How would you, as a gay man and youth advocate, describe the state of this problem as it stands toda
I was asked this question as part of a university student's class project and this was my response:
Both bullying and suicide continue to be significant problems for LGBTQ youth. They are also significant problems for our society as we continue to search for effective ways to reduce the incidence of both.
I talk with many young people and I am always surprised and saddened when I ask them about bullying and suicide. Our youth are very familiar with the issues of bullying and suicide because many of them have experience with both either directly or indirectly. Our public schools tend to want us to believe that bullying is not a significant issue or that it is a regular part of being an adolescent. We know both of these ideas are simply misinformation given to the public to downplay the tremendous problem our schools face in dealing with bullying.
Bullying is a form of violence and far too often our public schools avoid following through with holding bullies accountable for the personal violation and other damage this violence does to the victim. Schools generally do not provide the in-depth counseling and support victims of violence need to heal from the negative implications it has on their lives.
Bullying causes emotional trauma and in some cases physical harm. The emotional trauma is far harder to see because many young people hide this part of their lives from adults. Emotional trauma is not healed simply because we avoid it. In most cases physical damage heals while emotional trauma can be buried deep inside where it continues to grow each time a youth is bullied. This trauma is one of the factors leading to suicide and attempted suicide.
It can be harder for an LGBTQ youth to seek help when bullied because they may not want to draw attention to themselves if they are not openly LGBTQ. They may fear people will learn their secret of being LGBTQ if they report the bullying and seek help dealing with the resulting trauma. LGBTQ youth may feel, and in many cases are justified in feeling, that the negative consequences of people knowing they are LGBTQ outweigh the damage of the violence of bullying. Unfortunately, in many cases this is not true and the subsequent trauma and fear leads to suicide.
We must continue building safe, compassionate, and inclusive communities where we eliminate the irrational fear of LGBTQ people and the prejudice, discrimination, oppression, and abuse that are the products of this fear.