- May 12, 2015
Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager
When I sit down to write a piece like this, I often spend most of the first hour or so staring blankly at the screen, typing words and then deleting them, growing frustrated and wondering if there is anything truly meaningful I can say, but mostly feeling helpless.
My colleagues and fellow advocates often share these feelings of helplessness, as we collectively wonder what has to happen, how far the LGBT movement has to go, before there are more victories than tragedies, more stories of love and acceptance than stories of violence, suicide and rejection.
In the same week we rallied for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court, a 15-year-old transgender girl from Wisconsin, Cameron Langrell, died by suicide. Thus far in 2015, at least 10 transgender young people have died by suicide. News also surfaced in recent weeks about the death by suicide of 12-year-old Alyssa Morgan, a young bisexual woman.
Media reports have cited factors like bullying and family rejection as contributing factors in these deaths. To be clear, bullying and family rejection alone do not necessarily lead to suicide; but supportive and affirming home and school environments can protect against depression and suicidality.
In the HRC Foundation’s 2012 youth survey, 40 percent of transgender and gender-expansive youth, and 24 percent of bisexual youth reported being frequently or often excluded by their peers. Thirty-seven percent of transgender and gender-expansive youth, and 29 percent of bisexual youth reported being frequently or often verbally harassed at school.
With statistics like these, it is not surprising that research suggests nearly half of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their non-LGB peers. Bisexual youth face the highest rates of suicidality among LGBTQ youth, and they also report the highest rates of bullying and harassment by peers.
While the LGBT community celebrates the growing number of legislative and legal victories, and LGBT people are more visible than ever, too many of our youth are being left behind. Laws and visibility only goes so far for kids like Cameron and Alyssa, for whom the promise that things will eventually get better simply isn’t enough.
Advocates, parents, friends, community members, teachers, social workers, counselors and other youth-serving professionals must all work together to prevent bullying and harassment, to expand programs and policies that protect and support LGBTQ youth, and to foster triumphs instead of tragedies.
If you’re a youth and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project, which provides a 24-hour crisis hotline for youth, at 1-866-488-7386.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you’re a teacher or parent and want more information on how to create safe and welcoming schools for all children and families and prevent bias-based bullying, visit welcomingschools.org.
If you are looking for more information on LGBTQ youth well-being, visit timetothrive.org.