Gay teens, also sometimes referred to as LGBT teens (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) are not only judged but they are made the target for bullying which can also drive an adolescent to suicide. LGBT teens are more at risk for suicide than other teens. LBGT teens are 2-5 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Furthermore, there are two factors that make LGBT teens more vulnerable to suicide. The first of these is lack of parental support. Without the support of one’s family, teens feel that they have nowhere else to turn. Parental support usually acts as a safeguard for the rejection teens will likely get from the outside world. Rejection from parents is the number one contributor to a suicide attempt.
The second factor is school bullying. According to Emily Bazelon’s book, Sticks and Stones, 85-90% of LGBT youth have been verbally harassed, 40% have been physically harassed, and 20% have been physically assaulted. Bullied teens are up to five more times likely to commit suicide.
Interestingly, it’s not just a religious background that can create the circumstances for a LBGT teen to contemplate suicide. It can happen in any culture that is predominantly heterosexual and judgmental towards those who aren’t. Of course, it’s not just homosexuality that gets judged, but any nonconforming sexual or gender preference, such as bisexual, trans-sexual, cross-dressing, and transgender teens.
As a parent or caregiver, although you may not agree with the sexual orientation of your teen, you can still stand by his or her side and keep them safe and alive! There are a number of ways you can do this.
- Educate yourself, including learning something simple like the fact that LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.
- Attend the LGBT annual parade with your teen, which is a way to discover that the LGBT community is made up of regular people, like everyone else.
- Join an LGBT support group for parents, such as PFLAG – Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays – which is one of the largest communities of support for the LGBT population. They have local chapters to develop relationships with other LGBT parents and supporters of LGBT youth.
- Research the local, state, and federal laws for homosexual, transgender, and trans-sexual individuals.
- Participate in family therapy to work through family concerns and strengthen relationships. All members of the family can participate in therapy, not just you and your adolescent.
- Don’t make your child’s sexual or gender preference the center of your family life. Remember that sexual orientation is not all there is to enjoying life and having fulfilling and meaningful relationships.
- Work with your teen’s school to develop a suicide prevention plan. His or her guidance counselor or even school-based therapist can support this effort.
- Connect your teen with counselors or therapists who specialize in homosexuality and gay-related concerns.
- Encourage your teen to participate in support groups, have a greater involvement with sports in order to find ways to connect with other gay teens.
- Seek for resources and support on the Internet for global and/or national groups that you and your teen can participate in.
With the right levels of support from family, school staff, and friends, a gay adolescent might feel the embrace of his or her community rather than feeling alone. And knowing that he or she has emotional and psychological support, there’s less likelihood that teen would take his or her life.