that nowhere is there any mention of gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS members of the community who are more at risk of suicide in the community than their heterosexual counterparts, and that is in part because of the homophobia of Jeff Kennett and much of the media in general.
Some of the arguments about publicizing the events in Geelong run along the lines of ‘if you give these suicides publicity it may, in all likelihood, lead to copycat suicides or ideations thereof.’
It seems, on the face of evidence available at the moment, that publicity would not only be a good idea, it may bring to the public attention the fact that there are very real problems among many young people in the community and these problems need to be addressed and addressed very urgently.
It is time the attitude changed of keeping so many taboo topics ‘in the closet’! Child sexual abuse is these days given a great deal of publicity – why would it not with so many religious men and male family members and their male friends guilty of child sex abuse, usually statistically of female children?
Other topics which are still taboo in the media are issues such as euthanasia, atheism, religious right-wing homophobia and intolerance and discrimination, elder abuse by governments and nursing homes and other government and non-government agencies, and other topics which haven’t been mentioned at the moment.
Suicide is a very real problem, youth suicide is an ongoing tragedy, and the refusal of all organizations such as beyondblue and the media to include gay, lesbian and transgender young persons’ suicide is part of the ongoing tragedy in the community of the endless homophobia we face on a daily basis.
Publicity is needed and organizations should be formed to address the issues which lead young people to feel so desperate that they kill themselves. It is not surprising, up to a point, when young people see how those who govern the country and those responsible for education, training and employment are so self-serving that they fail to see the tragedy at their doorsteps.
Unfortunately the present political and economic set-ups under which we live our daily lives do not provide a great deal of inspiration to young people, and if these young people do make cries for help to people in the community, these are often not heard or are ignored – ‘they will grow out of it and grow up eventually!’
People like Jeff Kennett should be told that their ignorance of the situation is such that they should shut up and get out of the business of interfering in matters about which they know nothing, or very little. And the media should publish and be damned!
The following article was published in the Southern Star on 17 September 2009:
A rural youth worker has slammed the state Government for not acting sooner on suicide prevention for same-sex attracted youth.
WayOut Youth project coordinator Sue Hackney said a federal inquiry into Australia’s suicide rates is too little too late for funding-starved state suicide prevention bodies. The issue of tackling suicide rates was last week referred to a Community Affairs Reference Committee inquiry.
Hackney, who works with same-sex attracted and transgender teens, said although she welcomes discussion, there have already been three gay youth suicides in rural Victoria this year.
“I’m at a bit of a loss as to why further inquiries need to be done. It’s clear the problem is we’ve got a chronic shortage of resources on the ground,” Hackney told Southern Star. Hackney said the three youths who died could have been better served with support groups, but funds and resources were already stretched to capacity.
“I’ve been doing this job for seven years, and for seven years I’ve been lobbying for more funding … this is something we’ve brought to the [state] government’s attention time and time again,” she said.
“It’s about about creating better environments for these young people to be living in, so when they are at a point of real distress they’ve got mechanisms of support around them.”
Hackney said first-time relationship break-ups were fast becoming a factor in gay youth suicide.
“This is particularly magnified for young people who are gay because they think they‘ll never be able to get a another partner,” she said. “It’s their first big relationship and when that falls apart, their whole world crashes in because they don’t know anyone they can talk to about it, it’s like their dirty little secret.”
In 1997 the state Government produced a Suicide Prevention Task Force Report which included gays and lesbians as a high-risk population group.
“That was over 10 years ago. They know the need is there. Why are we still wasting time having further inquiries, what further evidence do they need?” Hackney asked.
The WayOut Project currently receives around $85,000 annually from the Department of Human Services for Hackney to cover the whole state.
National advocacy group Suicide Prevention Australia recently released a policy position on suicide and self-harm among the broader GLBT population, saying GLBT people may be anywhere from 3.5 to 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.info: Call Lifeline 131 114.
On Monday 5 October I received a letter dated 30 September 2009 and signed by Leonie Young relating to a campaign run by beyondblue about depression and being over 80 years old. I received it with a booklet called "Older People and Depression".
I noted that nowhere in the booklet is there any mention of gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS members of the ageing communities, many of whom have suffered or are now suffering from depression.
Until such time as your organisation addresses issues concerning gay communities I have no interest in beyondblue. In all the years your organisation has existed it has shown not the least bit of concern for, and interest in addressing problems relating to, homosexuality and the general homophobia in the community.
Both young and old members of our communities have suffered from depression and have had to seek help from other organisations. Fortunately, there are now some, where previously there were none! Homophobia is alive and well and living in Melbourne and the rest of Australia.Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
Suicide and self-harm remain unacceptably high in the Australian community with death at least 40% higher than that attributed to the national road fatalities.
Every day, six to seven Australians die by suicide.
For each person lost by suicide, there are 30 others who have made a suicide attempt. For every suicide, it is conservatively estimated that, on average, another six people will be severely affected by intense grief.
