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 discrimination, older 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.
“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!
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