Monday, October 10, 2011

Homophobia and our youth

via Huffpost Gay Voices, by Jason Mannino

"I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. ... What do I have to do so people will listen to me? No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you're the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down."

This article is my third in less than three years about teen bullying and the tragedy of suicide among LGBT youth. Today, I write an almost identical article with practically the same statistics that I have written for the past two years.

According to Massachusetts' 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, LGBTQ youth are over four times more likely to attempt suicide.

A 2009 study, "Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes," led by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and conducted as part of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, shows that adolescents who were rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide.

The rate of victimization among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students has remained constant between 1999 and 2009, the latest date for which there are statistics, according to the National Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Once again, I feel my stomach doing backflips as I engage in dialogue about the homophobia and hatred entrenched in our culture. I have been having this conversation since I was an undergraduate student at, of all places, Rutgers University (where Tyler Clementi was harassed until he completed suicide last year), which is a place where I felt safe, accepted and free to explore and embrace diversity.

Reports indicate that Jamie Rodemeyer's suicide was preceded by severe harassment on social networking sites, including taunts like, "JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND [sic] UGLY. HE MUST DIE!" according to local reports.

 Another post read, "I wouldn't care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier!"

Alarming research conducted by Sara Konrath and Edward O'Brien at the University of Michigan indicates that empathy among young adults and college students has dropped significantly since 2000.

They indicate that the fast-paced online world of social networking makes it easier to shut out the problems of others when we just don't feel like listening.

This research, together with the most recent example at Williamsville High (Rodemeyer was a freshman there), where, according to ACLU bullying expert Chris Hampton, the school's bullying policies, like those of other suburban Buffalo school districts, don't go far enough, begin to paint a picture of why our schools are failing to protect our youth.

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