Suicide occurs in and affects all age groups and people from all walks of life. The Australian Commonwealth Government has recently announced a Senate Inquiry into Suicide in Australia. Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) welcomes this unique opportunity to recognise and promote the diverse experiences and views of Australians to help strengthen our community's responses to suicide and self-harm prevention, intervention and postvention.
As Australia's leading advocate for suicide and self-harm prevention. SPA intends to make a comprehensive submission to the Senate Inquiry. As part of SPA's submission, we hope to represent the voices of Australians by including personal stories from people who have been affected by suicide.
Every story is important. We invite you to have your say by sharing your story and allowing us to incorporate it into SPA's submission. Your story may reflect any number of possible personal experiences with suicide. For example, you may be a suicide attempt survivor, bereaved by suicide, a caregiver of someone who is suicidal or bereaved by suicide, a witness of suicide, you may have dealt with suicide in the workplace, have been impacted by media reporting of suicide, or simply be a concerned community member. Your personal story may also include ideas about how we can create a more connected, inclusive, resilient and safer community.
To gather these stories, we have created a dedicated page on the SPA website where people can upload their individual stones. Please click here or visit www suicidepreventionaust org to find out more.
Personal stories can be submitted on the website until Wednesday 28th October 2009. If you have any questions about SPA"s Senate Inquiry submission, please contact Jo Riley, Senior Project Officer, on (02) 9568 3111 or email senateinquiry@suicidepreventionaust org We ask that you forward the email appeal through to your own networks, both personal and work-related, so we can spread the message as far and wide as possible.http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/clac_ctte/suicide/index.htm
I am writing to express my shock, dismay and great disappointment at the complete lack of mention of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex older people in the recent booklet published by Beyond Blue, focussed on older people and depression.
I am aware that GLBTI people over 80 contributed to the B….80 project, referring to ways in which they combat depression. I find it extraordinary that Beyond Blue could compile such a publication, which obviously takes particular care to include Indigenous and CALD older people, and neglects to make one mention of our community.
GLBTI elderly people in our community are facing serious concerns which relate to depression, not the least of which are issues related to abuse and discrimination when encountering the aged care industry. This compounds isolation and fear, which feed depression. There are many examples known to those of us within the aged care industry of self harm and attempted or actual suicide, particularly for GLBTI people over 75.
I would encourage you to look at the two reports attached, which spotlight these abuse and discrimination issues.
I look forward to seeing Beyond Blue state publicly its commitment to the GLBTI community of elders as a matter of urgency.Yours Sincerely
(1) MY PEOPLE
Two Attached Reports:
This article appeared in the Southern Star:
Gay youth support group the WayOut Project has picked up a $30,000 Government grant. Victorian Mental Health Minister Lisa Neville announced the funding as part of Mental Health Week, which ran from October 4-10. Neville also called for greater public awareness and support for mental health issues within the GLBTI community.
In a statement, Neville said many GLBTI people led successful lives, but acknowledged there was far greater risk of poor mental health in the GLBTI community.
“There is a significant body of research that links this community’s experience of discrimination and abuse to a higher risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm and drug and alcohol misuse,” Neville said.
“Same-sex attracted youth are vulnerable to homophobic abuse, which in turn is related to high rates of self-harm, problematic substance use, suicide and depression and anxiety.” Neville said research also shows same-sex attracted young people face particular stress while coming out.
WayOut co-ordinator Sue Hackney last month aired her frustration at a continual failure of Government to support projects to protect young GLBTI people from harm, saying she had lobbied the unsuccessfully for seven years.
The recurrent $30,000 annual funding will improve WayOut’s capacity to help young GLBTI people and tackle homophobia in rural areas.
Neville’s decision follows sustained criticism from gay activist Rob Mitchell who recently hit out at the Government for not doing enough to support GLBTI mental health initiatives. His website — www.sweetfa.com — chastised beyondblue and Neville for the lack of response.
Mitchell told Southern Star the funding announcement and public statement during Mental Health Week are positive steps.
“This $30,000 is a down payment on the goodwill required for the GLBTI community… now we need to turn that trickle into a river,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Neville denied the funding was in response to criticism about Government inaction and said the issue has been on the minister’s radar.
“We are in tune with the issues generally and we think it’s right in this time, during Mental Health Week, to let the public know that this can be a vulnerable group in the community,” the spokeswoman said.
Hackney welcomed the additional funding however said the project still needs extra cash to keep it running.
“We’re happy, it’s important symbolically, especially the Minister’s comments on supporting vulnerable diverse communities,” she said.
“There are still significant challenges to meet. We’re a big catchment area, all of rural Victoria, so we welcome further discussion in this high demand area.”
Submitted by:E.J.(Mannie) De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
I am making this submission because for many years I have been involved with the ongoing problems confronting the gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS communities relating to suicide and/or attempted suicide (ideation).
The gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS communities (hereinafter referred to as GLTH) have generally not been included in studies about suicide and this lack of attention to such community members is directly attributable to the homophobia of the population at large and governments at all levels in particular.
Non-government organizations such as beyondblue have over the years refused to involve these groups in their research and care facilities because they are intrinsically homophobic and refuse to deal with people for whom they have the utmost contempt.
Fortunately there are a few organizations such as Suicide Prevention Australia who actually see the larger picture of human rights and who are justifiably concerned at the fact that GLTH people have been treated as they have been by society at large.
This brings us to the point of the senate inquiry exercise which is that so many groups around the country are not being looked at for possible suicide reasons and have dropped off the agenda and therefore helped cause depression, loneliness, anxiety, desperation, and ultimately suicide.
Most at risk, according to statistics which may or may not be very accurate, are young males, and specifically young gay males and many living in rural or regional areas where they have no access to any type of support or community consultation processes.
Also at risk in similar categories, but not young, are older people in our communities who may be isolated, have lost partners, have few or no friends, have no supporting networks and are therefore totally isolated.
Personal experience in recent years has been as a carer during the 1990s of people with AIDS at a time before various combination drugs had become available, and many were dying of AIDS-related diseases which were horrible in their actions on bodies already decimated from ongoing illness and debilitation. When some of these young men were told that they had a particularly nasty illness which would blind them or cause other major traumas, they were not prepared to go through the suffering they had seen in so many of their friends, partners, relatives, acquaintances, so they simply prepared themselves for suicide and succeeded.
Earlier personal experiences of suicide were related to family members or acquaintances, and so often, reasons were not forthcoming as to the causes of the suicides. Now in my 80s with a partner likewise in his 80s, my thoughts have been drawn to aspects of euthanasia because of the dreadful sufferings which occur with certain diseases which, at the end of a long life does not inspire one with hopes of a painless death. Why suffer needlessly when there are other solutions?
However, that is not the reason I am making a submission to this senate inquiry. The reason is that I am sickened by the ongoing homophobia which is causing so much trouble for GLTH members in our communities and the fact that there are so few resources out there for them to get any help from.
Recent changes to same-sex relationships legislation by the federal government ensured that their refusal to consider providing a transitional arrangement for the December 2008 legislation helped many desperate people in long-term partnerships to attempt suicide because they saw their situations as hopeless.
Fortunately, in one particular instance which has come to my knowledge, the people involved in these traumas were assisted by friends who were also specialists in such fields as gerontology and social work and lives were saved. This may have been the exception to the general rule.
Before addressing the items in the "Terms of Reference" document I believe that one issue above all needs to be addressed and that is to ask the question: How far is the federal government prepared to go in addressing fundamental problems relating to suicide â€“ homophobia and financial support for organizations addressing the issues involved? Will the government be prepared to ensure that better statistics become available and that the findings are made public?
These are but a few of the questions which require urgent answers. Without positive responses, the whole inquiry is a waste of time and money.
The impact of suicide on the Australian community including high risk groups such as indigenous youth and rural communities, with particular reference to:a) the personal, social and financial costs of suicide in Australia;
We have a web site which was started when we became involved with groups trying to overcome the homophobia generated by the religious institutions in this country who have a direct link to government through various ministers and lobby groups. The web site is:http://home.zipworld.com.au/~josken/suicide.htm
We started the web page in 2001 and now, in 2009, not only has nothing changed, the situation has deteriorated during those 8 years.
We are making this submission in the hope that the apathy and homophobia surrounding the issue of the suicide of young and older gay people will actually be drawn to the attention of policy-makers and politicians who will do something to ensure that the problems in indigenous and gay communities causing so many to be driven to suicide will finally be addressed.Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
On 28 June 2010 the Senate Committee Report - The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia - was published and is available on the internet: Inquiry into Suicide in Australia
beyondblue, the organisation set up by Victorian ex-premier Jeff Kennett about 10 years ago to assist people suffering from depression and/or ideation of suicide, has yet again shown that its homophobia takes precedence over its stated mandate to assist those in dire circumstances.
Jeff Kennett himself is a leading homophobe and the current CEO of beyondblue, Leonie Young, is showing herself to be Kennett's equal.
Two articles about beyondblue are in the Southern Star issue 065 of 7 January 2010 and they contradict each other. Leonie Young is talking with her tongue in her cheek when dealing with different groups in the gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS communities.
The two articles are below, and illustrate where beyondblue's sympathies really lie, and they are not with our communities and those in our communities who are in desperate need of somewhere to go for assistance when their lives become dangerously in the balance.
It should be noted that beyondblue fails international human rights charters and should be denied registration as an organisation which it purports to represent!>
WayOut coordinator Sue Hackney told Southern Star she had been informed, despite working closely with beyondblue staff on the proposal, the application did not meet beyondblue’s guidelines.
“It’s extremely frustrating because for the previous two months I’ve been working in close consultation with [beyondblue] staff to ensure our application was meeting their guidelines as it was going through various draft stages,” Hackney said. “It’s very similar to the previous two occasions … and then being told with no or a very vague explanation that it’s been unsuccessful.”
