Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues - Homophobia and Self-hatred

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Essays - A Debt that Must be Paid

Adolescence, under the best of all circumstance, is a time of great stress and confusion for young people. Bodies, relationships to friends and family, and moods change rapidly as social, psychological, and physiological puberty is navigated.

In this society, to be an adolescent who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (hereafter referred to as 'gay') means to be at significant risk for suicide, depression, dropping out of school, violence, homelessness, rejection from family, prostitution and substance abuse.

Estimates suggest that at least three million children and adolescents in the United States are homosexual.

For this group, the societal stressor of homophobia (both external and internal) adds a significant and often lethal component. Researchers estimate that up to one-third of all adolescents who commit suicide are lesbian or gay. In addition, gay teens are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.

Data collected in 1985 suggest that 85% of gay youth who attempt suicide also use illicit drugs. Nearly a quarter of that group had already undergone chemical dependency treatment. The mean age for suicide attempts is 15 years and most report multiple tries. Overdose and self-laceration account for 80% of these attempts.

National dropout statistics reveal that 28% of gay and lesbian high school students leave school because of physical and mental harassment resulting from their perceived sexual orientation. While in school, the data indicates that more than 37% of adult gays experienced threats, harassment, or violence in either junior high school or high school.

Feelings of social and emotional isolation are also are rampant. Four-fifths (80%) of gay adolescents report severe problems in this area. According to a 1986 survey, 40% of homeless youth identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In addition, half of all lesbian and gay youth studied, report that their parents reject them because of their sexual orientation. It is estimated that 26% are forced to leave their own homes.

Gay youth are more likely to experience violence perpetrated upon them by family, school peers, and total strangers. Nationally collected data is not available, since the Bureau of Justice statistics do not indicate crimes against youth who are gay. Non-national studies show that of youth who report assault crimes, 46% say that their sexual orientation was an issue. More sadly, 61% of the violence perpetrated on this group occurred within their own family.

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