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I ran across an AP article this morning that says that some research suggests that LGB teens* are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their heterosexual counterparts. According to the article:
Investigators asked about dozens of risky behaviors, ranging from not
wearing a bicycle helmet, to drug use, to attempting suicide. Gay,
lesbian and bisexual students reported worse behavior in half to 90
percent of the risk categories, depending on the survey site.
The article goes on to give statistics on cigarette usage, suicide attempts, and purging:
- About 8 percent to 19 percent of heterosexual students said they
currently smoke cigarettes; 20 percent to 48 percent of gay and lesbian
- About 4 to 10 percent of heterosexual
students said they attempted suicide in the previous year. For gay and
lesbian students: 15 percent to 34 percent. For bisexual students: 21
percent to 32 percent.
- About 3 percent to 6 percent of
heterosexual students said they threw up or used laxatives to lose
weight or stay thin. For gay and lesbian students: 13 percent to 20
percent. For bisexual students: 12 percent to 17.5 percent.
At first glance, it might seem strange to talk about not wearing a bike helmet and suicide attempts in the same article. However, when you consider that both behaviors are inherently self-destructive and an indicator of self-image and self-worth issues, it makes perfect sense. When people don’t value themselves as much as they should, they tend not to care as much what happens to themselves or take proper care of themselves.
Unfortunately, the anti-gay crowd does not help this, when it comes to LGB youth*. The anti-gay crowd is invested in stigmatizing them, encouraging them to feel bad about themselves and lower their sense of self-worth.** They tell these youth how horrible it is to be gay, and all the horrible things that means about them. They tell these youth how bad their life is going to be, painting a “gay lifestyle” that must be by its very nature filled with self-destructive behaviors.
One thing anyone who has worked with children and teens will tell you is that if you tell a child or teen long enough that they’re bad and they do bad things, a teen is going to decide to do those things. So in effect the anti-gay crowd is engaging — and I have to assume at this point that it’s done knowingly — in pushing a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And of course, once the fruits of their smear campaign starts showing, they self-righteously point to the self-destructive behavior and insist it’s because “gay people know that what they’re doing is wrong.” Note how it turns into a vicious cycle. One that we QUILTBAG adults and our allies need to break.
It’s important that we remind the QUILTBAG youth in our communities that the anti-gay crowd is lying to them. We need to remind them that they are worth far more than the anti-gay crowd want them to know. We need to remind them that they deserve to treat themselves with care and respect rather than engaging in risky, self-destructive behavior. Because QUILTBAG youth are being inundated with some awful messages, and they are listening. We need to make sure they hear and listen to our message too.
Our message to QUILTBAG youth is that they are better than that.
* I suspect the same can be said about all QUILTBAG teens, but that would be pure extrapolation on my part, not something supported by the studies mentioned.
** Oh, the anti-gay crowd will tell you that it’s untrue and that they only want such youths to “find freedom from homosexuality.” But first, they have to convince those same youths that they’re sexual orientation is the same as “bondage.”