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Suicide

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  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
     
    63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
     
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as "faggot" or "dyke," frequently or often at school.
     
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
     
  • 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
    The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1).
     
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.

     The above statistics are from the 2009 National School Climate Survey. A 2005 survey found the following:

  • Two-thirds (65%) of teens report that they have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted during the past year because of their perceived or actual appearance, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, race/ethnicity, disability or religion.
     
  • The reason most commonly cited for being harassed frequently is a student's appearance, as four in ten (39%) teens report that students are frequently harassed for the way they look or their body size.
     
  • The next most common reason for frequent harassment is sexual orientation. One-third (33%) of teens report that students are frequently harassed because they are or are perceived to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.
     
  • The survey finds that LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBT students (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year.

     In 1989, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its "Report on the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide," which found that "A majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. (see  U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide," by Paul Gibson, in REPORT OF THE SECRETARY'S TASK FORCE ON YOUTH SUICIDE, ed. Marcia R. Feinleib, Washington, DC, January 1989). They may comprise up to 30 percent of (the estimated 5,000) completed youth suicides annually."
     The report recommended that "mental health and youth service agencies can provide acceptance and support for young homosexuals, train their personnel on gay issues, and provide appropriate gay adult role models; schools can protect gay youth from abuse from their peers and provide accurate information about homosexuality in health curricula; families should accept their child and work toward educating themselves about the development and nature of homosexuality"
     According to Kevin Berrill, Director of the Anti-Violence Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at the time of the report's release stated, "The increased risk of suicide facing these youth is linked to growing up in a society that teaches them to hide and to hate themselves. We welcome this report and hope it will lead to action that will save lives."
     Initially, however, the report was suppressed by the Bush administration under pressure from right-wing groups and by conservatives in Congress. After the findings, William Dannemeyer, who was at the time a conservative Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, called for then -president Bush to "dismiss from public service all persons still employed who concocted this homosexual pledge of allegiance and sealed the lid on these misjudgments for good." HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan wrote in a letter to Dannemeyer that the study "undermined the institution of the family." (Quoted in Bull, Chris, "Suicidal Tendencies," THE ADVOCATE, April 5, 1994, p. 37)
     The findings of the report were leaked to the press and finally released. Other studies confirm these findings. Gary Remafedi, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, and author of Death by Denial: Studies of Attempted and Completed Suicide in Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual Youth, found in a 1991 study of 150 gay and lesbian youths in Minneapolis, more than 30% said they had attempted suicide at least once as a teenager.

     What does the above information have to do with the BSA? Well, LGBTQ youth, and those youth who are perceived by others as LGBTQ, are not only members of the BSA, but are affected by BSA members who participate in bullying such youth. A recent survey released from the Public Religion Research Institute reveals some not so startling information. While the survey did not ask respondents about the BSA, given that the BSA is a religious organization and the major religious chartering organizations (the LDS and Roman Catholic churches) have been in the forefront of denying civil rights to LGBTQ individuals, I think it is safe to assume that the survey tells a lot about the BSA.

  • Two out of three Americans believe gay people commit suicide at least partly because of messages coming out of churches and other places of worship.
     
  • More than four out of 10 Americans say the message coming out of churches about gay people is negative, and about the same number say those messages  contribute "a lot" to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.
     
  • Though Americans are split about whether they see homosexual activity as a sin, 72 percent say religion contributes to negative views of gays and lesbians.
     
  • In the survey, more than twice as many Americans give places of worship low marks in handling the homosexuality issue as give them high marks. Four in 10 respondents give religious organizations a D (18 percent) or an F (24 percent).
     
  • Interestingly, Catholics were the most critical of their own churches' messages on  homosexuality, while white evangelical Christians gave their churches the  highest grades, the survey found.

    What can the BSA do to help out? Well, it could remove its discriminatory policies. But, they don't even have to go that far. A positive first step would be to endorse federal anti-bullying legislation that specifically includes sexual orientation. A proposal that is vigorously opposed by a BSA ally, Jim Dobson's Focus on the Family. If the BSA really wants to separate their exclusionary membership policies from the radical right-wing who seek the genocide of LGBTQ youth and adults -- like David Bahati and other Christian leaders -- then it should take a more active role in educating its members of the inherent dignity in each and every human being , regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religious belief (or not), sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. Until they take these and other steps, they will find themselves in the future condemned for not exhibiting the leadership they purport to teach their members. When the BSA allowed local councils to discriminate against boys because of their race, ethnicity, and national origins prior to 1974, they were silent. For the past 30+ years. the BSA has been anything but silent in their discrimination. Such a history will be impossible for the BSA to have swept under the carpet as it attempts to do with their history of Jim Crow Scouting.
 

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