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How Many Deaths Will It Take?

Family-Rejection-Suicide-AttemptsThe morning paper greeted me with the following heart wrenching headline at the top of the opinion section “Deadly Persecution of a Gay Man.” I immediately felt ill, my stomach turned, I thought, “Dear God, not again.”  It seems that stories about LGBT suicides are a regular occurrence anymore.  The statistics on LGBT suicides are very depressing.  Here are a few charts to help to illustrate the severe nature of the problem:

photo1769LGBT-suicide-chart-me1Suicide-Chart1I wanted to share a few quotes from the above linked article, written by a Mr. Jon Alexander:

The medical examiner said booze killed him. But, in reality, his life ended thanks the same breed of hate-filled bigotry that erupted last week from state … lawmakers…

Glyn was gay. And too many in our family either outright rejected that fact to his face or, in an attempt to keep the peace with the older generation, bit our tongues.

“When are you going to marry that nice girl — what’s her name?” they’d say to him across the dinner table.

Cue the awkward silence. I’d stare at my plate. Respect your elders and all that.

Even that generation knew the facts. They knew it when he was in elementary school. Taking a disapproving shot was the goal. All of this will be conveniently ignored Saturday when they bury Glyn’s ashes….

Mom would … sit up with him all night as he sobbed, muttering how he wished he was loved by those who are supposed to give it unconditionally. Ours was the one place he could have brought a boyfriend. Yet, after everything, he never trusted us that much.

And, now, I can’t help but blame myself every time I think of him. I stayed silent too many times.

Some day, I’ll have children. I’ll tell them about my tortured uncle, who I loved like a brother. I’ll tell them about his beautiful tenor voice, his infectious laugh and his longing to be accepted by his family. I’ll tell them how I failed him when I sat there mute during those awkward dinners with cousins I rarely see. I’ll tell them that I blame myself.

But I’ll also tell them about long-gone bigots …. And I’ll tell them how staying silent was no longer an option.

Reading this made me sick, but it also gave me hope.  I live in one of the most politically conservative city’s in one of the most politically conservative counties, in one of the most politically conservative states in the USA.  Reading this in a local paper means that there are people who have had enough, there are people who are ready to make a difference.  There are people who are willing to stand up to the bullies and say “NO MORE”.

Mr. Alexander’s letter holds the key to saving LGBT lives.  The difference, the life saving difference is as simple as love and acceptance.  If his Uncle Glyn’s family had loved and accepted him for who he was, he would likely still be with us singing in his beautiful tenor voice.  I started this post with a graphic from the “Family Acceptance Project“.  It demonstrates clearly that family love and acceptance of LGBT individuals has a DRASTIC effect on the likelihood of LGBT suicide.  Their home page gives their mission statement:

The Family Acceptance Project™ is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV – in the context of their families, cultures and faith communities. We use a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children.

Among their other accomplishments, the Family Acceptance Projects produces videos about families with LGBT individuals who demonstrate how love makes a difference.  The vidoe that I know them most for is about the Montgomery family and their son Jordan.  The Montgomery’s are Mormons and during the debates on California’s Prop. 8 they learned that Jordan was gay.  The saw him spiraling down into depression and decided that they would not loose their son.  You can watch the trailer to their video “Families are Forever”  here, and order a copy here.  You can download for free a booklet on how to love and help LGBT family members here.  PLEASE, love and accept your LGBT family, friends, and neighbors, it is a matter of life and death.

The title of this post is from Bob Dylan’s 1962 song and civil rights anthem, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  As this is a “Hymns of Social Justice” post I will conclude with one of may favorite renditions by Peter, Paul, and Mary.  The song asks a series of rhetorical questions.  The most important for me is the last, “HOW many deaths will it take till we know, that TOO MANY people have died?”  Dylan replied in the chorus that “The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”  BUT I believe that, in the case of LGBT individuals Dylan was wrong. The answer is not “Blowin’ in the wind” the answer is right in front of us.  The answer is unconditional love and acceptance of LGBT individuals.  I hope that some combination of Dylan’s anthem, Mr Alexander’s letter and similar stories, and the work of organizations like the Family Acceptance Project will soften hearts , heal homes, and save lives.  TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED.  It needs to STOP.  Some people ask me why I, a straight Mormon, talk and post about LGBT issues so much.  It is because the pain experienced by Mr. Alexander’s uncle Glyn, by my Uncle Garff, by Jordan, and by all of the LGBT individuals who have lived to this point has been far to much.  TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED.  Their deaths were 100 percent preventable, and like Mr. Alexander, I believe that staying silent is no longer an option.

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