Since 2004 WayOut has submitted three applications for funding, including requesting a $25,000 annual grant in 2005 and another application in 2006.
Hackney said the most recent proposal for $100,000 for two to three years included research in partnership with the Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), youth suicide prevention group the Inspire Foundation, the Foundation For Young Australians and several other groups.
“I’m getting extremely frustrated and finding it difficult to understand how the organisation works because clearly there is a breakdown in the information they’re giving out to organisations such as ourselves,” Hackney said.
Beyondblue CEO Leonie Young told Southern Star the proposal had been turned down because it did not meet beyondblue’s research guidelines and included money for servicing rather than research or evaluation.
“The proposal that was put forward included some evaluation, but it was also for other matters that related to services and that’s the part we can’t fund and it’s always been so,” Young said.
“We don’t fund camps or administration or cars, or services. We fund research, we fund evaluation… there was a component related to evaluation, but it wasn’t a research proposal. It was around supporting, which is entirely outside the funding we have, it was for the youth services itself.”
Young said youth services funding is the responsibility of state and territory governments and she’s had preliminary discussions with the ARCSHS to develop a GLBT research-only proposal for the next funding round in March.
Recently WayOut received $30,000 annual funding from the state Government, as a result of a concerted push from the GLBTI ministerial advisory council and gay rights advocate Rob Mitchell. Hackney said this won’t cover costs, with the WayOut Rural Youth Council grant winding up in February.
Hackney expressed frustration last year at WayOut’s constant struggle for funding after three gay youth suicides in rural Victoria in 2009.
(Nothing could be further from the truth on current evidence - LGS editor)Scott Abrahams
Beyondblue says it is committed to targeting depression and anxiety in the GLBTI community but said other sectors need to be involved in tackling the issues. Following a recent beyondblue GLBTI roundtable involving representatives from national mental health, drug and alcohol, and suicide prevention strategies, beyondblue CEO Leonie Young told the Star beyondblue will put a focus on GLBTI depression and anxiety but an ‘all in’ approach is required.
“It’s not just beyondblue and I really want to stress that while we put the roundtable on to hear more and work in collaboration with the GLBT sector… it isn’t a one-agency response that’s required,” Young said.
“While we’re good to step up and provide the opportunity for the discussion, we’ll be expecting to work with all the other agencies as we go forward, so while I’m good to commit beyondblue to ‘x’ dollars over ‘x’ period of time… it really will take others.”
Young confirmed a figure of $2 million over 18 months as a “potential” amount the national depression initiative could throw into the area.
“We’re collaborating, we’re reviewing beyondblue’s own material, we’re identifying research priorities for 2010 and we’ll put funding to that,” she said. Young said beyondblue has committed in the short term to meet with the LGBT Health Alliance in January to thrash out a more detailed strategy.
An awareness campaign for GLBTI health — and, later, a GLBTI mental health ambassador — has also been foreshadowed.
“[We’ll] look at the research again. From that research we need a multipronged, early intervention prevention model, particularly focused on young people living in rural communities. That was one of the priority areas that came out,” Young said.
LGBT Health Alliance CEO Gabi Rosenstreich told the Star she was “cautiously positive” the roundtable secured a way forward for GLBT mental health in Australia. “I would say it’s a really positive sign that beyondblue does seem to be taking on the critiques that have been made from the LGBT community seriously and is responding,” Rosenstreich said.
“It will remain to be seen what develops out of that. “We’ll be working together with our members and other community organisations to turn beyondblue’s commitments into reality.”
Aleph has kindly given me permission to reproduce their letter to the Jewish Community Council of Victoria. In my blog I reproduced an article from MCV in which this issue was discussed. However at that stage I did not have this background information and now it will help to make the issue of child abuse in the Jewish communities much clearer.
Of course it all ties in with homophobia which Jewish communities perpetrate no less than other communities around the world. Jews used to like to think of themselves as more tolerant than other communities but events have shown in recent years that they can be just as intolerant as the next man, woman or child in the street!Attention: Geoffrey Zygier - Excecutive Director JCCV / John Searle - President JCCV January 8 2010
Over recent months it has been brought to the attention of the JCCV numerous times that any intolerance and oppression of same-sex attracted youth, whether due to religious reasons or otherwise, has been directly linked to serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.
In October 2009 the JCCV released a statement during Mental Health Week acknowledging the critically high rate of suicide in same-sex attracted people caused by intolerance of their sexuality.
Back in April 2008 the JCCV, under the presidency of Anton Block, called for a swift response to allegations of sexual abuse in the Melbourne Jewish Community, as reported in the Australian Jewish News.
