Badpuppy Gay Today

Friday 29 August, 1997

NEW GAY YOUTH SUICIDE STUDY: OVERWHELMING NUMBERS

Gay Young & Girls--Jr. High to High School--Most Likely to Self-Destruct
But Minnesota Study Concludes: "Homosexuality, per se, Isn't the Cause."

By Jack Nichols

 

The frequencies of gay and lesbian youth suicides may be even more numerous than supposed, according to a University of Minnesota researcher's article scheduled to appear in The American Journal of Public Health.

Previous estimates had put the figure of such suicides at one third of the total of all teen suicides. The Minnesota report gives good reason to fear the numbers are much higher, or as much as 48.6% comprising both lesbians and gay males. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the University Pediatrics Department study places the number of attempted suicides among gay junior and senior high school students in Minnesota at seven times the number of their heterosexual counterparts.

The problem is not homosexuality, per se, said lead researcher, Dr. Gary Remafedi, because the rate of suicide is also high among women, whether straight (14.5%) or lesbian (20.5%). Heterosexually-identified males, on the other hand, comprise only 4.2% of those who admitted to making suicide attempts.

It is true, as Dr. Remafedi states, that "homosexuality, per se, is not the problem," but it must be made clear, nevertheless, that what he calls "social stigma" (imposed by convention) and the resulting secondary citizenship that flows therefrom must, in fact, be the cause.

Convention, based on society's inculcated value-supremacy-system of heterosexist machismo, treats both women and male homosexuals as inferiors. Effeminate boys, especially, are early targets of severe abuse.

Unrelenting religious fundamentalist attacks on gays and lesbians undoubtedly contribute to a climate wherein gender-system-minority youths are exposed to ridicule and terror, the results of what Dr. Remafedi calls "social stigma."

A group treated by society as inferior, as shown by the legendary African-American sociologist W.E.B. DuBois, is likely to internalize that ugly treatment. "The worst effect of slavery," wrote DuBois, "was to make the Negro doubt himself and to share in a general contempt for other Negroes."

Remafedi's research could, conceivably, pave the way toward a full-scale examination of any society's male role-conditioning producing heterosexual bully-males so insecure in their feigned "masculine" deportment that they must strike out at their gender-role-opposites, treating them as threats.

The study's percentages were arrived at with a control group of 310 heterosexuals, 175 gay males and 165 lesbian or bisexual females. Among 18-year olds of all orientations, according to the study, only 2.8 percent of the male students self-identified as gay. This low figure, no doubt, can be attributed to the late self-recognizing-discoveries of most teens. The statistics represent one part of a larger survey made up of 36,254 7th to 12th graders in Minnesota's public schools.

More alarming, perhaps, were percentages among those who have already lived through one self-destructive attempt, but who are aggressively primed for another try. Of the gay or bisexual males, 14.5 percent said they would try again. Among the heterosexual males, the figure remained in the four percent range. Nine percent of lesbian or bisexual women intend a suicide repeat, significantly lower than those who have already tried once, but 14.5% heterosexual females, precisely the same percentage as have tried before, intend to try again.

In her portrait of lesbian and gay youths, Joining the Tribe, author Linnea Due paints a stark picture of the mindstate of a gay youth at some crucial early point in his or her social development:

You are flying a small plane through heavy fog. You have no passport, no country, no home. You're alone in the fog, without destination or direction. You can't go back, and there is no forward, not down on the ground where people live.

1997 BEI; All Rights Reserved.
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