Being a teen is hard. Being a gay teen is harder still. Many of our LGBT teens live in a harsh and dangerous environment. Last month’s well documented teen suicides have raised the issue to the national level. By now many of us are well aquainted with the Trevor Project and the Make It Better Project, and we have hopefully all seen the It Gets Better Project videos. Even Hillary Clinton recorded a video for the project:
Just in the past few days we have lost two more young people to suicide. Terrel Williams, 17, hung himself after a violent encounter at school.
Corey Jackson, 19, hung himself in the woods near his university.
And again, these are just the reported cases. We will never know how many countless others have taken their lives because of the world adults have created for them.
Suicide is an awful and complicated tragedy. Lets be honest: there’s plenty of blame to go around. Does the blame rest on the bullies who drove some of these youths to the edge? Are our school administrators to blame for not providing a safe environment, on and off campus? Do we need to examine our parenting and family support systems? Are lawmakers responsible for not codifying youth protections in the law? Might anti-gay religious leaders be at fault for deliberately mis-informing their followers about homosexuality? Can we be doing more as a community to support our youth? And, yes, we do need to ask what responsibility those in question had in making their situations better.
It’s a hard reality, but every single person who could have done something to change the circumstances surrounding these tragedies shares some of the blame.
Without a doubt anti-gay religious leaders contribute to an environment that is detrimental to the mental health of LGBT youth and fuels the fires of bullies all over the world. Two Thirds of Americans share this view, according to a brand new CNN Poll. Mitchell Gold writes about this influence:
People of faith must ask whether they are complicit in causing such devastation and whether their beliefs give them the right to judge and condemn others–even when those beliefs may convince a young person that he would rather be dead than gay.
Certainly bullies share a good portion of the blame for the circumstances they create, like the five kids who bullied Terrel Williams the day he hung himself.
Our schools need to be safe, and it is the job of administrators to ensure that safety extends to every child.
Congress is sitting on two important pieces of legislation which could help, and it looks like they aren’t going anywhere. Chris Geidner writes:
Discussion of LGBT bullying and youth suicide has led to increased efforts by organizations and individuals to eliminate – or, at least, lessen – both. The Congress, however, has taken a recess so that members can campaign for the upcoming midterm elections, so little discussion has focused on legislation in Congress that could help.
There are so many contributing factors to this harsh environment that it is unfair to blame any influence solely. But combined, all are complicit. Until we can create an environment where every youth is given an equal chance at a healthy and nurturing environment the suicides will continue.
No one is blameless in this. We can all do more.