Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 17 March, 1997


Suicide Levels High, Ignored by Public School Administrators

by Corinne Hicks


"Its a myth" says 18-year old lesbian, Jeanne Fontaine, "Lesbians and gay teens really don't have it much better now than the older generation did. If anything, because of gay visibility on TV, its getting harder for teens because kids (in public schools) run around now, trying to make a point out of who is and who isn't."

Studies show that at least a third and perhaps as many as a half of all teen suicides may be gay. These occur mostly because of lack of information and the fear of peer pressure. Closeted young people, unaware they're surrounded by other gay teens, feel alone and ill at ease and they end by taking it out on themselves. Seldom, in most states, are school administrators addressing this serious problem. Fontaine calls these administrators "criminally" negligent. "If only they'd make meaningful space for us somehow," she says, "but they can't because the 'religious' nuts are breathing down their necks."

Not even practical AIDS prevention is yet part of most teen sex-education curriculums, in spite of the rapid spread of the deadly virus among teen-agers, gay and straight. County and city school boards everywhere have become hotbeds of activity for organized fundamentalists and evangelicals who, disguising their beliefs during their election campaigns, are voted onto the boards. Elected, they establish sex-education guidelines forbidding any classroom discussions of AIDS prevention except "the chaste life."

Fontaine and other teens laugh bitterly about such anti-sexual attitudes. "They're never going to stop teen sex," says Fontaine, "because adult messages in media tell us sex is what's happening. Since condoms and safer-sex are forbidden in classroom sex-ed discussions, those teachers who should be saving lives---aren't. It isn't right."

Older gay men and lesbians today, fearful of being associated with pedophiles, keep their distance from gay teens. "We've willingly swallowed a myth," says Gavin Bechner, 54, "namely that gay teens have it easier than we did. They don't, but my generation seems afraid to address major gay teen concerns. We're scared we'll be tarred and feathered."

Dan Woog, an award-winning author and high-school soccer coach, has written "School's Out" (Alyson, $11.95) an extraordinary book that examines the problems, triumphs, heartaches, and challenges facing the present generation of students, faculties, parents and guidance counselors as they react to youthful same-sex affection.

Woog tells of growing gay activism in high schools, and of newly formed gay and lesbian support groups meeting after classes. He believes, he says, that "the worst fears of students aren't physical, they're social." Many believe, says Woog, that by coming out in school, or even being perceived as being gay, they will commit social suicide. "A kid can handle being knocked around physically," he says, "but its a lot tougher to walk down the hall and have people snicker at you, talk about you behind your back, or worse, ignore you."

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