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20 October 2011 @ 11:06 am
My hastily edited teddy bear* has something to say.

"The National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a study on social conditions for Oregon teens and how they affected suicide rates. They found that 21.5% of the queer kids had attempted to commit suicide, whereas their straight counterparts had a percentage of 4.2.

A typical day for a queer teen in an unfriendly environment involves constantly hiding pieces of themselves from friends and family, and often listening to their classmates use their orientation as if it were somehow an insult. 9 out of 10 queer teens have reported being bullied, and out of this number, half added that this included physical harassment, and another quarter were physically attacked. All this stress takes tolls on their schoolwork as well as their emotional state, as kids who were bullied for their sexual orientation tended to drop about half a grade from their straight counterparts.

The website Bullying Statistics estimates that queer teens are about five times more likely than straight ones to miss school due to sexual orientation-related emotional or physical threat, and 28% of them drop out altogether. Not all of them can report what’s happening to them to a parent or teacher, because they can never be sure if they’re going to get helped or just hurt more.

One of the more painful things about lgbt bullying is that it’s not something that only the students do. Depending on where you live, the education system itself can be against you. Tennessee – not a district, but the entire state – recently passed a bill that would ban students kindergarten through eighth grade and public school teachers from discussing homosexuality. Period. Last year, Constance McMillan was forced to contact the American Civil Liberties Union because she wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom as her date, and her school said no. Even when they were forced, legally, to change their policy, they encouraged their students to organize a privately-funded prom that would allow them to exclude Constance and her date.

Home life isn’t necessarily an outlet, either. Kids who are in the closet have to deal with the stress of hiding something hugely important about themselves from their family. Overall, the chance of being received well when coming out of the closet is about fifty-fifty, and a little over a quarter of out queer teens are kicked out entirely. Even not being kicked out is no guarantee, because it might come down to a choice between running away or being sent to ‘reparative therapy’ camps, like Exodus International. They don’t have anywhere to go, so an estimated approximately 40% of homeless teens identify as queer. Even the kids who look like they’re doing okay can be actively terrified, because they know safety isn’t necessarily permanent.

A few projects have sprung up to address this. The Trevor Project, founded in 1998, is a helpline for queer teens who are at risk for suicide or just in need of support. Gay-Straight Alliances and other LGBT groups have sprung up in high schools where allowed. Most recently, the It Gets Better project, which I referenced earlier, has gotten a lot of publicity for getting celebrities as well as average, everyday people to reach out to assure queer teens that their lives won’t always consist of being harassed in school, if they can just make it through.

But it’s not good. Kids are being told from all sides that no one wants them around, and large numbers of people would rather they didn’t exist. It’s a nightmare, and it needs to stop."

*Shush, I have to get ready for class in half an hour.