Irish president calls attention to bullying of gays

Relevant to our discussions of suicidality and same-sex attracted youth, the Irish president today called for an end to bullying, in particular that aimed at same-sex attracted youth. She spoke at the annual conference of the International Association of Suicide Prevention in Ireland.

Note that she believes more research is needed to understand the actual relationship but it seems pretty clear that any ostracism or antagonism directed at kids is not going to achieve positive ends. Sadly, kids that are perceived as different do not often fare well unless adults promote pro-social actions.

65 thoughts on “Irish president calls attention to bullying of gays”

  1. Mary,

    I agree with you – since suicide is a product of depression, it would only make sense that those groups more prone to depression would also be prone to suicide. I’m guessing that, given our society, gay people may indeed be more prone to depression than some other groups – While the environment for gay people, at least in this country, has gotten better, it still isn’t even quite up to the level of tolerant – so this may definitely be the case – but I don’t for sure.

  2. Mary –

    It is true that they attempt because they now have further energy and no real ways of coping. However, the lawsuits have been in respect to the medication…and the warnings seem to have rested there.

    The caution is not around maintaining vigilance during the period of medications (although this should be done by everyone) there are now warnings on the antidepressant medications as ordered by the FDA:

  3. jAG,

    It is my understanding that youth who are medicated are more likely within the first few weeks to actually attempt and commit a suicide because as the medication begins to revive their energy they have not learned the skills to manage impulsive behavior as well as adults and thus are more likely in this beginning period to suicide. Isn’t the caution to maintain almost a hypervigilance during this priod and then afterwards the suicides decline again?

  4. Actually Mary, cognitive therapy is the most positive…but although helpful for many, anti-depressant medication has been getting some bad press regarding suicidal behaviors.

    It seems that sometimes, people who are depressed simply are too hopeless, drained and have no energy to complete it. When medicated, it can give them energy to do so – which is why some medications now have warnings that they can increase the chances of suicide attempt.

    There also does seem to be some inherent self-preservation in us…which is likely why a large portion of individuals who commit suicide, attempt to do so under the influence of a substance.

    True, men do commit suicide more than women (but women attempt far more often…because of their methods, they are usually not as likely to “complete.”) Women are likely to use pills, etc…whereas men are much more likely to use a gun.

    In general, I think we all agree that hopelessness and depression do lead to higher rates of suicide attempt. However, as gay youth are a consistently ignored part of the population that struggles – often silently – I applaud the Irish President for calling attention to the bullying that is often ignored and not addressed.

    We do need to address the issue of suicide on a wide scale in many groups – elderly, etc…but taking a stand on at least one portion of the population is better than ignoring them, or taking no stand at all. It’s more than our president has done.

  5. Mary,

    I don’t think its accurate to say “They are at risk if other indicators are present – drugs, white, male, access, protestant..” – I think its pretty clear that sexual orienation puts gay kids more at risk than others.

    Your walking-into-a-gym analogy is a good one, but it shouldn’t mean we don’t identify high risk groups. The importance of identifying these groups is not to romanticize the act of suicide, but so those social networks that support these high risk groups can pay special attention to the needs of that group and address them. It would be nice if we were all dealt with in society as a whole group, but we are not – we are splintered and grouped into different social niches and clicks, with different resources at our disposal.

    The only thing I think we’ve been able to determine regarding homosexuals, is that there seem to be some indication they are at greater risk than other groups – but the evidence doesn’t seem to be definitive – we cannot say they are NOT at higher risk than other groups though – which is not something I think you’re saying, but I wanted to make clear what it is we know and what we don’t know. And we don’t know that they aren’t at higher risk than other groups

  6. BTW, cognitive therapy (Beck) in conjunction with medication seems to have postive results in reducing repeated suicide attmepts.

  7. Quick note to say that I think we are all pretty close to saying the same thing here. In rhetoric, some things are spoken to avoid being overlooked. Clearly same-sex attracted kids are at risk for distress. I am completing a presentation on this just tonight and it seems clear to me that there are multiple factors that operate to put such kids in an at risk camp. Many are gender nonconforming by temperament and this is a clear risk factor. Depression is the number one issue generally but depression does not always arise in a vaccum. If we are thinking of what factor explains most of the variance between suicidal and non-suicidal kids, then depression probably explains more than other factors, moreso than sexual orientation per se. I interviewed David Fergusson of New Zealand today and he said the research is clear that sexual orientation and mental health distress are associated but we don’t yet know the pathways.

  8. Jag,

    I think you are starting to get the idea. Unfortunately, gays are not the group at highest risk or near highest risk. They are at risk if other indicators are present – drugs, white, male, access, protestant etc…. And yes, working on the underlying issues is what happens for those individuals.

    I look at it this way, if I walked into a gymnasium filled with teenagers and I wanted to save anyone of them from suicide, my first question for selection would be – who is depressed? And whether they were gay or not – those are the kids I would focus on. Yes, some would be gay, some would not. Being gay is not the biggest nor the highest indicator or presenting risk factor where suicide is concerned.

    I AM NOT saying that gay kids do not contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. They do. And yes, that needs to be looked at. But when someone presents “gay suicide stats” for the purpose of making intimidating (scaring others into action) – those stats are off and can contribute to an unneccesary (sp??) suicide (the child who also hears them). Just one – ONE – child’s life is worth saving. And the greatest number of suicides are being committed by other children who are depressed for a variety of reasons.

