Over sixty percent of gay teens report being bullied or harassed because of their sexuality. Over fifty percent attempt suicide – for every completed suicide, there are close to 200 attempts. Although it hasn’t been scientifically proven, as far as I know, most of these attempts are caused by the stress and pain brought on by bullying and harassment – both online and in person. Never has this been more talked about than now, in the aftermath of the suicides of six gay teens over the past three weeks – especially Tyler Clementi, a college freshman who, after a video of his encounter with another man was spread across the internet, ended his life by jumping off a bridge. In a country that calls itself “the land of the free”, to LGBTQ teens, sometimes it’s better to die than have people know about your sexuality. While we may say that America is such an accepting and fair place, minorities know – we, as a country, are still intolerant.
Though it’s not intolerance we should be focusing on. There will always be intolerance and bigotry and people who have internalized these beliefs so fully that they don’t even recognize that they are prejudiced. It’s the tolerance we should be worried about – the tolerance of hatred. The coverage of the recent suicides has focused on the victims and their families, and hardly a word for the people who drove them to kill themselves. Why is it more acceptable to talk about the end result rather than the homophobia and hatred that lead to it? While suicide is a deeply tragic act and it’s important to let LGBTQ teens know that ending their lives is not the answer, shouldn’t we also focus on stopping the problem where it begins and educating those who don’t know better that hatred is wrong?
I wish I could say I believe that one day we’ll live in a world where gender and sexuality are a spectrum that is nobody’s business but our own, not a binary by which we judge each other. But as the world becomes more and more dependent on technology, when everything can be turned into a string of zeroes and ones and check-one-or-the-other boxes, if anything, things are becoming even more black and white. And while these differences are shown as one or the other, “with me” or “against me” I doubt we will ever achieve real acceptance.
Who you are and how you identify is something you are born with. There is no difference between, say, brown hair and homosexuality, being left handed and being genderqueer. Being gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, anything is not deviance, it is simply another natural genetic variation just like every other trait that humans are born with. Until our society realizes this and ingrains it into our culture and the way we see each other, we will continue this way, letting innocent people die because others can’t accept them for who they are.
Let’s not let it happen again.