Vokal 1 Megan Vokal McDermott APE, Pd.

5 3/17/2009 No Voice The era of self-discovery known as the teenage years is a time of confusion for everyone. Hormones are raging, interests are forming, peers are being evaluated, and a general sense of identity is developing in the minds of America's teens. For the average 13- to 19-year-old, the stresses of growing up are more than enough to deal with. But for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transsexual teens, this time of questioning comes with a whole new set of problems; as they try to come to terms with their sexual identities, they must face the challenges of living in a society that does not fully understand nor accept what seems perfectly natural to them. Oftentimes, homophobic discrimination from their peers, a lack of information about themselves, and fear and anxiety over the disclosure of their sexual orientation can lead to depression and a low selfesteem that might not have been otherwise felt. If left unchecked, these stress factors can build up into a heavy burden that becomes impossible to bear. And when it finally gets to be too much, they take matters into their own hands, finding rest at the barrel of a gun. However, none of it is necessary. The internalization of anti-gay sentiments held by society puts homosexual teens at high risk for suicide, but their deaths can be prevented through the efforts of schools and members of society whose opinions matter most to these troubled teens. “Every 90 minutes one adolescent commits suicide, making it the third leading cause of death among ten- to 19-year-olds” (Kitts). That is approximately 5,840 deaths by suicide a year. According to a 1989 article written by Paul Gibson and published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, 30% of those suicides were committed by homosexual youths.

Vokal 2 However.Death certificates do not list whether an individual is heterosexual or homosexual.. support his reason for concern. supports this claim. if not matching Gibson's statistics exactly. which argues that Gibson's report was fundamentally flawed on several accounts.000 adolescent girls and over 5. [S.000 adolescent boys. Muehrer states in Delia M.” said conservative organization Concerned Women for America.[T]here are no reliable to standard methods for measuring suicide attempts.. “In a [2001] study involving over 6.. other studies have shown results that. Rios's 2000 article that “... Peter Muehrer..'” and pointing to studies that have produced conflicting results. the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey “. Russell and K. And. Joyner] concluded that adolescents with a same-sex orientation were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide” (Kitts).has been conducted every two years since 1993 with consistent results” (Star).may not be inclined to identify themselves to researchers conducting . ...gays and lesbians. Many argue that the 30% statistic results from faulty research slanted to support the homosexual agenda.. chief of the Youth Mental Health program in the Prevention and Behavioral Medicine Research Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health... Others have found similar problems with Gibson's math. Also.[T]he Gibson report is riddled with statistical inconsistencies. finding that LGBT teens “.'there is no scientific evidence to support this (30 percent) figure.” The variety of results is mainly due to the difficulty of conducting suicide research based on sexuality....are almost four times more likely to attempt suicide and five times more likely to receive medical treatment for an attempt than heterosexual youth. this statistic has been continually questioned and has become the subject of a heated debate. “.. and that it is nothing more than a myth.. But at the same time.

figures from The Trevor Project.000 calls. and handles a monthly average of 750 to 1.has received over 30. much less their sexuality. along with several other independent variables. headquartered in Beverly Hills.. even though researchers have debunked Gibson's 30% statistic.. CA. and the validity of their statements. So. who participates. The Trevor Project hotline. as of April 2006. show a clear sign of need for the suicide prevention of homosexual teens. the helpline. “. and self-loathing. it is hard to conduct a study that accurately depicts what percentage of suicide victims are gay and how many of their deaths are related to their homosexuality. However.000 calls” (Star). along with personal stories.. “. Researchers will often stress that homosexuality is not a suicide risk factor in and of itself. . which in many cases would not be otherwise experienced.Vokal 3 general population studies. (Rios) Depending on where research is conducted. Teens that have not yet come out fear being ostracized by their friends while carrying the burden of a secret that they have no obvious option but to keep. which sometimes escalates to the physical level.. Teens that have come out commonly face teasing and abuse. This often causes gay teens to feel anxiety. “The increased risk comes from the psychosocial distress associated with being gay” (Kitts). Teenagers are greatly affected by the opinions of their peers and commonly suffer ridicule for matters as insignificant as their clothing. Created in 1998. depression. alternative methods for detecting a need for gay teen suicide awareness may make the quest for such statistics unnecessary. The fear of being labeled as something so negatively viewed by society places stress on homosexuals that is intensified within high school and junior high environments. while terms like “faggot” and “dyke” follow them down hallways to remind them that they are different. is the nation's only 24-hour suicide prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth.