    I am not anti-gay, nor ignoring the hardships of being young and gay or any of that. I’m just looking at numbers and who is a greatest risk. White, male, drugs/alcohol, access, protestant, plan, previous attempts etc… but girls commit suicide too, so do blacks, catholics etc… I’m not overlooking them either. And the greatest – greatest indicator we can look for instead of demographics is depression. And that includes so many more who need the same kind of attention.

  9. Jag,

    In essence that what is I am saying – that when presenting something be very careful how that is presented and what is provided once the information is delivered. People such as Besen who use blunt statments about suicide as a political tool without any idea as to how that is effecting those who recieve the info (teenagers) then he has defeated his so called purpose and added fuel to a potent fire (teenage suicide – not just gay teenage suicide)

    The purpose is to prevent ANYONE from having to suffer the ambivalence and lonliness of suicidal ideation and completion.

  10. Mary –

    Depression, but more specifically, the variable of hopelessness is seen as the variable highest correlated with attempts (see the Beck Depression Inventory and numerous other sources of correlation). As we well know, hopelessness can link with a number of factors individuals experience. Whether hopelessness around a chronic medical issue, around your place in society, etc…

    Perhaps one way of getting at these attempts is addressing the underlying issues.

  11. Warren,

    “When you said some suicide attempts elevated as the result of efforts to prevent”, what did you mean. Could you elaborate just a little more.

    And it sounds like, from the words you used, that we aren’t talking about most prevention attempts here either – just “some”, right?

    I can completely accept and agree with the idea that some prevention methods could raise the number of attempts (that doesn’t sound like this has anything to do with defining high risk groups) – that wasn’t my point though. My point is is that we shouldn’t stop trying to figure out which groups are at highest risk (but you’re right, what to do with that information is another matter), while at the same time making sure we are taking care of all groups – that is what you seem to be saying too Warren, so I think we’re in agreement here!!!

  12. Regarding Eddy’s comments (and certainly referring to thoughts expressed by Jayhuck, Mary, and Warren;

    “If special emphasis were placed on gay teen suicides in a school program, it might, if not carefully presented, ENCOURAGE more suicides and suicide attempts.”

    Truth is, when you identify high-risk groups with the research, it should never be presented as “you are at high risk for suicide…” but rather developing programs for sensitivity, understanding of diversity, and compassion for others. Preventing suicide doesn’t mean glorifying or martyring anyone, it doesn’t mean showing slides of famous people or teens who have died.

    Suicide prevention work (with large groups, like a school) at its finest is simply education and awareness of the struggles of others, and penalties for those who bully…and this, has not been shown to increase suicide, but addresses the factors which lead to such actions in the first place.

    People are reticient to sign-on to anything that makes us more sensitive to the struggle of the gay teen because it might just make us acknowledge their existence (many protest having GLBT groups at school for this reason as well). Incorporating a program of diversity at a school is not a dangerous venture.

    The other way to address suicide prevention is to have hard and fast penalties around bullying…again, I would assert that this does not increase suicide.

    You have to be smart about how you address the issue, but being smart about it doesn’t mean ignoring it.

  13. “I think we have a built in instinct for self-preservation. Many suicides are simply a cry for help.”

    But, they’re a SUICIDE. A life gone. So much more than a statistic. You can have your theory but they overcame their instinct for self-preservation. They succeeded in taking their own life. That’s the ones were talking about.

    “Many suicides are simply a cry for help.” Well, you know that’s true. They’re dead…it’s a SUICIDE. No future. No day of discovery that ‘life is really worth living’. They’re gone. But it’s comforting to know that it was ‘simply a cry for help’. That’s Suicide Explanation not Suicide Prevention.

    Prevention recognizes that SOME manage to overcome their life instinct. Prevention tries to understand how THEY were able to do that. Prevention has found connections to ALL of the dynamics I cited.–and more. Prevention has also found that the manner in which they present material–that might be accessible to a teen market–needs to be seriously considered. Prevention should also be very aware when trying to address special risk groups in the schools.

    On one hand, we’d want them to say enough to discourage physical and verbal bashing and bullying but, on the other, we need to realize that from the second the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ was spoken to the assembled group…every person that ‘thinks they’re gay’ has been frozen rigid in their seat…their pulses racing and their skin beginning to redden and glisten simultaneously. (A 65-word sentence in the middle of the night. Personal best!)

    Phone numbers and addresses to help, support and hotline centers ought to all be included on one card given to all assembled. (They learned long ago that you can’t just speak the phone numbers. Teens know that other teens would notice if they jotted down a particular number or contact info. So, the ones who need the numbers are usually too nervous to write them down.) The same holds true for a brochure table or area. Needs to be set up so that the special risk individuals can access what they need quickly and confidentially.

  14. Jayhuck,

    You were severly depressed and yet you talk about your innate drive to self preserve.

    Do you think someone who has completed a suicide has the same innate drive to self preserve?? I don’t think so. And your evaluation of severe depression (without any info on other factors) does not represent those that are contemplating suicide and attempting suicide. Maybe they have really severe depression. A step up (or down in this case) from your depression and diagnosis.

