I was just commenting to my wife that I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the media has suddenly noticed a “surge” in gay teen suicides about the same time that certain gay rights organizations are pressuring Congress to push the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which “would require schools receiving federal funds to implement bullying prevention programs that specifically address anti-gay harassment” (op. cit.), and I went to Facebook to discover that the HRC had reposted my automatic status update about National Coming Out Day even though I’d turned it off.
Do we, finally and after much nattering from the Right, actually have a Homosexual Agenda?
Suicide rates in the United States generally range around 4000 a year for young people. Six specific anecdotes, or even a dozen or two, in the space of a few months does not justify a “surge”; unfortunately, because these statistics take time to collect, by the time there’s enough data to know if there really has been a recent spike, the media’s attention will have long moved on to something else (the CDC’s currently available numbers are for 2007). And one of the recent anecdotes (Phoebe Prince) had nothing to do with sexual orientation, except inasmuch as some of the girls were upset that Phoebe had dated the “wrong” football players.
The GLSEN argues that the 18% of school districts that have an anti-gay bullying component have lower suicide rates among GLBTQC teens. However, it’s likely that those 18% of school districts are on average more liberal than the other 82%, and consequently are more likely to have staff that would have more properly addressed the issue without the specific policies. It’s possible that the GLSEN is correct, but that number in isolation is relatively worthless: Correlation is not causation.
I find myself currently agreeing more with the position of the Minnesota Family Council than with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, as those positions are depicted in the Yahoo! article I linked. I’m very concerned that in this current barrage of emphasis on the sexual orientation of certain teens who have ended their own lives, we are indeed missing the bigger picture.
I do think that the topic of tolerance towards sexual orientation should be part of a comprehensive anti-bullying program, and I’m aware that GLBTQCs are disproportionately represented (and, according to WHO, males in the US are more than 4 times as likely to commit suicide, a number that’s consistent with greater stigmatizing of gays than of lesbians). I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of anyone who is terrorized, abused, harassed, bullied, or otherwise caused to feel unworthy due to others’ opinions of their consensual sexual activities, wants, or needs.
However, it gives me great pause to think that organizations such as the HRC and the GLSEN might be cynically fanning the flames of current media attention on cherry-picked suicide anecdotes in order to pressure Congress to pass legislation. That is, in my view, a gay agenda, unequivocally so.
GLBTQC teens who are experiencing harassment due to their sexual orientation deserve our support, our compassion, and our understanding. Anyone in that group who wants to talk, to express their agony, to release feelings of loneliness should have a forum for doing so with compassionate peers and adults. However, the same is true of anyone experiencing that, be the cause of the abuse their sexual identity, their physical characteristics, their religious beliefs, their intelligence, and so on.
When we overemphasize the pain of a specific group, we run the risk of neglecting the people who don’t belong to that group, and in-group/out-group characterizations are one of the major components of bullying in the first place.
(7/28/21: Multiple links are no longer working and have been removed. Also, oof, my position has certainly changed since I originally wrote this.)