after they have labeled themselves as gay . “. School authorities do not offer much more assistance.. associate executive director of programs for the American School Health Association. Being gay was “the one thing she said she couldn't forgive” (Schleis). or was gay. once asked his Christian friend how she would feel if he had killed someone while driving drunk.stated that a recent survey of its members who are school nurses and health teachers revealed that 'homosexuality was the number one topic they weren't equipped to discuss'” (Snowder). and their chances of committing suicide are greater when no one is aware of the cause of their depression. Diane Allensworth. due to a fear of being rejected. And Paula Schleis and Kim Hone-McMahan reported that some “.. but gay teens must cope with a gay-hostile environment that. teens who attempt suicide because of their sexual orientation do so near the time of self-identification.. The lack of support from family and friends makes it even more difficult for gay teens to cope with their sexuality.Vokal 4 [U]nlike other troubled adolescents who are at-risk for suicide. [teens say]. Usually. so they avoid turning to anyone affiliated with religion. if internalized. Parents are often kept in the dark about their child's sexual orientation.school officials said they were not aware of any problems facing gay students. But unlike other victims of bullying. gay teens have nowhere to turn when faced with these situations. raped a girl. can be destructive to self-esteem—and survival” (Snowder). they feel certain their parents would be too ashamed of them to do anything about it” (Schleis).. gay teens may be psychologically healthy. a gay teen. “Even if their families knew what they suffered. Antonio. Homosexuality is kept out of class rooms so well that it is difficult for students to determine who would help and who would make situations worse.” Teens with religious views are used to hearing homosexuals condemned as sinners.

A 1995 Minnesota study found: .. for example. they can easily be overwhelmed and put themselves at risk. Often. and suicide appears to be their best option to escape what they do not want to become. Heather] Sawyer. and 19% made the attempt after coming out” (Kitts).five times more likely than straight kids to skip school out of fear for their safety and almost .. “One study involving 350 gay adolescents between the ages of 14 and 21 reported that 54% made their first suicide attempt before coming out to others. The nondisclosure of their sexual identity may protect teens from public humiliation and abandonment.. might fight against that by engaging in sexual behavior with older men. 27% made the attempt during the same year they came out. and unsafe sex.” says [senior staff attorney for the LAMBDA Legal Defense and Education Fund. dropping out of school. gay teens do not have to attempt suicide to be at risk. three-fourths of all first attempts temporally followed self-labeling” (Snowder). they do not know how to deal with being different from the rest of the world. but it leaves them to struggle through their problems on their own. Finding themselves confused and apparently alone. they will engage in other harmful activities. and if these problems are new to them.lesbian and bisexual girls were more likely to become pregnant and more likely to have multiple pregnancies than heterosexual girls. cutting their forearms or legs. “Lesbian youth. such as drug and alcohol abuse. However. “Youth that are struggling with their sexuality or sexual orientation are at risk for engaging in sexual behavior because they're trying to work things out.Vokal 5 but before they have announced their orientation to others. “Overall.. running away from home.” (Lee) The Massachusetts Department of Education found in 1995 that gay males and lesbians were “.

