As I sit here writing this column on October 15, in less than a week I’ve attended a candlelight vigil in the Tower District and “Be The Change—Out Is In” in the Peace Garden at Fresno State. Underlying both events is the recent visibility of teen suicide, by youth who were the victims of bullycide.
The following statistics provide some perspective (from the Trevor Project’s Web site and a recent Time.com article):
- In the United States, more than 34,000 people die by suicide each year. (2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC])
- Of all American teens who die by their own hand, 30% are LGBTQ.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, accounting for more than 12% of deaths in this age group; only accidents and homicide occur more frequently. (2006 National Adolescent Health Information)
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses. (2008 CDC)
- For every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100–200 attempts are made. (2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey)
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. (Massachusetts 2007 Youth Risk Survey)
- LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide as their LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. (Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R.M., & Sanchez, J. . Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics 123, 346–352).
- Almost 85% of LGBTQ teenagers are harassed in high school because of their sexual orientation, with 61% of gay youth reporting that they felt unsafe in school and 30% staying home to avoid bullying. (2009 Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network)
While bullycide has gained national attention, due to the death of a Rutgers University freshman, who jumped from the George Washington Bridge after a gay sexual encounter was broadcast live on the Internet, it hasn’t skipped Fresno County.
The week before the vigil, a Clovis student committed suicide after what was described as constant harassment and bullying at school. One speaker at the vigil said, “You can’t be gay in Clovis, you can’t be a boy wanting to be a girl in Clovis and you can’t be brown in Clovis.” In July, a student from Fowler also committed suicide.
Every time school districts try to set up anti-bullying programs, the anti-queer Christianists scream bloody murder, claiming the schools are trying to “indoctrinate” kids in the “homosexual lifestyle.” In a compromise, the districts try to establish “neutral” programs, which don’t mention the G-word. The consensus is that those programs are an utter failure. Unless the motives for bullying are given their true names, nothing is going to change. It’s time for school administrators to grow some cojones and tell the Christianists to butt out.
In other news, a federal judge has ordered the enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) to stop. When the judge issued her initial order finding the policy violates the First Amendment, Channel 30 interviewed a retired Marine officer who was in the Corps when DADT was put in place. He maintains that out queers will never be accepted in the military, that there are too many resentments on the part of straight members and that there are other avenues for queer folks to serve, outside of the military. If those statements are true, is there really an obligation by the queer community as a whole to defend this country?
In addition, queer activists are calling on the politically active part of the community to quit supporting the Democrats unless they act on our behalf. In regard to queer issues, the Democrats have been no different than the Republicans. The bills to repeal DADT have gone nowhere in a Democratic-controlled Congress. Ditto for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And ditto for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Democrats like our money but hate our issues.