Thursday, September 30, 2010

With LGBT Suicides on Rise, Resource Delivers Support

86.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically harassed and 22.1% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

The month of September was a tragic one not exclusively for the LGBT community but for the country at large. On the 22nd, an 18-year-old New Jersey college student named Tyler Clementi committed suicide. In the weeks prior, three other youth took their lives: 13-year-old Seth Walsh (California), 13-year-old Asher Brown, (Texas) and 15-year-old Billy Lucas (Indiana). The headlines all point to similar motives: Tyler, Seth, Asher and Billy were all gay, and for that reason, they were brutally harassed and publicly shamed.

73.6% heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school.

Eventually, the media will move on to another story, leaving these tragedies behind a trail of fresher gossip and erasing the collective conscience of America. Reality, however, isn’t swayed by news trends. Teens who identify as LGBT are faced each and every day with risk. Their safety and dignity - basic human rights we all deserve - are regularly stripped due to their sexual orientation. Whether subjected to degrading comments or tortured with violence, LGBT youth carry a monstrous burden. At the dinner table, during soccer practice, while serving in the military; gays and lesbians encounter prejudice in a myriad situations.

More than half (60.8%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (38.4%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression

For Tyler Clementi, loss of privacy and extreme cyber-bullying occurred in his dorm room at Rutgers University. An intimate moment in his life was broadcast on the internet with neither his knowledge nor his consent. This public humiliation happened only days before Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge. And unfortunately, Tyler’s story is not an outlier. It is a trend.

31.7% of LGBT students missed a class and 32.7% missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe, compared to only 5.5% and 4.5%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.

The statistics are staggering but they highlight the need for all of us to continue to fight for environments where all youth can thrive: in families, schools, and communities free of bias-based harassment and violence. I strongly urge you to watch and more importantly share the short video below, which addresses homophobia and intolerance of LGBT teens.

"The closet is kind of a death-in-life experience, a form of suicide... Thank you all for this project." -Anonymous

The Ugly Ducklings National Campaign to Reduce Bullying and Harassment of LGBTQ Youth teaches us that the importance of safe, supportive communities for all youth cannot be understated. It also sends a clear call to action. While we cannot undo the horrific mistreatment of Tyler Clementi and many others, it is within our capacity to spread awareness and to cultivate strong support systems for teens currently facing discrimination. We hope you will take a moment to pass this video along to your family, friends, and colleagues.

For questions regarding the video, campaign, or to purchase of an Ugly Ducklings documentary, please contact Hardy Girls Healthy Women or visit the Ugly Ducklings website. You may also call the office at (207) 233-3427 or send email inquiries to

All statistics were graciously borrowed from the 2007 GLSEN National School Climate Survey.

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