: purposely contracting AIDS” (Snowder). That makes running away appealing because it relieves them from the responsibility of living their lives.Vokal 6 five times more likely to use cocaine” (Jerome). But there their voices can also be heard the loudest. But teens who take this route often are not aware of what they are getting into. if they cannot find hope. Especially in the homosexual population. and with the support of friends. The increased risk of suicide that gay teens face makes suicide prevention and support targeted toward their situation an absolute must. and suffering with AIDS gives them a whole new reason to wish they were dead. many people tend to avoid it in public discussions. not necessarily death.. Unfortunately. though the notion may be less frightening to a teen whose line of vision stops at ending their pain. What they really want is a release from their daily sufferings. their troubles easily catch up to them and they seek a more permanent solution. the subject of homosexuality is so controversial. society still speaks strongly against being gay... teens are most vulnerable to the cruelty of their peers. But for teens struggling with their sexual identities. drowning out of the voices of those who think differently. The use of drugs or self-injury allows them to escape from their reality without putting their lives in immediate danger. One of the best places to accomplish this is within the school systems. This solution may be an instant death accomplished with a rope and chair.. family.a terrible new trend. and . This has been witnessed in “. and gay teens are left believing that there is something wrong with them. However. they are somehow less human than the heterosexual population that makes up the majority. But if people would abandon the fear of controversy and speak up. the means of contracting AIDS are not sparse and the result is no less deadly than pulling a trigger. There. Outside of the media. that could change. or a slow death of unimaginable physical suffering that rivals the mental anguish already felt. it is something that needs to be addressed.

This has seen some success. there are about 700 GSAs across the nation..school programs that deal frankly with homosexuality in an attempt to end the social stigma attached to it” (Hamilton). it calls for a different approach. these hallowed halls can be either a living hell or a sanctuary under the supervision of their teachers. GSAs were designed as both support groups for gay students and—with the held of the sympathetic straight students—a bulwark against homophobia” (?). few schools have been able to provide adequate support. And even when a teacher comes along who does not tolerate homophobic remarks. School officials “. “Throughout the 2007-08 school year.. 'That's so gay. But while school environments are better for gay teens today that they were in the past. or disgusting. the GSA at [Bellevue] East worked to become a sponsored organization. “First established in 1988. Currently. Rather. Instead of simply rebuking abuse toward gay teens when it is seen. They wrote a constitution and . Some school districts still refuse to acknowledge their schools' gay populations. Teens spend approximately eight hours in school.. students still get away with abuse in hallways and after school when administrators are not around to monitor them. Students in the Bellevue Public Schools districts have had to fight administration to get their voices heard. But that does not make the situation hopeless. So far. schools should strive for a more proactive solution by implementing “..usually stop the use of the term 'faggot' if they hear it..Vokal 7 teachers. and the number is growing. they are still nowhere near perfect.” (Schleis).. they can make the change they deserve and increase their chances of surviving their adolescence... bad. For gay teens..'―meant to describe anything strange.[But] officials rarely admonish a student for using the term. as more schools are providing support systems such as the Gay-Straight Alliance.

It is not just an issue of not offending someone. We need to open up the discussion and dialogue. or at least not be abused because of popular opinions. School policies do not have to favor homosexuality. “'Staff and teachers need to learn not to allow homophobic behavior.Vokal 8 English teacher Joe Blackstad became their sponsor” (McGuffey). It is an issue of life and death. and everyone should have access to information that does not write off homosexuality as a mental disease or a societal abomination. However. to diminish ignorance and discrimination. insisting that they instead try to spread their message under the umbrella of the Diversity Club. A better understanding of homosexuality in the educational system will help gay teens be more accepted. When gay teens believe that they are unwilling freaks of nature. telling them that their rights are not as important as those of the student council or sports teams and denying them access to what may be the only group of people who will tell them that they are not bad for being different during their whole high school career. it is important to communicate information about homosexuality to others in the schools.” But school officials do not realize what message they are sending by rejecting these clubs. Because students are so influenced by their peers and teachers. they put themselves . Students and staff who express prejudice against homosexuality should be treated no different than if their prejudice had been against race or religion. when they want to change but are unable to. the school has refused to sponsor their organization. This research shows the consequences of keeping this information repressed'” (Hamilton). Gay teens are not the only ones who need to hear that they are okay. Their actions only encourage the homophobic tension felt by gay students. “a group that is currently dormant at East. either. High schoolers need access to good counselors and information. But they should not be allowed to discriminate against it.