    If a suicide attempt or completion is a cry for help – then why did not anyone answer? Because they were not informed enough about suicide, it’s ideation, it’s indicators, who completes a suicide, who is at risk, what are the signs, what do you do when confronted with someone who indicates suicide etc…

    I do hope you take time to read up on suicide on one of the many links provided – just in case you come across a person who is “crying for help”

  15. From the American Academy of Pediatrics

    EDITOR’S NOTE: The AAP released a revised policy statement “Children, Adolescents, and Advertising,” in December 2006. The statement has several recommendations to help mitigate advertising’s harmful effects, but says one simple solution would be to have children and adolescents become critical media viewers, also known as being media literate.


    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised clinical report, “Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents,” more than 90 percent of adolescent suicide victims met criteria for a psychiatric disorder before their death, increasing the importance of timely evaluation and referral of teenage patients when mental illness is suspected. The report includes a new section on antidepressant medications and suicide. Since the FDA directed pharmaceutical companies to include a black-box warning on all antidepressant medications in 2004, there has been a decrease in prescriptions. Concern has been expressed that this reduction of antidepressant prescribing may be related to an 18 percent increase in U.S. youth suicides from 2003 to 2004 after a decade of steady declines. Regardless of whether the use of antidepressant medications changes the risk of suicide, depression is an important suicide risk factor, and careful monitoring of adolescents’ mental health and behavioral status is critically important, particularly when initiating or changing treatment. Warning signs for family members to contact the physician include:

    New or more frequent thoughts of wanting to die

    Self-destructive behavior

    Signs of increased anxiety/panic/agitation, aggressiveness, impulsivity, insomnia or irritability

    New or more involuntary restlessness, such as pacing or fidgeting

    Extreme degree of elation or energy

    Fast, driven speech

    New onset of unrealistic plans or goals

    Additional risk factors for suicide include intoxication, agitation, and a recent stressful life event. Teens are also at a much greater risk than adults of being influenced by the media, and may imitate suicidal behavior seen on television.

    My comment:

    I really do not know how much more info can be provided that indicates being careful with the portrayal to youth of suicide.

  16. Identification of high risk groups is one thing; what to do about it is another. Some suicide prevention studies raised the concern that suicide attempts elevated as the result of efforts to prevent. I cannot get the reference in front of me but I distinctly remember this from grad school. I served on a suicide prevention task force for the public schools in Portsmouth Ohio years ago and we were pretty sensitive to how we intervened.

  17. We identify and treat high risk groups in a host of other psychological and medical situations too – and I would argue that these attempts are successful at reducing the risk instead of increasing it.


    I really am sorry to hear about your mother too! Take care

  18. Eddy,

    Being labeled a high risk group isn’t romanticizing a situation – in fact, when we DO identify a high risk group we can then work to undo any romanticizing that has gone on – and I’m not sure how the copycat theme works into identifying and treating high risk groups either.

    I am a member of a high risk group – I was severely depressed as a teenager – I knew others who were – but I never met anyone who said Wow, if others are committing suicide I should too. I think we have a built in instinct for self-preservation. Many suicides are simply a cry for help.

    I think we are confusing romanticizing and becoming martyrs with identifying high-risk groups, and they don’t ever have to be synonymous with each other. I guess I’m confused with the attempt to tie these things together.

    I’m not saying copycat suicides dont’ happen, or that people don’t try and romanticize suicide, but I argue whether that’s what is happening when we try and identify and treat those groups most at risk.

  19. Eddy,

    I have also heard a rumor (from the accounts of parents) that teenagers are crazy!! In all honesty, with the amount of chemical changes taking place in a young body at that time, the social pressures of new experiences coming at you a mile a minute, and the awkwardness of becoming an adult it is enough to drive anyone up the wall. I tell anyone, I would not want to be a teenager or young adult again.

  20. Thank you Eddy, for summarizing the points in very specific terms.

    Sorry about your Mom. I know this is a significant time in your life.

  21. I’m very puzzled by Jayhuck’s question. I honestly thought that anyone who knew anything about suicide would KNOW the point Mary has made. Long before we ever looked at the copycat theme with regard to school shootings and suicides, it was clear that news re teen suicides often ‘legitimized’ the idea to some.

    The teen mind is very curious…brilliant and insightful on one hand, emotional and confused on the other. Troubled teens, whose lives inside their minds are emotional and confused, might find in statistics or news stories re suicide:

    identification (“That’s exactly how I feel…maybe suicide is my solution too.”)

    justification (“Others did it and the world didn’t end, why not me?)

    retribution (“Wow, it looks like people finally understood just how wrong they were to treat them that way, I can think of a few people who will be very, very sorry when I’m gone.”)

    momentary fame/glory (“Look at that! Their suicide story is in all the papers. Here I am feeling invisible; if only I had the courage to kill myself, I’d be in the papers too!”)

    supportive follow-up (“People still don’t get it. Maybe if I add my life to the cause.”)

    the romantic notion of ‘being a martyr for the cause’ and ‘impacting the world’ (“My suicide will show the world that you just can’t treat people like that…maybe things will change once people see how ugly they’re behaving.”)

    Those are only the scenarios I can imagine…it’s been a LONG time since I was a teen. But, most definitely, teens are impacted by stats and news stories AND romanticized idealogical thinking tends to predominate. It’s a potentially explosive mix.