It may not have been impressed clearly enough upon the JCCV as to the gravity of the nature of the abuse that same-sex attracted youth experience directly as a result of religious intolerance of their sexuality. By forcing a person into a state of depression or contemplation of suicide because they are told homosexuality is sinful, unacceptable, abnormal and contrary to religious beliefs constitutes psychological abuse. When this occurs in a child it becomes psychological child abuse. People who perpetrate this abuse are child abusers.
The community does not tolerate sexual child abuse. The community does not tolerate physical child abuse. The community continues to tolerate psychological child abuse. People who are aware of perpetrators of sexual or physical abusers of children are obligated to take action to prevent this harm. The community is obligated to stamp it out. People who do not take action against this harm are complicit in the ongoing perpetration of the abuse.
The situation is the same when it comes to psychological child abuse. People who are aware of the abuse are obligated to prevent the harm against the children and the community is obligated to stamp it out. Currently the community remains silent on this abuse perpetrated by intolerance of homosexuality. This is completely unacceptable. The JCCV has a solid track record of taking swift action when it becomes aware of damaging or harmful situations in the community. It has responded to sexual abuse claims, under-age drinking, anti-semitism, fundamentalist extremism etc. To date the JCCV has remained consistently silent on the matter of psychological child abuse perpetrated by intolerance of homosexuality. There is no excuse for this.
The JCCV lists amongst it's goals:
• Facilitation of harmony and positive relationships between the various elements of the Victorian Jewish community and between our community and the larger community
• A positive perception of Jews in Victorian society
• A thriving local Jewish community
• A safer local Jewish community
The JCCV needs to achieve its goals and fails to do so by not speaking out against this terrible abuse. It fails it's members and it fails its community.
The JCCV has been aware of the extreme risks of intolerance of homosexuality since at least October 2009. It has not made a single statement specifically speaking out against the abhorrent practice of intolerance of homosexuality and lack of unconditional acceptance of same-sex attracted youth since then. It is now long overdue for a statement from the JCCV speaking out strongly against this specific psychological abuse. The entire Jewish community would benefit greatly by having a statement issued before another week goes by.
The President of the JCCV John Searle and other community leaders will become complicit in this ongoing psychological child abuse if they don't acknowledge the harm and speak out immediately.Sincerely,
Article in Sydney Star Observer:
Homphobobic taunts played a significant role in the suicide of a 14-year-old boy, a coronial inquest has found.
On July 25 2008 Kadina High School student Alex Wildman was found dead in the garage of his Lismore home. Two days earlier, months of harassment by other students culminated in Wildman being struck in the head while two other boys held his hair and a group of students looked on.
Just months earlier students had left homophobic messages on MySpace, calling him gay and a faggot.
“Why you go back out [sic] with that faggot … I hope he dies in a hole,” one message said.
Alex was also bullied at Sydney high schools before moving to the north coast in a bid to escape the homophobic taunts, the inquest heard.
Handing down his finding last week, Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson recommended the NSW Education Department ensure high schools with more than 500 students employ full-time counsellors and have dedicated email, phone, text or chat room options to report bullying.
He also recommended the introduction of legislation similar to South Australia giving schools jurisdiction over cyber-bullying and incidents between students outside school hours.
“Without excusing the bullying behaviour, it appears some of the bullying arose because of Alex’s relationships with girls and because of his failure to respond to physical violence,” MacPherson said.
“The problem … particularly as it applies to the modern phenomenon of cyber-bullying, is an issue for the whole school community.”
WayOut rural youth project coordinator Sue Hackney told Sydney Star Observer a recent survey of high school students from regional Victoria showed homophobia did not only affect same-sex attracted youth.
“Our survey shows that among people who identify as heterosexual, the experiences they have with homophobia are just as damaging,” Hackney said.
“Probably more so with the young men. If the young men are doing things the group culture believes is not consistent with the image they want to project, they’ll call each other a ‘faggot’ and they’ll use homophobic language as a way of monitoring behaviour.”
ACON community health director Craig Cooper said the homophobic bullying of heterosexuals needed to be taken seriously.
“Homophobic abuse, no matter who it’s directed at, is still a form of vilification and is therefore unacceptable,” he said.
“Helping young people understand the broader impact that homophobic abuse has is just as important as helping them understand the impact that such abuse has on GLBT individuals’ health and wellbeing.”
Anti-discrimination laws in NSW and Victoria protect people from abuse where a perpetrator has misassumed their sexuality, but no state protects people from being vilified as a sexuality the perpetrator knows they are not.
This article is from the change.org web site from the USA:
Statistics on suicide are grim. Approximately 32,000 people commit suicide each year in the U.S., and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. When it comes to the subject of LGBT youth and suicide, the statistics are even darker. According to a 2006 Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey, LGBT and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers; LGBT youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
Suicide among LGBT youth is an issue that The Trevor Project has been working on for over 10 years. The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. In addition, The Trevor Project provides online support to young people, and also provides lifesaving guidance and vital resources to educators and parents.
