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Give A Damn About LGBT Youth Suicide?

Give A Damn About LGBT Youth Suicide?

A recent PSA from Cyndi Lauper’s Give a Damn campaign sees well known faces trying to get the message out about the suicide risk lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth continue to suffer.

The message of the PSA is simple:

“Rejection by one’s parents, one’s family and one’s community has to be one of the most painful and lonely experiences any person can be subjected to. So deep is the hurt that it causes these kids to think suicide is an option… we can’t let this continue. We have to help our children and friends accept themselves. We have to make sure that they know that they are loved and that they are not alone.”

                                                      –Cyndi Lauper, Give A Damn blog.

Featuring Lily Tomlin, Judith Light, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Mae Whitman, here is the PSA:

Launched by Cyndi Lauper and her True Colors fund alongside several LGBT organizations including The Trevor Project, the Give a Damn campaign is aimed at everyone who cares about equality, but is particularly involved with empowering straight advocates by raising awareness of several issues LGBTs face including workplace discriminationolder adult issues, youth homelessness and, of course, youth suicide.

Released earlier this month, the PSA was designed to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week, but its message remains an important one all year round, and especially with a new school year having just got underway.  

GLSEN Releases 2009 School Climate Survey
Rarely can youth suicide prevention be discussed without also mentioning the issue of school bullying, namely because the two are often unfortunately linked.

Earlier this month 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Indiana took his own life after persistent anti-gay bullying at school even though Billy never identified as gay. His is just one among many stories to surface over the past few years where bias related bullying has ended in tragedy.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, recently released the results of the 2009 National School Climate Survey. This is the latest in ten years of reports concerning anti-LGBT harassment and victimization in schools.

The report found that while anti-LGBT name calling had declined over the past ten years, anti-LGBT harassment has remained a relative constant. According to GLSEN, however, the data did show that when explicit provisions were put in place to deal with anti-LGBT bullying, the situation could be improved.

From the GLSEN press release:

“In 1999, GLSEN began data collection on the school experiences of LGBT students in order to fill a critical void in our knowledge and understanding of the ways LGBT issues play out in schools. It could not be clearer that there is an urgent need for action to create safe and affirming schools for LGBT students,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “As our nation seems to finally be taking bullying more seriously, it is crucial that LGBT students are no longer left out of efforts to address this public health crisis.”

With responses from 7,261 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 21 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the 2009 report found several problems still persist in schools today, including:

  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” frequently or often at school.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.

However, there were several positives.

Understanding staff who had knowledge of LGBT issues were more likely to have LGBT kids who missed fewer school days, felt safer in schools and had higher levels of academic achievement. Not a big surprise, really, but for those who oppose specific bias related policies, this is perhaps noteworthy.

Further to this, the report also found that schools utilizing anti-bullying provisions that protected students on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression, in addition to the usual protected classes of religion, race and disability, were less likely to hear homophobic language and had lower rates of harassment and assaults compared to a school where no such policy was in place.

For more information on the survey, or to read it in full, please click here.

Current federal legislation does not protect students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, but there are several pieces of legislation waiting to be taken up by Congress that would do this.

Introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Jared Polis, the Student Non-Discrimination Act would mandate that school programs receiving public funding must not discriminate against pupils on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation. It would also give gender identity and sexual orientation the same status as the currently protected classes of race, color, sex, religion, disability and national origin.

If you would like to find out more about the Student Non-Discrimination Act or sign the Care2 petition to support the act, please click here. If you’ve already singed, thank you!

If you would like to connect with and find out more about the Give a Damn project, here are some links that might be useful to you:

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Photo used under Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to John Steven Fernandez.

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11:18PM PDT on Oct 19, 2011

FYI - Thursday, October 20, 2011 is International SPIRIT DAY - one of the minor holidays on the LGBT Calendar. It is asked that you wear a PURPLE SHIRT as a sign of LGBT support, and in memory of the LGBT Teens who have died because of their orientation.

