“That’s so gay.”
At least once during the day, LGBTQIA+ students, a reported estimated 1.3 million high school students identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, will hear an epithet casually and purposefully thrown at them, intending to hurt, belittle, ridicule. An excellent article in The Seattle Times, Aug 12, 2016,”Heartbreaking” is a survey on abuse of gay students” by Jan Hoffman with additional Federal data, reports:
The first nationwide study to ask high school students about their sexuality found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers were at far greater risk for depression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers.“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administered the survey.
These adolescents were three times more likely than straight students to have been raped. They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe; at least a third had been bullied on school property. And they were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
More than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. A conservative estimate is 1,500 LGBTQIA+ commit suicide every year. The percentage of those who used illegal drugs was many times greater than their heterosexual peers. While 1.3 percent of straight students said they had used heroin, for example, 6 percent of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having done so.
Look at these statistics! They are heartbreaking and horrifying. Understand that 1.3 million people who report to be LGBTQIA+ is roughly the population of Los Angles, California. Our children are daily engaged in warfare at school without any armor or protection—and for many who come “out” to parents, are kicked out of their home to fend on the street for themselves. Dr. Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the C.D.C., said it better than I: “Nations are judged by the health and well-being of their children. Many would find these levels of physical and sexual violence unacceptable and something we should act on quickly.”
What we can do as peers, parents, teacher, mentors, and our community is give support through educating our youth in the home and classrooms about basic issues of how to respect one another as human beings and not as ‘others’. With the ubiquitous internet and social media, it is imperative to teach our youth hard core values; to be very clear what is bullying and not acceptable behavior towards anyone for any reason. If not in the home, then at school. There are excellent programs, like Green Dot etc., used by the Air Force, that effectively teach strategy for violence prevention, and what to do as a bystander in bullying and violent situations.
As Dr. Mermin stated emphatically “connectedness -- or social bonds -- to peers, teachers, schools, or community organizations is key to protecting the health of these adolescents. Students will succeed if they know they matter, and feel safe and supported socially, emotionally and physically. Solutions may not be simple, but we can take action to build support for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth at multiple levels.”
I have written several articles emphasizing the need, and the rights of our children to be safe from bullies—-and I especially feel we have an imperative to protect the most vulnerable of our children—-those who are harassed for being different, either racially or because of one’s sexual orientation. We need to have a continuous dialogue with our children, our family members and community, to talk honestly about bully issues.
To gain insight into the reality of a child being LGBTQIA+ in their daily arena, please take some time to explore websites like:
- Human Rights Campaign: Advocating for LGBTQ Equality
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Live the Green Dot
Ask yourself what would this world be like without the diversity, talents and skills that the LGBTQIA+ have given us since the beginning of mankind? The list I could make of the contributions in arts, sciences, politics and humanity of the LGBTQIA+ would be awesome in its breadth and sheer numbers of people who have influenced and enriched our lives in spite of the obstacles, the prejudices and hostility they have endured.
It is imperative that we, every one of us, ensure that our children, all our children, thrive in a environment that is safe and respectful, especially for the most vulnerable of children, the ‘others’, who are targeted for being different, for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual or questioning. Too many of these children are at risk everyday of their lives. Tomorrow will be too late for many of them. Today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, is the time to stop the cycle of abuse.
L - Lesbian. Lesbian is a term used to refer to homosexual females.
G - Gay. Gay is a term used to refer to homosexuality, a homosexual person, or a homosexual male.
B - Bisexual. Bisexual is when a person is attracted to two sexes/genders.
T - Trans. Trans is an umbrella term for transgender and transsexual people.
Q - Queer/Questioning. Queer is an umbrella term for all of those who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Questioning is when a person isn't 100% sure of their sexual orientation and/or gender, and are trying to find their true identity.
I - Intersex. Intersex is when a person has an indeterminate mix of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
A - Asexuality. Asexuality is when a person experiences no (or little, if referring to demisexuality or grey-asexuality) sexual attraction to people.
+ - The "+" symbol simply stands for all of the other sexualities, sexes, and genders that aren't included in these few letters.