Today, we've got 5 questions with Jacqueline Wing, Communications Manager for The Trevor Project. As Jacqueline describes below, addressing suicide among LGBT young people is something we all need to take responsibility for addressing. To learn more, read the questions below, visit The Trevor Project's Web site, check out The Trevor Project's blog, or become a fan of the organization on Facebook.
The issue of LGBT suicide has received quite a bit of publicity recently with the release of the Lifetime Movie, "Prayers for Bobby." But before there was "Bobby," there was "Trevor," a 1994 film about a gay teenager who attempts to take his life. How did that film help launch the Trevor Project and/or contribute to the Trevor Project's mission?
Jacqueline Wing (JW), The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 by filmmakers James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski and Randy Stone, the creators of the comedy/drama Trevor. When Trevor was scheduled to air on HBO® in 1998, the filmmakers realized that some of the program’s young viewers might be facing the same kind of crisis as Trevor (who is a fictitious character) and began to search for a support line to be broadcast during the airing. They discovered that no such helpline existed, and decided to dedicate themselves to forming what was, in their view, a much-needed resource: an organization to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in crisis and suicide prevention among that group. Thus, The Trevor Helpline was born with seed funding provided by The Colin Higgins Foundation. The Trevor Helpline remains the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. It is because of the film, Trevor, and our wonderful founders that we continue to save young lives today.What types of training do employees and volunteers who work at the Trevor Project's helpline have to receive before they can take calls?
JW: All of our volunteer helpline counselors participate in more than 40 hours of mandatory, intensive training. The training process consists of lectures, role plays and guest speakers. Upon successful completion of classroom training, counselors sit in on two shifts, listening in on live phone calls in preparation for their first call. When potential counselors are going through training, they are also assigned to veteran helpline counselors as mentors. These mentors help to ensure that trainees have the best possible training experience and feel confident enough to begin taking calls on The Trevor Helpline. New counselors take their first call on The Trevor Helpline with the support of their mentors.The majority of the 18,000+ calls to The Trevor Helpline last year came from the South and other rural areas. Is there any significance to this?
JW: There is certainly significance to this. Many callers in the South, Midwest or other rural areas of the country live in isolated communities that lack resources for LGBTQ people. These young people may not even know that other LGBTQ people exist, much less that there are supportive organizations available to help them. Without solid support systems, young people can be left feeling alone, helpless and/or hopeless. That’s why The Trevor Helpline is so vital. Youth who need someone to talk to or don’t know where to turn in their own communities can pick up the phone and call The Trevor Helpline regardless of where they live. Our trained counselors listen and understand without judgment, and most importantly, can refer them to other helpful resources close by.In addition to the helpline, the Trevor Project also focuses on education and outreach. How does the Trevor Project help local schools or communities become safer spaces for LGBT young people? And on this note, does the Trevor Project focus exclusively on middle and high schools, or are you active on college campuses?
JW: The Trevor Project is committed to providing educators with essential tools to identify and help youth in crisis, and guidance on how to encourage students to create accepting environments for their peers. Our “Lifeguard School Workshop Program” uses a structured curriculum to address topics around sexuality, gender identity, the impacts of language and behavior and what it means for young people to feel different. The workshop also teaches young people to recognize depression and suicidal ideations amongst their peers, as well as how to help. In addition, we distribute an educational kit called “The Trevor Survival Kit” to schools and youth service providers nationwide to help educators constructively facilitate discussions with students surrounding suicide, gender identity and sexual orientation. We conduct workshops in middle schools, high schools, colleges and also with youth service organizations.What is the number one thing that people can do to address the issue of LGBT suicide, especially among young people?
JW: The most important thing anyone can do is to encourage and promote acceptance and celebrate diversity everywhere. Although we’ve made a great deal of progress, we still live in a world where LGBTQ people are often treated as second-class citizens and are subjected to discrimination, harassment and prejudice. That’s why it’s disheartening but not surprising that LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. We can all do our part to prevent youth from becoming tragic statistics by fostering safe, accepting and inclusive environments for all young people.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the organization can visit TheTrevorProject.org and click “Volunteer.” Current volunteer opportunities include becoming a helpline counselor, participating in Board committees, volunteering at events and assisting with special projects.
Upcoming events hosted by The Trevor Project include Oscar Night (West Hollywood, CA - February 22), Upright LA Cabaret (Palm Springs, CA - May 23), and Trevor New York (New York, NY - June 29). For more information on The Trevor Project's events, click here. If you are interested in contributing to The Trevor Project, you can give a tax-deductible financial contribution here.Michael Jones is a Change.org Editor. He has worked in the field of human rights communications for a decade, most recently for Harvard Law School.
One suicide is one too many.
But three suicides in one year, within one school district, all by students who are gay or lesbian? That's nothing short of an epidemic, and it's the problem currently facing Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district.
The most recent incident occurred in July, when a 15-year-old student took his own life. A concert cello player in his school's orchestra, the student was incessantly bullied because of his sexual orientation.