    Specifically to Mary’s point: If special emphasis were placed on gay teen suicides in a school program, it might, if not carefully presented, ENCOURAGE more suicides and suicide attempts.

  22. Jayhuck,

    The CDC report last night was pulled alomost immediately for fear that it would prompt young girls to attempt suicide. It is a FACT that when suicide is reported on – a suicide epidemic can break out. I am trying to share the message that when we report – someone may respond negatively. Let’s be accurate in our reporting of stats and be responsible with that information to provide resources, guides, skills to manage suicidal ideation.

    Yes, a suicidal person can be tempted. Especially a young person with little experience, resources for help, etc..

  23. Mary,

    I question whether people can be tempted by stats to fall in line when it comes to suicide. I think when we identify high risk groups, we are trying to put a little more attention to them because they are a higher risk. I have only limited experience with this, but I can’t imagine someone being tempted to suicide just because they are a part of a high risk group

  24. I do applaud the Irish – (being Irish myself).

    But Jag, again I will say, yes gay youth and suicide should be addressed but when it is addressed incorrectly (look at all the inidicators) then a suicidal gay youth may be overlooked as well – or in fact – tempted by false stats to “fall in line”.

  25. Mary –

    I think you are right that gay youth are only a portion of the overall population affected by suicide…but why not applaud the efforts of the Irish to at least draw attention to this one group and try to address it? I think research substantiates and we all recognize, it is not the only group that is at risk. But starting one by one, I certainly hope we can build greater understanding and better tackle this issue.

  26. You’re Welcome Eddy.

    As you can tell, this subject hits close to home and is a very personal one for my family.

    When you hear people talk about gay youth and suicide or ex gay and suicide or suicidal ideation – they don’t really have the information. By all of their accounts I AM THE ONE who is greatest risk – having been gay a a teen ager, family history of depression, etc… and a lot of other indicators. And the truth is – two of my family members committed suicide and neither one of them was gay. So while suicide is a serious subject for gays and youth – we need to be clear about the subject.

  27. Mary–

    Thank you for your tenacity! You know that I know how frustrating it can be to try to follow a point to completion. Thanks for following through. I appreciate the links.

  28. Mary –

    I think you make a solid point here…bullying can lead to retaliation in small or bigger ways. The most extreme being things like Columbine, which I suppose could certainly be argued that way.

    People tend to pick on others because they don’t understand them…whether gay or wearing thick glasses, they are “different,” and we are not trained adequately to learn from difference rather than stomp it out. Not to bash anyone…but gheesh, it all seems so “American” to do a little “stomping out” of difference, doesn’t it?

    Nondemocracies, those who are immigrants, gays, muslims, those who are black, etc…America doesn’t have a good track record, and I think we don’t raise our children with a sense of obligation to reach out and “understand” others – instead, we just try to stomp them out.

    “Bullying can lead to more bullying in retaliation”

    Great statement. It made me think of terrorism, and I suppose bullying is a form of terrorism in the schools.

  29. Timothy–

    Re “Thou Shalt Not Steal” story…Excellent! Got a spontaneous outburst out of me! I’ve already got a list of 5 to send it to. Thanks.

  30. Mary,

    You are right where suicide is concerned – I’m not sure we can go so far as to say the stats aren’t accurate, but they sure aren’t clear in any case.

    As for bullying though, I think it is fairly clear, as Eddy and I have agreed on, that certain groups receive greater degrees and severity of bullying than others – this goes back to the: you don’t often see people getting killed for being white, straight, ex-gay or geeky, but you do see people often being killed because they are gay or black. And when there is a difference, I think we need to say so – and in the same vein, when there isn’t a difference, don’t try and drum one up 🙂

  31. Yeah – bullying is not going to stop just because we ask or because it is wrong. But bullying can lead to more bullying in retaliation.

  32. I think we all know that much bullying is based on orientation (or perception thereof) and/or NGC. But some of us seem to think the solution is just say, “don’t bully anyone”. This reminds me of an old story.

    There was this pastor who had one of his parishoners, Joe, come talk to him. He said, “Pastor, you know Bill, my neighbor who also comes to church here. Well, he’s been stealing my chickens. I’ve seen him do it. I don’t want to cause problems, but I just want it to stop.”

    So that Sunday the pastor announced, “This morning my sermon is Thou Shalt Not Steal.” And the preacher went on to talk about what the Bible says about stealing.

    After the sermon, Bill came up and said, “Good preaching, Reverend”.

    But later in the week Joe was back to tell the pastor that he’s seen Bill stealing his chichens again that week and he just didn’t know what to do.

    So the next Sunday the pastor announced, “This morning my sermon will be Thou Shalt Not Steal Chickens.

  33. Suicide is not an indicator of bullying – it is the other way around. If bullying exists AND other indicators exist – then we have a potential for suicide risk.

  34. Jayhuck,

    I think the stats are not accurate. So, I don’t know. I do remember being a gay youth and young gay woman. And gays will experience, name calling, physical abuse (if not then threats for sure), whispers, isolation etc…

    If a person has in their family a history of depression or shows sign of depression themselves, if hand guns are present in the home, if they are male (increased suicide completion for males), if a family memeber has completed suicide, and other predictors and indicators are ALSO present – then you add in bullying – well then – you have a potentially dangerous situation and at risk youth.

