Even after all the work that we’ve done to move past discrimination, welcome diversity, and extend arms of acceptance to all sexual orientations, we still have a long way to go. Just last year, Rolling Stones magazine covered the discrimination that continues to exist in rural Georgia.
At small Christian schools in Georgia, students are having to keep their homosexuality in the closet otherwise be expelled. Many of these schools have written into their pledge that students cannot “engage in acts of sexual ‘impurity’; simply identifying as gay or acting in support of a gay friend can lead to dismissal”.
It shows that as Americans we have a long way to go. The discrimination and violence towards the entire LGBQT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning and transgender) community is still alive in the minds of many Americans. Yet, for gay teens around the country, this could mean danger at their schools, and it has. Out of fear, anxiety, depression, gay teens keep their sexual orientation to themselves. Or if they do come out, then they keep it from their parents, relatives, and school administration.
However, research has shown that the most significant support that a gay teen can receive is the support from a parent. If the support from a parent or primary caregiver is not available for a gay teen, he or she will have a harder time moving through the process of self-acceptance and feeling welcomed by his or her community. Rejection then plays a large role in his or her life. An adolescent who is carrying the weight of these issues can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns for a gay teen. Furthermore, research has proven that rates of suicide are higher among adolescents who are gay or lesbian than among heterosexual teens.
And rejection is a very real consequence for gay teens. All across the country gay boys and girls are bullied to the point of violence and sometimes death. Eventually, some gay adolescents choose suicide, deciding that it’s better to take their life than have to face rejection day after day. This is true of Billy Lucas, age 15, Seth Walsh, age 13, Tyler Clementi, age 18, and Asher Brown, age 13. All four of these boys took their life in September 2012 because of being bullied for their homosexuality.
But even organizations and the American culture adds to the discrimination and rejection of those who are gay. For instance, for a long time, homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Then, in 1973, when the American Psychological Association (APA) recognized changing social norms, the weight of empirical data, and a developing active gay community in the United States, the APA changed the diagnosis of homosexuality to ego-dystonic homosexuality. However, that continued to receive criticism from mental health professionals. Finally, in 1986, the diagnosis was removed altogether.
But that was only 18 years ago that this change was made, and there are obviously many men and women who still believe that homosexuality is wrong and worthy of punishment. Yet, the families of gay teens can be supportive nonetheless. Even if they also feel homosexuality is wrong, they can choose the love for their teen over what’s “right or wrong”.
Of course, there are many ways to show support for your gay teen, including an upcoming opportunity in Los Angeles. On October 31st, West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard is completely closed for the evening and transformed into a large masquerade ball. The street party in West Hollywood will have vendor booths, stages, dancing, and fun. It’s a time for the LGBQT community to celebrate who they are!
With the right levels of support from family, school staff, and friends, a gay teen 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.