"I'm not asking you to accept this as a lifestyle for you," his grieving mother recently said in testimony before the Anoka-Hennepin school board. "I'm only asking that you please make the school safe for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students still alive and in this district today."
Statistics underscore the danger to LGBT students. Nationwide, gay youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual classmates, in large part because of toxic environments where anti-gay bullying can thrive. Nearly 90% of gay students have experienced harassment in school, and almost two-thirds say they feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Yet in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, a "neutrality" policy has tied the hands of school administrators and teachers to combat homophobia. This policy was put in place due to the influence of anti-gay groups such as the Parents Action League, which believes homosexuality is a behavior that can be cured, and it requires teachers and school officials to remain silent about subjects pertaining to sexual orientation.
Because of this anti-gay influence, the school board turned down a request by Minnesota's largest gay rights organization to conduct a district-wide anti-bullying program. And it prevented the district from taking action against two teachers who harassed a student believed to be gay until an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights intervened and punished the teachers.
Stopping the harassment of people based on their sexual orientation shouldn't be a liberal or conservative issue. It's a humanitarian issue, and can literally be a matter of life and death. The only way to fight the suicide trend in the Anoka-Hennepin school district is by changing the climate in the district. Call on the Anoka-Hennepin school board to stop ignoring the problem and end the policy that prevents school officials from effectively dealing with anti-gay bullying.
Suicide doesn't occur in a vacuum. As we commemorate National Suicide Prevention Week this week, let us remember that we all have influence over the environment in which harassment thrives. If we sit idly by and do nothing, we're part of the problem.
AlterHeros National Suicide Prevention Week
Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual - Suicide Prevention Australia
Suicide Prevention Australia
From the Care2 web pages:
In the wake of a string of youth suicides related to anti-LGBT bullying, you would think that religious conservative groups would at least have the good grace to wait a while before jumping back on the anti-LGBT bandwagon, but no. Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, wrote last week that it's not anti-gay bullying that's causing these suicides, it's gay indoctrination in schools that is subjecting kids to an unhealthy "lifestyle" and makes them more likely to commit suicide.From The Minnesota Independent (emphasis added):
Prichard asserts that the suicide death of 15-year-old Justin Aaberg was not due to anti-LGBT bullying. Aaberg took his life in July, and his mother and friends say anti-LGBT bullying played a factor Prichard claims that “homosexual activists” are “manipulating” his death to get homosexual indoctrination programs into the school district. “Whatever the exact reason for Justin’s suicide it’s an enormous tragedy that shouldn’t be manipulated for ideological purposes which is what’s being done now,” he wrote on Thursday. “I’ll of course be accused of being unloving, hateful, etc. But is the loving thing to encourage and promote unhealthy and harmful behaviors and practices?”
[...] I would agree that youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk, because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle. These alternative sexual identifications or lifestyles deny the reality that we are created male and female. To live or try to live in conflict with how we are made will invariably cause problems, e.g. emotional, psychological and social. Notwithstanding gay activist assertions to the contrary, people aren’t gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. by God’s design or nature. We are male and female with sexual expression designed for a lifelong union between a man and a woman. Denying or fighting against this reality is the reason alternative forms of sexual expression, whether homosexual or heterosexual, will put people at greater risk. To assert otherwise is to deny reality and involves “kicking against the goad” to use a biblical analogy.
The Minnesota Family Council and the anti-LGBT Parents Action League are both lobbying local schools against adopting specific provisions to protect LGBT kids because, as you can see above, they believe that such provisions are a way gay groups advance the so-called "gay agenda" in schools and, therein, destroy traditional marriage and marginalize religious belief.
On the website TrueTolerance.org, anti-gay group Focus on the Family maps out its own anti-bullying plan (which can be viewed here.pdf), something that associated groups like the Minnesota Family Council are quick to point to. The model calls for all bullying class protections (race, gender, disability etc.) to be dropped and instead advocates for the creation of a blanket anti-bullying policy that covers all children regardless of sexuality, race, disability and so on.
Admittedly, this is an attractive idea but it is flawed on several counts. First, the success of a blanket policy hinges on public school and college administrators protecting youths equally -- while many of course do, we know that when it comes to anti-LGBT bias, as has been the case with other currently protected groups, some officials continue to treat students differently and, in particular, may overlook such bullying because they lack a framework to properly tackle these incidents or perhaps hold anti-LGBT views themselves and therefore fail to act. Needless to say that, if left unchecked, this kind of bullying is dangerous. A new study published this week in the journal of Developmental Psychology appears to support existing data that LGBT youths are subjected to a severe amount of bullying which has a lasting negative impact on their lives.From CBS News:
It showed that the mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people is severely compromised by bullying and harassment they receive in school.[...]
The study examined the school-related experiences of 245 LGBT young adults between the ages of 21 and 25. It found that LGBT young adults reported higher levels of depression and decreased life satisfaction.
The scientists behind the study called on schools to take action to address the bullying, violence, and social isolation that LGBT youth face, including the implementation of education programs for students and faculty, offering support programs, and protecting students through tough antidiscrimination policies.