    It is so easy to say that OTHER people are to blame for this or that. But when it comes down to it – we need to be prepared to respond with answers and some solutions. Bullying needs to stop but I doubt that it will. I know though that when I am in contact with youth who are at risk, I talk about solutions, what they can do for themselves to get social support, work on issues of self esteem, stay away from dangerous situations (guns, drugs, risky friends who engage in risky behavior) etc… And by all means watch for the signs!!

  35. We may not be able to stop the bullying – as you can see that bullying continues on well into adulthood. But we can equip ourselves with information to recognize signs of suicide. And an inidivdual can work on thier own depression, their self esteem, guns can be removed from homes, coping skills can be acquired etc…

    Lynn David – I am so sorry you had to endure bullying as a child. Thankfully, you had parents who were sensitive.

  36. Mary,

    I think your search for the truth regarding suicide is great and should be encouraged.

    I know I’ve somewhat hammered this idea into the ground, but while suicide can happen to just about anyone in any group (the same goes for bullying), there are some groups that are more at risk for it than others – Are gay youth still more at risk? I don’t have any idea

  37. Since when is suicide a necessary indicator or measure of the bullying that might happen?

    Now that I think about it bullying occurs also at an impersonal level when talk occurs about gay people, in general, such as what occurs on a playground. Talk about what they’d do if they even came in contact with such a person. That impersonal sort of bullying is what I experienced in my own parochial schoolyard even as early as the 4th grade. (Parenthetically, I might add that some of the rhetoric out of the “anti-gay” crowd seems to me [but then I am gay] to be nothing but an impersonal type of bullying).

    I’ll also add that I think the anti-gay slurs that youngsters (does that word date me?) bandy about have little to do with religion but are a familial connection – mostly father to son but also uncle to nephew and cousin to cousin. Young boys learn from those they look up to and what they should hear from them immediately gets imput into their repretoire. I would have hated to be in a family situation such as that.

    I think I was lucky, I had a great father, a sensitive and kind man, who truly lived up to the example of Jesus (except that from time to time he had a drink and played poker [and won!]). And most all of my uncles were like that (except those who had served in the military). However, there was at that time (the 50s & 60s) a general connection by most adults among all sexualities seen as perverse. Thus I was warned about my gay professor of organ as if he were a pedofile.

    And then it comes down how a young homosexually-oriented child comes to synthesize all of that. You get the jokes on the playground and the words associated with such persons are always analogous to dirt, filth, whose actions are reprehensible. You then get the idea from your elders that such people violate young children. No child is going to identify with that or even want to, despite their orientation as it gets stronger with their development during puberty (whether they get beat up or not). But I am speaking about my time in the 60s, today to be gay, isn’t seen as all that bad (which is what most scares the AFA, FotF, FRI, FRC, etc…). Though “that’s so gay” seems to be today’s rather lame attempt….

  38. Eddy –

    Thanks for letting me clarify here…when I referred to “gay children,” I was referring more towards teenagers (goodness I must be getting older)…

    As much as we all disagree on labeling, I most assuredly would not “label” a child heterosexual, homosexual, etc..until they are at least sexually developed enough to begin to discuss and define their own attractions. Even then, whether they declared themselves hetero or homosexual, I wouldn’t lock them in.

    People have the right to evolve, grow and explore. Many lesbian women, for example, date men until their late teens when they have their first female experience…and it’s often described like a “bam…so this is what all the fuss is about.” There is a semi-famous saying “all girls are straight until they’re not.” Also, I wouldn’t just label a teen gay because they had their first “crush” on another girl. She could be hetero, she could be bi, or she could be gay…

    I was just now also thinking that early gender nonconforming behavior in children (really talking about children this time) is often fodder for ridicule and bullying. I do think, and research supports, that often children who struggle with gender identity often show early gender nonconforming behavior around interests, clothing, etc..

    For some reasons, even though gender identity and sexual orientation are NOT necessarily linked, often their protections are…thus the initials GLBT.

  39. Gay youth should be looked at for suicide but with accurate statistics and with accurate information regarding risk and predictors of suicide. I am on a crusade to get suicide information into the hands of those who are concerned or in a position to have an effect on those at risk. I am also on a crusade to prevent further suicides.

    Most suicides have depression as a predictor, one attempted suicide is the best predictor for a completed suicide in the future – and this is life long. Most youth suicide are committed with a gun from the home they live in.

    I have asked for more information on gay youth and suicide and most of the info so far seems out dated. When I present information about how to predict suicide I am accussed of not caring for gay youth. When I suggest that providing information about suicides (real or false) can spur a suicide outburstn – it goes unnoticed.

    My point, Wayne Besen gets on this blog and talks about youth suicide among gays without providing information. My concern is that his “info” is being spread around without others checking it or looking farther into causes, circumstances of suicides. If he goes out on a speaking tour to a high school where there may be just ONE at risk gay youth, and Besen gives this false information, that ONE at risk gay youth may use that info and commit suicide. Instead of being given accurate information, resources, etc… to evaluate – all that ONE at risk gay youth will know is that “gay youth commit suicide more” Without looking at other factors such as depression, access to firearms, access to support groups for suicide, etc…

    I am as concerned about that ONE youth and he/she is going through. Depression, lack of support, isolation, probably drug use, may have access to firearms etc…

    Suicide is not a gay problem but when we fan the fire with the wrong information, we give the go ahead to those who are at risk without taking responsibility and looking at ALL the things that go into a suicidal decision.

