This story in the NYT this morning obviously speaks for itself. The plight of gay teens and youths, despite so much advances in the culture, for so many remain an unimaginable nightmare. The truth is not, I suspect, that there is a sudden new wave of this; the truth is that we have not been so aware of it before, or that shame on the part of victims, has kept some of this from the light of day. The five well-publicized suicides of the last month do not represent a rise, which is why I've tried before on this blog to mention The Trevor Project, an organization devoted to helping to save suicidal gay teens and children. The head of the Trevor Project, Charles Robbins tells Metroweekly this week that
he wouldn't call this rash of tragic suicides any new trend among LGBT youth, adding that 34,000 people complete suicide each year. ''It's not indicative that this hasn't happened throughout the year,'' he says. ''There were certainly other LGBT completions during the summer and during the spring. It's just that these seemed to have received national media attention.''
"Completion" is the slightly chilling and clinical word for attempted suicides that actual result in death. The number of attempts is far, far higher. The Bronx torture session is a reminder of the real danger many face, especially in minority communities. Black and Hispanic gay youth, like white gay rural youth, are very vulnerable. That's why Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project is so inspired and necessary. That's why the churches in the African-American and Hispanic communities need to do much more, whatever their doctrines, to insist on the dignity and humanity of all God's children, including gay, bi and transgender ones.
I don't believe in hate crimes laws, but I passionately believe in prosecuting these kinds of attacks to the fullest extent of the law. I also want to ask, plead, and beg those who have sincere and principled arguments against, say, marriage equality or openly gay military service, to be mindful of the impact of their words.
I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of those on the other side of the debate are as horrified by these events as I am. I am not in any way saying otherwise, or in any way suggesting indirect responsibility for horrors such as these.
What I am saying is that in making these arguments, people need to take care to ensure that they also insist that gay people are always described as human beings, as worthy of respect and dignity as anyone else, that the case for keeping us out of core civil institutions must be made without inflammatory generalizations about gay people, generalizations that have an impact, especially on those only waiting for an excuse from authority to act, or those deeply confused and afraid of who they find themselves to be in adolescence.
For too long, gay people have been described by too many on the right as a threat to the family, society and decency. Those words have consequences. This is especially true of religious leaders. When even the Pope describes us as "intrinsically disordered" and directed to an "objective moral evil", when Republicans call us a threat to family life, when NOM runs ads of a "storm coming", I hope they understand what these words do to the psyches and souls of the young and impressionable, and to those who need a mere signal to take up arms and attack us.
When you do these things to the least of my brethren, you do them to me, said Jesus. I pray that those who say they follow him would sometimes remember those words when it comes to the rhetoric that gay children and teens cannot help but hear.
If you want to help, the best organization to donate to is The Trevor Project, for whom I held a fundraiser at my apartment earlier this year. I know and can vouch for this group. They do amazing work. If you save one kid from killing himself, you have, as the Jewish tradition has it, saved the world.
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