The problem is that they have no voice to tell them that they are—and will be—okay. children are listening with utmost respect. While anti-gay remarks are being casually thrown about among these esteemed individuals. But though the subject of homosexuality is controversial. reckless. The problem is not that they are strange. Some of them will never hear anything else ever again.. “. bi-sexuals. its incessant debate is not worth the lives of thousands of teenagers whose opinion of self-worth is affected by the words and actions of those they regard most highly: friends. the dominant opinion that heterosexuals form the only natural couples has made it difficult for gays. Still. and authoritative figures.. they almost always find someone who will challenge them.Vokal 9 through mental anguish that they do not deserve.. And whenever someone expresses a different opinion. .. lesbians.[M]any Americans continue to view homosexuality as a character defect to be controlled or reformed.But the weight of research indicates that people don't select their sexuality” (Jerome). when many people that they have never met will tell them that nothing is. and transsexuals to be seen as anything other than freaks or weirdos. or chemically depressed. gay teens are commonly left in the dark trying to figure out what is wrong with them. Up until now.. family.

Vokal 10 Works Cited Concerned Women for America.” Newsweek 135. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Lee. “Sex Education Should Address the Needs of Gay Teens.galenet. “The Extent of Homosexual Teen Suicide Is Exaggerated. Carol. Leslie A. 19 Feb.” Opposing Viewpoints: Suicide.galenet.12 (March 20.com/>. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. 2000. 2009 <http://www.com/>.” At Issue: Sex Education. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. set out to form a GayStraight Alliance. Roman Espejo. 10 Mar. 2009 <http://www. . 2009 <http://www. Gale.. Bellevue West High School. Miller and Paul A Rose.galenet. Gale. they got a real education in the limits of tolerance. Gale. Hamilton. 2003. Bellevue West High School. Immell. Myra H.com/>.com/>. 2009 <http://www.com/>. La. 17 Feb. 2000): 54. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. Gale. Gale. 2002. 17 Feb. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. David A. Kitts. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Robert Li. 19 Feb. 2006. Richard. 2009 <http://www. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Bellevue West High School.galenet.” Contemporary Issues Companion: Teens and Sex.galenet. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. Bellevue West High School. Jerome.” Opposing Viewpoints: Problems of Death. “High School Controversial: When two students in Baton Rouge. Bellevue West High School. “Homosexuality Is a Factor in Teen Suicide. “Homosexuality Is a Risk Factor in Teen Suicide.” Current Controversies: Suicide. Becker. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. “The Realities of Growing Up Gay. Chris.

com/>. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. 19 Feb. Paula.com/>.galenet. Leslie A. and Kim Hone-McMahan. “Gay Teens Are at Risk. Jamuna Carroll. 2008: 12. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. San Diego: Greenhaven Press.galenet. 19 Feb. “Homophobia Increases the Suicide Risk for Gay Teens. Delia M. “Suicide Among Homosexual Teens Is Exaggerated. Bellevue West High School.com/>.” Opposing Viewpoints: Homosexuality. “East students strive to create sponsored club. Rose. Williams. 19 Feb. Snowder. Gale. Bellevue West High School.galenet. Star. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center.com/>. 2004. 2005.” The West Wind 11 Dec. Gale. Bri. 19 Feb. Frances. Gale. Bellevue West High School. .galenet. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. McGuffey. Bellevue West High School. 2009 <http://www. 2009 <http://www.galenet. Schleis.com/>. 1999. 2009 <http://www. Mary E. Dan Diego: Greenhaven Press. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. 2008. Bellevue West High School.” Opposing Viewpoints: America's Youth. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. Auriana Ojeda. 2000.” Opposing Viewpoints: Teens at Risk. 17 Feb. Gale. Letitia L. 2009 <http://www.” Current Controversies: Suicide.Vokal 11 Kristin Bailey. 2009 <http://www. Miller and Paul A. Rios. “Gay Teen Suicide is Common. Gale.

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