"Our research makes it crystal clear that anti-LGBT bullying is a major reason that youth who don't conform to gender rules or expectations have poorer mental health later in life," study co-author Stephen T. Russell, a consultant with the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, said in a written statement.
This kind of bullying isn't just harming LGBT youths, either. Indiana teen Billy Lucas was only perceived to be gay by his peers but he was bullied because of that perception and ultimately took his own life in September aged 15. Focus and associated groups advocate a "neutral policy" approach to LGBT topics so that no sexual orientation other than heterosexuality is mentioned in schools. The inherent prejudice in this is obvious and its flaw is glaring because it fails to tackle the underlying intolerance of such bullying.
Furthermore, Focus on the Family's toothless anti-bullying model wants to preserve what they call a religious right to object to homosexuality in public schools. Specifically, the wording is that no policy should be allowed "to prohibit expression of religious, philosophical, or political views" (Page 4, Section V; ADF Model Bullying Policy).
On the website the group rallies against "politicized" anti-LGBT specific bullying policies but note the language that was taken from the bullying policy. They don't want special protections for political/social views except for their own, it seems.
It is also worth noting that Focus is affiliated with the group Exodus which promotes a form of ex-gay therapy. Associated groups like PFOX (not to be confused with the LGBT-affirming PFLAG) last year placed literature in schools including "I Chose to Change" a leaflet that was distributed to teenagers in Montgomery County Public Schools along with their report cards and which advocated that a person can "choose to change" his or her sexuality. The leaflet can be viewed here. According to this report, ex-gay literature disseminated on campus is something that anti-gay groups may also be pushing for in Aaberg, Minnesota.
Regardless of these facts, Focus on the Family was quick to praise The Minnesota Family Council for its stance, reportedly saying:
“Once schools are forced to include special categories for things like sexual orientation or gender identity in their policies, that has been used as leverage to get in homosexual-themed curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten [and to introduce] so-called ‘diversity training’ for high school students and teachers,” said Candi Cushman, education analyst with Focus on the Family. “So this just becomes a gateway for homosexuality promotion in the school.” Kids throughout America continue to suffer because Focus on the Family and associated groups fear that "homosexuality promotion" might happen in schools. Last, let's just dissect the "homosexuality promotion" meme.
The most schools could promote is that being gay is normal, not something to be ashamed of and not a result of a personal choice, an idea that the overwhelming majority of the credible medical community agrees with and a reality that is accepted by a growing majority of the general public.
To object to homosexuality on the grounds of a particular interpretation of a religious belief is, of course, a right. It should not, however, be a carte blanche for groups like Focus on the Family or the Minnesota Family Council to proselytize in public schools at the expense of the mental and physical wellbeing of LGBT kids and teenagers.
TAKE ACTION: Help end anti-LGBT bullying!Further Reading:
Don't Suffer in Silence, Get Help
The Trevor Project runs a 24/7 helpline with trained counselors ready to listen if you or someone you know would like to talk about the issues dealt with in this post.The Trevor Project Helpline number is 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).
In response to the horrific and escalating accounts of assaults and teen suicides all linked to that person's sexual identity, the "It Gets Better Project" has launched a nation-wide initiative aimed at raising awareness and saving lives. Events have been planned all over the country including for October 11, National Coming Out Day. Steve Williams has done an amazing job reporting on both inspiring and heartbreaking stories as part of that effort to make sure not another person is abused, intimidated or dehumanized because of their sexuality and I suggest you check out his work if you haven't had a chance yet to do so.Because then you'll hear stories like this and wonder, like I did, how could it get any worse for some folks?
Nine attackers, ranging in age from 16 to 23 and calling themselves the Latin King Goonies kidnapped, beat and sodomized two teenage boys until the boys confessed to having sex with another man. With those confessions in hand, they lured another man, age 30, to a house with a promise of a party. Instead of a party "Goonies" went on to kidnap, beat and sodomize the man for over 10 hours, going so far as to go to his house, attack his brother, and rob him.
All because the man was gay.
The rest of the lurid details of the crime can be found in the reporting by The New York Times, and frankly, it turns my stomach too much to recount them here. Instead, I urge you to push your legislators for immediate passage of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act--pieces of legislation designed to get to the heart of the problem of bias-based bullying.
Had the legislation existed by now there's no saying how many lives could have been saved simply because of a systematic approach at understanding and tolerance. It used to be we lynched men and women for the color of their skin, and it took an entire movement to push back against that criminality. Nothing short of the same is needed here because, like the racism of the Jim Crow days, these are campaigns grounded in ignorance and perpetuated by fear and misinformation.
And just like the earlier campaigns of violence and prejudice, this can be defeated. We can make this stop. Things can get better.Read more: gay, civil rights, bullying, coming out, it gets better project
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This page updated 5 NOVEMBER 2013 and again on 17 NOVEMBER 2016