Shrugging Shoulders

Gay and lesbian children and teens, even those who are merely “questioning,” are between three and six times as likely to attempt or to die by suicide than their heterosexual peers.” –David Badish

I’m a bit annoyed with the state of teen suicides. It’s tragic that so many young adults are coming to the same conclusion when faced with the burden of growing up queer. But I’m even more frustrated with the finger pointing that ensued after the death toll started to climb last fall. Queer activists blamed the religious right and the religious right blamed… sin? Anyway, the validity of their arguments is not the point. What is so concerning is that in the wake of losing our teens to such a useless reason as ones orientation, we sought to point out shortcomings instead of working together to find an answer. It’s just unfortunate that in the absence of a real “work together” solution we chose to pick up rocks and start throwing them at each other. Real mature, we know.

But even though we have continued to lose youth since those headlines, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still try to correct our shortcomings. Without submitting to highfaluting ideas of reaching a real compromise between queer activists and the radical right (at least immediately), instead of naively believing that we can please everyone, the suggested answer is that we provide a means for the youth to come into their own understanding of the world around them. “In point of fact, the pain that drives these young people to suicide is not caused by being different, it is caused by others who tell them they are “different,” and treat them as different.”   Without all of the politics of what it is we personally believe, we should tell them what their up against by living in this world. After all aren’t we somewhat responsible for the mess its in? We can help by saying, “these are the rules of the war, this is what the weapons look like, this is how they will be used against you.” In this scenario we could go one further and provide a safety net for questioning youth. One that allows them the comfortability of distancing their personal identities from the greater causes of the war. Maybe something like a portable community center where they get resources, help guides, and peers who understand their feelings too.

This was my original reason for creating the ID Kits. These Kits are written for young adults who need a middle ground of understanding. Think of it this way. If you live in a city there are community centers and non-profit programs that are set in place to help you work through your identity issues. But what happens if you live in a suburb? What if you live farther out into the country? Isolation is debilitating factor in the queer movement. Loneliness is real, and those who don’t see that there are groups out there set in place to help them through the tough times are subject to the worst realizations of what Loneliness can become. In light of teen suicides must we wait until there are queer community centers in rural and suburban areas? Should we wait until fundamentalist churches offer support for their queer and questioning believers? I think that waiting around is a ludicrous idea, especially in the wake of so many tragic deaths. If we have ways of helping we should get it to them–expedite it to them!

What is needed is a personal community center that a young adult can carry in their backpack, take home, and learn about the great wide world of queer possibilities. This tool should be packed with information about gender identity as well as provide resources on how to better understand the religious thought that might be used against them. This tool should be a companion they can lean on but also lead them to where they might find more information specific to their needs. Even better if this tool is something they could get from a guidance counselor who sees they are questioning, or a brave youth pastor who has the opportunity to discuss gender identity with his group. The Kit was created to be this tool: personal enough to digest on your own, but dynamic enough to share in a group setting.

If there is a way to shed light and knowledge on those who are mislead to believe that the world is dark and lonely, then we should take every stride to pull back the curtains, open the windows, and open the doors. Who are we to hold back what others know to be common knowledge? If we have the power we must light up the darkness. We must take the initiative and shake the dust.

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