Suicide Prevention in the LGBTQ+ Community
The time to talk about suicide is now. It is a difficult topic, often avoided and brushed under the carpet. That is the reason it is so stigmatized, making those who feel suicidal not realize there are other options, and those who have lost loved ones to suicide feel as if they cannot speak of the act. This is not fair to anyone. Being suicidal is an illness, it is treatable and preventable. LGBTQ+ youth are unfortunately 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. Those who are questioning their sexuality are also 3 times more likely.
Why is this? It’s because of the societal and political pressures. It has only been four years since same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States, that is only four years of these young adults’ lives in which their love has been recognized by the government. These facts are painful for someone of any age, and it is important that everyone’s love and desires be recognized so that people feel comfortable reaching out for help and when necessary.
However, the government is not the only barrier to being a young queer youth. Coming out to family and friends can be a huge burden. Regardless of how someone thinks it is going to go, smoothly or not, the stress of having this secret kept inside causes anxiety, thus some youth try to find an escape route, and all too often that might be suicide.
Being a minority and queer
Let us not forget about intersectionality and how that may play a role in this. Not only is coming out in the United States in this political climate hard, but coming out to a traditional Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Muslim, African American, or so many other disadvantaged groups is also a challenge.
Bebe Moore Campbell, a famous African American author, once said: “In a race conscious society, some don’t want to be perceived as having yet another deficit.” This idea of having too many intersectional parts is all too often seen as something to avoid. Instead we need to empower and inspire every part of someone.
The story that many people have shared is one of fear. Here we have a Japanese American man who came out to his family, and they were accepting and loving, but it still took a lot of courage to get there. “The potential for rejection or being thrown out of the house all seemed like very real possibilities,” he stated in an interview. The Asian culture often uses a “method of silence” when talking about homosexuality, possibly as a tactic similar to ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, for queer youth however, this may mean silencing part of who you are or going against your family and your culture’s norms.
This stress is one that can put a heavy toll on the mind of many young people whose culture is telling them that they do not belong in society, and literally silencing part of their identity.
This is why, in order to promote suicide prevention for all cultures it is important that we start at the root of the cause. For the LGBTQ+ community the suicide rates are so much higher because of all of these added pressures, thus we need to become more accepting of everyone and their sexual orientation, and be more than just a friend, but be an ally. And do this fast before we lose any more beautiful, inspiring, and strong people in this world.
It is important to recognize that within the LGBTQ+ community, not every person has the same story, experience, or identity, as well. Being transgender comes with its own uphill battle that we, as a society, must teach people to honor and respect. Unfortunately, one study showed that out of about 2,500 transgenders or gender nonconforming respondents, 41% have attempted suicide in their lifetime. That is 10 times more than their straight counterparts.
Name changes, body transition, and discrimination, need to switch to empowerment, being true to yourself, and confidence. Every life is worth living, and through the dark times we need to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and resources to help us get there.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) came together to do a study on black transgender people and the discrimination they have endured. The study shows that half of the respondents attempted suicide and half have experienced harassment. Amongst other things, this community faces high levels of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment, which can add to other life stressors.
It is time for change and appreciation of every part of someone’s identity. Suicide prevention is something anyone can take part in. As an ally you can check up on friends, reach out, stand up for them, and let them know of some of the resources below.
Trevor Lifeline: Supporting LGBTQ+ teens
AYANA and LGBTQ+ Suicide
Ayana is here to find everyone a therapist that will understand them; this includes your sexuality. Ayana will match you with a therapist of your same sexuality if that is important to you, with culturally competent mental health care, and with the addition of convenience and flexibility to suit your schedule. Ayana is here to bring online mental health therapy to people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, people who have faced enough trauma and deserve to have their voices heard now.