  40. Eddy,

    At least from my perspective, you’d be surprised. On the outside, some of these people seemed very religious – they go to church regularly and were part of prayer groups. Again, though, surface appearances are deceiving.

    I agree with you, though, that a true Christian wouldn’t do these things – although I think often that even the best of people unwittingly use religion to suppress others – as if they are entitled to things that others shouldn’t be because they are religious. Like I said before, it doesn’t have to be a blatant bullying kind of thing – religion can sometimes serve to make people feel they are above others, even though those same people probably wouldn’t admit it. I say this only because I used to be that kind of person 🙂

  41. there are many other reasons that children are bullied at school and elsewhere – poverty, uncleanliness, being in foster care, physical deformities, parental embarrassments, speech impediments are all targets as well.

  42. JAG–

    LOL! I rolled right by this on my first read. You said to Mary: “many do feel this way…that protecting gay children, is accepting that there are gay children, and is accepting the “lifestyle.” I’m stumbling over the notion of ‘gay children’. Are you using a broader sense of ‘gay’ that doesn’t involve sexual attraction at all? Did you mean ‘teens’ when you said ‘children’? (When a child identifies as ‘gay’ or when we identify a chld as ‘gay’, I’m always wondering just what it is that we are perceiving as ‘gay’.)


    I can envision the dynamics you described but I have trouble picturing a teenage bully who also ‘reads their Bible and prays everyday’. It seems more like they tend to be nonreligious people who use religion only when it supports their prejudices. (Yeah, like some politicians!)

    Are there studies re ‘the bully personality’? We’ve been discussing the victims of bullying but Jayhuck has introduced a closely related side topic: what is a bully? what motivates them?

  43. Eddy,

    Just so I’m clear here – I grew up in a very conservative religious environment, and while they people I’m talking about didn’t ascribe to the “heart” of the Christian message they heard, they definitely were able to use it to bolster their own feelings of prejudice. I assume that maybe that is what was going on in Lynn David’s environment, and I was sympathizing with that – but whether it was or not, it is definitely something that is fairly wide spread. Whether its religion or something else, people will use what they have to in order to feel superior or to denigrate others – like I said, religion isn’t the only institution to be used this way, but it definitely is one that is easy to abuse

  44. Eddy,

    I don’t know if they were religious or not, but Lynn-David talked about growing up in a religious environment and so did I – and while I’m religious, I can tell you that people will often use religion to bolster inherent prejudices. I can’t speak to Lynn’s experience, but I definitely can to mine. And religion was used and abused to justify discrimination, prejudice and bullying

  45. I agree with Jag. Mary seems to almost be on a crusade to try to prove gay kids shouldn’t be specifically addressed when dealing with bullying and teen suicide.

    Bullying that gay teens face can be much more problematic than that of kids who are of a different race, or overweight, or geeks, etc. Gay teens still (all to often) have to deal with school administrations that are indifferent or even outright hostile to their plight. When I was in HS I had a teacher who chastised a student for using the word nigger, yet this same teacher told gay jokes in class.

    No one is saying that other types of bullying or issues surrounding teen suicide shouldn’t be addressed. However, I see nothing wrong with acknowledging, and focusing on, the issues that gay teens can face.

  46. Jayhuck–

    We blame religion for a lot of things but this is the first I’ve heard it blamed for bullying in the schools. Most of us seemed to agree that religion was another thing you got bullied for.

    I don’t imagine that Lynn-David’s attackers were particularly religious. Even if they were forced to attend church, they really don’t strike me as the type to sit angelically in the front pew. That religious connection seems a bit of a stretch.

  47. I’m so sorry for what others have had to endure that I have not, and want to extend my thanks for sharing such tragic events.

    Mary –

    I may be wrong, but it seems you have a lot of resistance to acknowledging the torments of the gay community specifically, and I’m not sure why.

    You and I agree that every single group that faces bullying and brutality should be protected from those who would harm them. If we know that education, for example, helps people understand each other better – or that policies need to be enacted to help some groups who are targeted more than others, we need to do our share.

    There are protections for religion, why not orientation? I think some are afraid that it will “normalize” this orientation. The sad thinking behind that is, if we don’t protect it – maybe those kids will “stay in line,” or behave “appropriately.” I’m not saying this is your stance Mary – but many do feel this way…that protecting gay children, is accepting that there are gay children, and is accepting the “lifestyle.”

    Why do we, mary, have laws to protect people on the basis of their religion or disability if we should just be protecting them all? Because we realize that these groups are particularly vulnerable to attack and discrimination…and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen.

    Let’s protect everyone, and in the meantime, acknowledge EVERY group that might be particularly vulnerable, who are consistently and routinely singled out, and find ways of addressing it.

  48. Warren,

    I agree with your statement that includes sexual orientation – and yes, we should stop all bullying!

  49. Bullying is an issue that needs addressing across the board for all children. (See Columbine Massacre) These were very angry boys. Just as the author of that Gay Library Website. Bullying can lead to dangerous ideas of killing oneself and others.

    Warren, I agree – stop bullying of ALL included.

  50. I’m not sure what I described was bullying. I guess it might have been in school, it’s just that I really didn’t let it get to me. Even when I got stabbed by the guy I just looked at him sternly and he got all sheepish, then I pulled the compass out and handed it to him. I guess it didn’t hit anything vital; it probably wasn’t any worse than the mythical square needle of summer-camp physicals might have been.

    Sometimes I think that is why it escalated from bullying to bashing outside of school. But this came at a point when all I can say is that feeling of being different was with me. I was just entering puberty and getting those feeling and desires which weren’t in line with the norm. It all happened in what we (we German Catholics) considered our neighborhood. I guess at the time it caused me some fear of being alone for a while; but that didn’t seem to last. The attacks sound awful, but they didn’t have an the effect on me then as much as they did later.

    I think I sort of compartmentalized those attacks. They were against something I didn’t quite understand at the time, my sexuality. In part, they were also against my religion. And it seems those of my religion who came to my aid were salvaging that religion, but they could not save my sexuality. In that I was all alone (actually one more gay in my class, 2 out of 40, right on at 5%). And it sticks with you and came back when I had my first coming out experience that didn’t go so well. You don’t want to give someone a reason to start the bashing again, so you shut up. That was partly due to the time (late 60s) and small town/farm families/religion.

    What is odd is that I have never considered myself to have an affect or any “stereotypical behavior” then or even now. I always thought of myself as one of the guys – who also likes guys. Though others have told me that I have certain “mannerisms.” I was then a little “stout;” it seems that most of us who are organists are. I even took organ lessons from a gay professor as a teenager but I couldn’t get anything affirming from him (wasn’t too great on the musical end either).

    Eddy… my mother has the same wish for me that your brother now has for you. But it seems that something has always gotten in the way for me. Just as I was getting more to be the me I wanted to be about the age of 29, I ended up with testicular cancer. That sorta drove me into a shell, one that I only started coming out of after I moved home to manage the family farms. And while I know gay men in the area, being back here in Indiana is somewhat moderating [at least for me].

    Well, i get long-winded. I agree with Warrens ideas. Though Warren, when I would play with the girls (usually my cousins) as a kid, it seems I always ended up bullied with grass stuffed in my pants and shirt… don’t know what that meant.

  51. Lynn-David,

    I, too, am really sorry to hear about that bullying incident you endured – no one should have to have that happen to them. I’m very, very lucky that I never had to deal with anything more than being spit on or simply had verbal threats leveled at me for being gay.

    Some of what you said about those groups got me to thinking – While religion in and of itself is NEVER a bad thing, being human and flawed as we all are, people will use things like religion to bolster their inherent prejudices. People often wrongly think that they can use religion to justify their anger, their hate, their prejudice – and it doesn’t always have to be blatant either – sometimes religion can simply be used to validate one’s sense of superiority and justify discrimination, even while those people will claim not to be anti-gay. Of course, religion isn’t the only institution to be misused this way.

  52. Lynn-David:

    Your post hadn’t yet appeared when I posted mine. I share Warren’s view that I never knew it to be THAT bad. I hope to God that the brass knuckle kid is somehow paying for his brutality against you. What you’ve described is absolutely horrific and goes way beyond the bullying that most of us recall from our junior and senior high school days.

    While I think the policies Warren mentioned in his response are good, I’m not sure they would impact the type of bullying Lynn-David received. Away from the school…crossing through the park on the way home. It’s the way of bullies to ‘get you when nobody’s looking’.

    I guess I’m saying that having the policies isn’t enough but I don’t know where the balance lies. Where and how could schools (even at late elementary and junior high levels) foster a social consciousness that tolerates and respects individual differences without endorsing one or the other?

    I’m very thankful for the people who came to Lynn-David’s aid. I think we need to broaden our concept of the Golden Rule (‘do unto others as you’d have them do unto you’) to include actually ‘looking out for–and speaking up for–others who are having bad things done unto them’.

    BTW: I’ve been bashed and/or mugged more than a dozen times in my life but they were all post high-school. I do recall being punched in the stomach once prior to that. Other than that, the bullying was mostly name-calling or a furtive slap to the head on the schoolbus. One of my brothers was also part of a gay-bashing gang. He didn’t know that I knew until years later. He and I also attended the same community college where he was president of the only fraternity and I was trying to form a gay lib group. Due to my knowledge of his gay-bashing, ‘home’ was never my refuge or ‘safe place’.

    It’s odd that although ‘everybody knew I was gay’, it was something we never talked about. I had a long talk with this brother and his wife shortly before I went into ministry. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I confirmed all of his suspicions about my sexuality. He immediately confessed with obvious remorse that he used to beat up and bash gays. I then told him what I already knew and how many times I had warned people not to approach cars that I recognized as belonging to his friends. Now, some 30 years later, he actually wishes that I could let go of my conservative Christian notions and ‘find the good man that I deserve’. To his credit, he does fully accept that it’s MY life and MY choice; he simply wants the best for me. (I know I’ve told this story before but I am a sucker for a happy ending.)

  53. Lynn David – You really touched me with your descriptions of that brutality. I did not have it that bad but I had my share of fearful moments, mainly because I was small and good at school early on. Some of the kids at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School (scene of the Best Christmas Pageant Ever – I know who the Herdmans are) were not fond of little smart kids. My objection to any criteria being listed is the implication that such categories are known or relevant in elementary school or even in lower middle school. I want schools to be about community and positive learning environments for all kids. I have come to believe in the last year that gender nonconformity (in kindergarten I played with the girls in the kitchen) is the prime trigger for bullying that comes in those early years and that GNC mediates many of the psychological risk elevations observed in gay teens and adults. In one sense, I welcome the attention bullying gets by proposals to include certain social groups in the lists, but in the final analysis, I mainly want to see schools become safe places where the Golden Rule applies uniformly.

    To me something like this would work as a policy: No harrasment, namecalling or bullying will be tolerated for any reason (for examples, based on ethnicity, race, religion, sexual identity or perceived sexual identity, weight, perceived social class, etc).

  54. Go IRISH! I’m of Irish descent and friends have commented that I carry off the leprechaun look rather well. I appreciate the president’s statements for their sensitivity. Wouldn’t it be an incredible day when a U.S. president made such a clear proclamation?

    I’ve been bullied for being different, for being gay, for being bookish, for being non-athletic, for being a ‘hippie peace freak, for being a pothead, and, most often, for being short and seemingly defenseless. I think the most important justification for addressing special attention to the bullying of SSA youth and teens is contained in the president’s statement and in Timothy’s.

    Although bullying is on the rise and has many targets and victims, gay teens are likely wounded more by it because they have no one to turn to and commiserate when it occurs. The president seemed to be in touch with this sense of isolation and its potential effects and Timothy cited the absence of support networks.

    I’m flashing back to the VietNam era but I’ve often wondered how much ‘the national vibe” impacts bullying. Does the stress of being at war express itself in bullying behavior? Do the mud-slinging and personal attacks associated with national elections create a vibe of negativity that encourages bullies to attack more?

    I did pause over the reference to alcohol and cannabis. Was the article implying that gay teens 1) were more likely to use alcohol and cannabis? 2) used alcohol and cannabis to medicate the emotional trauma? (When I first entered the online world about 3 or 4 years ago, I looked up my nieces and nephews–and some of their ‘MySpace friends’–and was disturbed by their comments re alcohol and pot usage. One of my nieces actually had to be detoxed due to alcohol poisoning! Makes an uncle proud…NOT!) Maybe it’s a sign of getting old but I don’t recall alcohol and pot being an issue until the latter part of the teen years…now it seems that the usage begins not long after puberty! Scary.

    BTW: I realize that the alcohol and cannabis statement, while it was mentioned in the article, isn’t actually the topic here. We don’t HAVE to discuss it now but it might be a productive topic in the future.

  55. You don’t need the research to know that stopping bullying is a “good thing.”

    Like Tim I grew up in a religiously led community. We had our own parochial schools and the guys were primarily well behaved, though I do remember the derogatory playground talk about those like myself. The worse I ever got was a little ribbing from people about a job planting tulips over the summer. I’d call it good-natured, but it came from the only friend to whom I came out.

    The only bullying happened when we ended up with someone from outside our religion in my class (kicked out of the secular public schools). He started calling me the basic names and stabbed me once with the needle end of a compass. I didn’t know math/geometry could be so dangerous.

    Then he and two of his public school friends caught me while walking back home from my music lessons downtown. One guy and my classmate flanked me and the other largest kid started hitting me to the back of the head with brass knuckles. It was my wits that saved me that night, picking up the pace lessened the blows to more glancing. Finding a well-lit house with people gaggling in it to call my home sent them scampering.

    A call to my real home, just 3 blocks away, brought my mother. I should have been able to tell her what happened, but it was their motive which stopped me. Still I was resilant. Flashing a smile at my attacker the next day in school seemed to just ruin his day.

    But I think it might have been the guy in the middle who was hitting me that later attacked me two other times on the way home from school. Each time was an attack to the back of the head while epithets concerning both my religion and sexuality were slung. One was so out=of-the-blue brutal that I collapsed defenselessly to the grass (I was traversing a park) and he then sat on my back and started going off on my head. Each time if people weren’t nearby that ran him off, I don’t know where I would be.

    Again, I couldn’t really talk about these attacks because of their motive. Looking back, I think it was mostly these events and like others which caused me to try on my own to be what I wasn’t not necessarily religion. Which always makes me wonder if PFOX, the AFA, FotF, CWA, the FRC, etc., who continually lobby against mentioning sexual orientation in regards to bullying, are not just tickled pink that like events in other young gay persons’ lives would cause them to try to be straight.

    Suffice it to say for that reason said groups are to me morally bankrupt.

  56. Warren,

    I agree with both you and the President of Ireland. More research is needed, both in terms of identifying target demographics (whether or not LGBT) and also on what specific social conditions may or may not contribute.

    Further, yes it can be tough to be the odd kid. I was very fortunate not to be much bullied. While I wasn’t very good at sports, I don’t recall being teased much for being a sissy or effiminate. I lucked out.

    However, I do remember how alone it felt to have to wear something different at gym class or not be able to go to school dances or not know what the other kids saw on TV or not have sex-ed or all the other oddities of belonging to a peculiar religious demonination. Fortunately I grew up where religion was respected instead of mocked. And fortunately I had family and friends who shared my peculiarities.

    But many kids don’t have support networks. I can see how without that reassurance that you are OK and not a freak that it could become overwhelming.

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