Approximately 10 million Americans identify as LGBT+ today. Many think people these days look for "out of the box labels" but the reality is that we live in a much more open and accepting society. In today's age, many more people are comfortable with coming out as LGBT+. However, there is still a lot more that we can do. With our current political climate, we are dealing with many in the LGBT+ community who are feeling singled out and less accepted. "Between five and ten percent of LGBT+ youth, depending on age and gender have attempted suicide, a rate 1.5-3 times higher than heterosexual youth." Meaning five-hundred-thousand to one million LGBT Americans have, at one point, attempted suicide in their youth, with those we are transgender being at the highest risk. Considering that these rates are lower than they used to be, this number is even higher when including old statistics as well as how many LGBT+ adults have attempted suicide.
With resources like COMMON SPACE there is hope for the future, and with our collective efforts, we strive to lower these rates. With a mission statement that says, " MY LGBT PLUS is dedicated to connecting, interacting with, and supporting our LGBT+ community," our organization is part of something bigger. We are here to SUPPORT our LGBT+ community. If you are looking for an event to attend you can go to mylgbtplus.org for a list of upcoming events. If you are looking for a one on one to directly talk to one of our team members you can click the contact us section of the MY LGBT PLUS site to communicate with an ambassador via email, phone, or in person at COMMON SPACE.
It is crucial that we get to the root of suicide amongst LGBT+/Queer youth, which is primarily lack of acceptance. When one feels alone in the world, it is the worst, most heartbreaking feeling. Unfortunately, many of us, including myself, have felt like this at some point in our life. Although I am someone who is lucky enough to have a family who accepts me and my partner I was, for a long time, afraid to come out. This fear led to many failed hetero relationships and depression so deep that I attempted suicide on multiple occasions. Had I known how many resources that were out there and that being queer wasn't just another label that would make me even more different, my youth would have had a much different outcome. This is why resources for LGBT+ youth are crucial parts of our communities.
MY LGBT PLUS and COMMON SPACE are both fantastic resources for LGBT+ youth. There are also resources like The Trevor Project that provide suicide hotlines for LGBT+ youth. As stated on their website, The Trevor Project is "the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13–24". Click here to go to their website where there are many resources for those who are struggling.
These organizations are a tremendous help to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, However until the stigma of being "queer" is lifted there will be barriers. Humans are social creatures, and we all require a sense of belonging to thrive. Without a sense of belonging, suicide rates go up. There are, however, things that can be done to help these kids feel a sense of belonging.
What Can We Do?
School should be a safe place for our youth. It is crucial for teachers to let students know it is perfectly normal to be LGBT+/Queer. LGBT+ after-school programs have been very successful in bringing together kids who are queer and looking for friends who are like them and will accept them. Schools need to enact assemblies about the LGBT+ community, letting youth know they are not alone, as well as provide inclusive sexual education classes. There are many resources for teachers who are trying to be inclusive of their LGBT+ students. You can find some of these resources by clicking here. If those who work in schools make sure youth do not feel alone, and provide more mental health resources, suicide rates will undeniably go down.
For parents reading this, these types of topics can be brought up at your local school board meetings, as well as in PTA meetings. PFLAG is a fantastic resource to help parents in with LGBT+ children. They are about, "uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy." If parents come together and are advocates for their children, they can accomplish anything. Another excellent resource for parents who are struggling parents with an LGBT+ child is http://mykidisgay.com/resources/. This site includes numerous resources that bring awareness, as well as explain what laws are in place to protect our LGBT+ community. All parents should understand suicide statistics of LGBT+ youth. There are many cases where parents turn around and learn to accept their queer children because they want what is best for their child.
When children are shunned at school and home, they can feel helpless. This is where the community efforts can come into play. There is a LGBTQI Youth Alliance meeting every Friday at 7 pm. at the Big Red Church, 2131 N. Van Ness Blvd. Fresno, CA. This is a fantastic resource that can help struggling youth by bringing them together. Meetings like this can give a child something to look forward to, and something to help them restore a sense of belonging. Although not all communities are as open as ours in Fresno, more meetings like this across the country would be a big step. Someday maybe our society will have as many LGBT+ acceptance meetings as there are AA meetings
You Are Not Alone
If you, or anyone you know, is feeling alone and helpless, like no one in the world is there for you, please do not forget that we as a community are here for you. Many events are happening all around the Central Valley for the LGBT+ community that provide support. We are here for you all at MY LGBT PLUS.If you are reading this and are currently having suicidal thoughts, please call one of these suicide hotlines below.
Remember you are not alone. I promise IT GETS BETTER!
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