We were all moved by the increased reporting on the epidemic of LGBT teen suicides last autumn, and many clergy, teachers, politicians and everyday folks have taken action to stop bullying and support queer youth. But we can do more to take the LGBTQ teen suicide rate from 4x that of heterosexuals to ZERO.
Let's agree to a "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" to guide our efforts: ZERO Q SUICIDES.
If our goal is ZERO Q SUICIDES, what do we need to do differently as an LGBTQ community?
My first thoughts about how to achieve ZERO Q SUICIDES are:
BUILD DEEP COMMUNITY. A major contributor to LGBTQ teen suicide is feelings of loneliness and isolation. How can we remedy this as an LGBTQ community? Well, we talk a lot about supporting the MACRO LGBTQ community - the institutional and social level - but we don't talk much about supporting the MICRO LGBTQ community - the personal level. Could we revise our concept of LGBTQ community so that it's centered around ALL of us participating in small, diverse groups grounded in honesty, safety, and openness? Could we train each other to exchange effective help and support with one another? Could we create a queer culture that encourages nonjudgmental sharing and listening, and close interaction with people who are different than you? Can we build an LGBTQ community in which no one feels alone? Could we reconceive "Coming Out" to involve not only telling someone you're LGBTQ but also an enfoldment into this kind of Deep Community? (And since this IS MyOutSpirit, could our mental, spiritual health professionals and elders lead these groups?)
SPREAD INSPIRATION AND GUIDANCE. Two out of three Americans agree with us that LGBTQ people commit suicide at least partly because of anti-LGBT messages coming out of churches and other places of worship. These messages are a cause of the feelings of shame and unworthiness (and social ostracization) that contribute to LGBTQ teen suicide. As anyone reading this MyOutSpirit.com blog knows, it's not that the truth about the sanctity of LGBTQ people isn't available. Soulforce's "The Debate is Over, the Verdict is In: Not a Sickness, Not a Sin," for example, lays out the most recent biblical, medical, psychiatric, psychological, and scientific evidence to combat myths and lies often used against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons by anti-LGBT religious leaders and institutions. The information is out there, but it's not reaching enough people. We can do more to spread inspiration and guidance to LGBTQ people. This is why MyOutSpirit plans to distribute a free MyOutSpirit Magazine - we've got to get this information in the hands of those who need it most. (You can become a distributor in your community by filling out this form.) Ministers, counselors, and other body/mind/spirit professionals are invited to make short instructional videos that help LGBTQ teens improve their lives immediately at YouMakeItBetter.org.
EDUCATE OURSELVES AND OTHERS. Everyone in our community should learn to practice mindful listening. When a 20-year-old gay acquaintance of mine asked his friends at the bar, "Do you think God lets gays into heaven?" none of them heard it as a cry for help until his body had been discovered hanging in a closet the next day. We have to learn the warning signs and how to help. We also need to do the deep work of opening straight hearts and minds, not just for equality, but also to eliminate all harm caused by ignorance and fear of "the Other." We should actively participate in GLSEN's Safe Spaces Campaign and other organizations' programs that educate the general public about the unique needs and challenges of queer youth.
Finally, a few rules of thumb as we work toward ZERO GAY SUICIDES.
- Faster is better. We don't have to wait until we have the perfect small group model or the perfect plan or the perfect organization or the perfect whatever to make these changes. We will experiment and fail and that's okay. But the LGBTQ teens who are in crisis today can't wait.
- Change is free. Other than our magazine, none of the suggestions above will cost a dime. Changing the way we choose to form community is free. Spreading information is free. Education is free. The only cost is the time and effort of everyone who wants ZERO Q SUICIDES.
- Recycle. We don't need to recreate the wheel. All this stuff exists, we just need to use what we've got.
What are your ideas? What are you already doing? What are you willing to do to achieve ZERO Q SUICIDES? Join the discussion on Facebook.