3:44AM PDT on Sep 22, 2011

I GIVE A DAMN...and joined the group on FB!

9:27AM PDT on Mar 14, 2011

i give s damn. i used to suffer with the cruel harassment of other teens for years. thank goodness it doesnt happen anymore. id like to help the kids that do still get bullied.

10:08AM PST on Dec 24, 2010

I Give A Damn!

I just wrote and published Got Homophobia in the midst of America's most heartfelt youth suicide.Got homophobia takes a hard look at homophobia, hate, bullying, and intolerance as a whole. America...WE MUST SAVE OUR CHILDREN!

"Azaan Kamau's Got Homophobia is an extremely important and timely book in an era where youth are committing suicide in alarming numbers. This book should be required reading in every classroom, college, cultural and religious institution." Award-winning journalist, best selling author and renowned activist, Ifalade Ta'Shia Asanti
Get Your Sale Copy Here:

12:58AM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

I give a damn. Please visit Youth Voice Initiative @ to give suggestions on what are the important issues of LGBT youth to help stop abuse.

6:00AM PDT on Oct 1, 2010

Look I don't know if this will help or not but I'm going to take a risk and mention it anyway.
I've been a Witch for 30 odd years. I've been around since the bad old days when it just wasn't socially acceptable....we're still battling prejudice, popular misconception and whatnot BUT it's nowhere near as stigmatised as it once was.
I was chatting with a Woman's Refuge volunteer a month back and she reminisced about how 15 years ago, she was spat at and abused when collecting for the Refuge....nowadays people fall over themselves to donate! It's that socially acceptable.
My point is, with time and education attitudes and conditions DO change. Things DO get better and they WILL because people ARE working to HELP create change for the better. Support them and hang on in's worth it. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Care, heart and warm support.

5:45AM PDT on Oct 1, 2010

WOW! That is a powerful video!...and frankly my dear....this wee Kiwi sheila GIVES a damn!

8:44AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

I GIVE A DAMN!! And parents, teach your children to be accepting off all people from all walks of life. It's the only way we can stop the hate. I don't understand why this is even an issue. There is nothing wrong with gays and lesbians! They are people, just like you and me.

5:41AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

Great initiative by Lauper & co.
But it is unfortunately too late for some.

Just today I discovered this on the front page of the NYTimes - Sorry proof that life doesn't always get better after high school: Tyler Clementi was 3 weeks into his freshman year at college:

Rutgers Freshman Kills Himself After Sex Encounter Broadcast Online - Fellow Students Filmed Secretly

Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi's suicide makes him a national example of a growing problem: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality. "Shyest student in the dorm" left message on Facebook: "Jumping off gw bridge sorry." He did jump off the George Washington Bridge.

Even if the young violinist, 18, from Ridgewood, New Jersey was not well known at his new school (he'd only been enrolled for 3 weeks), his death has stirred outrage. About 100 people gathered Wednesday night for a vigil on campus. They lay on the ground and chanted slogans like, "We're here, we're queer, we're not going home."

5:39AM PDT on Sep 30, 2010

A fellow violinist with the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra, said Clementi was one of the most gifted student players she had encountered in many years playing with the orchestra. "He was so incredibly talented — I could not believe how good he was for such a young boy. Such a nice kid all the way around. ...As a parent, he was the way you want your kids to be — polite, courteous, serious about the work he was doing, and a hard worker."

Today, thousands of Facebook users from around the world were posting to a newly created tribute page titled "In Honor of Tyler Clementi."

The 2 who filmed & broadcast with a webcam, a young man and a young woman, both 18, have been charged with both 3rd-degree & 4th-degree crimes: collecting or viewing sexual images without consent is a fourth-degree crime. Transmitting them is a third-degree crime with a maximum prison term of five years. What's worse, they were going to do it again! Two days later, the guy tried to use the webcam again to catch his roommate in another sex scene: he told all 148 followers on his Twitter account when to log on to a live video chat to watch. The Twitter page with his comments is in police custody & in New Jersey's Star Ledger:

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