Friday, October 1, 2010

The Problem of Gay Teen Suicide: Online Resources to Help

Mary Elizabeth Williams proposes at Salon today that, as one gay young person after another kills himself or herself in the U.S., and as evidence mounts for a steep decline in adolescent empathy, Dan Savage's new online resource of videos about coming out, It Gets Better, ought to be required viewing in every middle and high school in America.  Williams concludes,

It's deeply moving stuff, and a reminder that for every idiot thug with a Twitter account where a heart ought to be, there is a vast network of compassionate individuals eager to reach out to offer strength to a stranger out there who might need it. Because that's what human beings do for each other. In his video testimonial, Savage, along with husband Terry Miller, gives the unflinching message that "you have to tough it out, and you have to live." And he says, with all the sincerity and passion of one who's endured and then thrived, "There really is a place for us. There really is a place for you. One day you will have friends who love and support you. You will find love. You will find a community." And for gay kids across the country, feeling alone and picked on and different right now, a little bit of that love and community is already here, as close as a message of hope on the Internet.

And another online resource that has come to my attention in the past few days: a compendium of links to fifty blog posts about coming out at the Psychology Degree website.  I appreciate Patricia Duggan for bringing this posting to my attention.  I also want to note the many valuable resources for anyone concerned about the psychological well-being of gay youth and gay teen suicide at Trevor Project.

As influential rapper 50 Cent tweets a message urging all gays to commit suicide immediately after Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington bridge on 22 September, we need to pay close attention to the messages reaching the ears of young people.  I continue to hope that people of faith, and my Catholic community in particular, will start to think twice about the message we're sending gender-questioning youth when we reduce our entire religious tradition to the crude, reductionistic affirmation that God made male and female (with its implication that God made men to rule and women to obey).

No one who reads the Christian gospels carefully can come away from that reading with the impression that assigning gender roles and keeping people in their gender places was central to the concerns of Jesus.  To the contrary, in his practice of sitting to eat with outcasts and public sinners and in his choice to include women among his followers, Jesus contravened the female-subordinating mores of his own culture.

It's time that people of faith fight back against the mindless reduction of the message of the world's major religions to male domination and female subordination--with no place for those created gay or lesbian.  It's time that people of faith stop energizing the appalling meanness of cultural currents of homophobia--before it's too late for another gay teen.

No comments: