As incredible as it may seem, many parents reject their gay child because of counseling by their church that homosexuality is a sin. This rejection causes extreme harm to children, leaving them with feelings of confusion, loneliness and pain. Research has shown that a gay child, rejected by his or her family, is at a high risk of severe depression and suicide—and especially so when the rejection is couched in religious terms. Research done last year at San Francisco State University entitled “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young Adults,” the research found:
- LGBT young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse, compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.
- Higher rates of family rejection during adolescence were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes for LGBT young adults. Family rejection couched in religious terms was found to be particularly devastating, putting youth at even greater risk.
There are many things a young gay person should know.
You are not alone. Statistics show that at least one out of every ten people are gay. That means there are millions and millions of gay Americans – the vast majority living happy, healthy and productive lives – surrounded by people who love them. Gay people are in your schools, your church, your neighborhood and at one time or another, they’ve probably experienced the same kinds of fears, challenges, obstacles and confusion you are experiencing now.
Being gay is a good thing. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. While there are plenty of bigoted and mean-spirited people who don’t agree, they are wrong.
Gay people are not sinners in the eyes of God. We are not here to tell you which religious beliefs are right and which are wrong. But it is important for you to know that a majority of religious faiths in America are welcoming and affirming of gay people. Mainstream religious denominations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America say that “gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by God, are welcome to participate fully…”
Don’t let a religious leader or anyone else tell you that you were not born as an individual created by God. You didn’t choose to be gay. This is the way God created you and therefore you should enjoy the same rights as anyone else.
There is a great world out there waiting for you. Gay people are just as smart and can be just as successful as straight people. There are great gay role models for you from teachers, doctors and business owners to scientists, police and fire fighters to ministers, political leaders, actors and athletes. Gay people are parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and sons and daughters.
Don’t let anyone cause you harm. This includes religious leaders, your family, your friends, your classmates, politicians, co-workers, people who preach hate on TV or even a perfect stranger. For the first time, the federal government recognized the harm caused to LGBT people by bigotry and hate and passed much needed protections.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009. This measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill also (1) gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue; (2) provides $5 million per year in funding to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes; and, (3) requires the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people.
Don’t bring harm unto yourself. For any reason, especially your sexuality, it does not help to turn to suicide or any other method of hurting yourself. Your life is precious and while there may be times of deep despair, loneliness or depression, it is important that you seek medical, psychological and spiritual help. It is also important to share your feelings with someone you are close to. That could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker or a classmate. It is also important that you turn to a crisis hotline that has trained professionals who can guide you in the right direction.
We recommend The Trevor Project – the leading organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts amongst LGBT youth.
You can call The Trevor Project’s free hotline right now at 1-866-488-7386.
We also recommend refraining from using alcohol or drugs while you are struggling with these important life issues. Statistics confirm that alcohol and drugs make dealing with these problems more difficult and can cause related issues, including sexual promiscuity and unprotected sex.
Our Book: CRISIS
We encourage you to read our book, “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America.” This book tells the personal stories of what some LGBT have gone through and the obstacles they’ve overcome along the way. Read this book. You can find it at public libraries, at bookstores, in some schools and online at http://www.crisisbook.org/.
While reading this book, no doubt you will be able to relate to many of the stories that are told about growing up gay in America and the challenges presented to so many of us.
If you are in need to someone to talk to at your school, a school guidance counselor can be a good place to begin. The guidance counselor should be calming and non-judgmental and able to provide you with resource materials to read and local organizations such as Gay-Straight Alliances or an LGBT Center.
Thousands of high schools and middle schools now have small groups commonly referred to as Gay-Straight Alliances. These school-based organizations are a welcoming place for LGBT youth and a resource for youth and families. Check with your school to see if there is one locally and if not, consider starting a group at your school.
Local LGBT Centers
Many LGBT youth seek help and guidance outside their schools. Local LGBT centers most often are the places to provide support. There are staffed by professional staff and/or volunteers who mostly likely will have walked in your shoes. These are very welcoming places for LGBT youth and a place where you can feel safe and meet other LGBT youth.
Gay Youth Links
There are many sources that you can turn to for information and support. Whether you have questions about your sexuality and what it means to be gay, or if you’re experiencing religion based bigotry in your home, church, or school, these websites can help.