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Gay Teen Suicide: Trying to understand some of the Real Causes

(I did not write this and I am trying to find the source as it was added to my site years ago.)

In 1997 I was notified on two separate occasions about two young collegiate men from my old fraternity chapter that had committed suicide. I was just a little shocked to say the least. I have never understood suicide outside of a painfully terminal illness. When I found myself terminally ill, and had come to realize that it was mostly my own fault, one could imagine that I would have been a candidate for suicide. Quite the opposite was true. I immediately started a quest for information and solutions to my situation. I refused the idea that this was the end. The will to live was alive and well within me. Considering that I had spent most of my life engaging in self-destructive behavior, one could be surprised again. I came to the realization that all of my life I had been slowly trying to die and now, when faced with that reality, I was balking at its possibility.

I began to realize what had been going on all of my life. I was not unlike many other young men in the world. I recognized that the transition from adolescence to teen to adult was a very stressful period of time. I was forced (while at the same time I craved the reality) to undergo painful and confusing feelings of separation from my peers, family, and educators. All of the concepts, realities, and feelings that I had always been comfortable with and secure in were undergoing a massive change as I became my own person. My identity was changing. I was no longer so-and-so's son, I was me. I was no longer the kid in the third row, I was me. Me was beginning to be somebody. But who was me. I was starting to recognize new feelings toward myself and toward others. My sexuality was starting to emerge, to become defined. My exposure to sex, alcohol and drugs was emerging. I had to make decisions as to what I was going to do, who I was going to be, how I was going to live.

I realized that I was different. That I was not always interested in the same things as my cohorts. That I was gay. My adjustments were to be difficult. They were to take longer. They would be more complicated. My life would be full of pain for a long time to come. For the heterosexual male, these adjustments seem to be a little easier. They are better able to cope with one of our most imbedded animalistic instincts a young man possesses. I am not saying that the changes and the pressures for them are not great also. If that were true, there would be no rape, incest, sexual abuse or divorce. Realizing that I was attracted to the same sex gave me a feeling of insecurity and self-loathing. I felt that I had to hide. I feared rejection and from the way the people around me talked and the way they seemed to feel, my fear was justified. I was to be an outcast. It is that little part of me that I felt that if anyone knew about, they would simply and completely hate me. This feeling I was sure would be true for my friends and teachers, and especially true for my family. After all, what father wants a gay son. What "regular" guy wants his best friend to be a "faggot." What mother wants her only son to be a "fairy."

The point to all of this is simple. When I was becoming of age, becoming my own person, becoming me, I had to survive all of the painful transition time one way or the other. Since my family and I were not that close, I could not rely on them for support at all; I was alone. If my peers had known, the majority of them would have ridiculed me. I feared the threat of physical violence. My friends more than likely would have joined in so as not to be different, even if they did not really care. My fear of that rejection and humiliation from family, friends and peers was real. So naturally I feared the possibility of being found out. I left the church because I was told that it was sinful and wrong to be gay. And the whole time all I really wanted was to find one other person in this world that was like me and that could tell me that I was okay; that I did deserve to live; that I did deserve respect and love. That one person was never there.

At first I thought maybe I needed some sort of mental health counseling. I thought that I maybe could be changed, my attraction for men could be transferred to women. I tried dating girls in high school and in college. I tried very hard to be the person that I knew my parents wanted me to be. I tried to fit into the "straight" society as best I could. (And believe me, if wishing and trying could force reality, I would be straight today.) And for the most part, I pulled my act off. A vast majority of the people I came into contact with never knew my dark secret. I should have been an actor. I certainly qualified for an Oscar for many of my performances.

At the same time, I still had to live within my own skin. And that was no easy task. Each day I realized that I was living a lie and that lie was eating me alive. I, too, was aware of the prejudice. violence and hatred that I would face as a gay male. (And now, as an openly gay male, trust me, I have experienced my share of all three.) At that pubescent age, I was not sure that life was worth the effort to live.

There are generally two ways to deal with such a situation:

A.) Commit Suicide

B.) Abuse alcohol and/or drugs, [i.e., evade the reality under a mask of euphoria. Actually there are others but they generally occure along side one or the other above.]

I failed at suicide so I slowly fell into the latter. Escape became the mechanism for me. And it worked for me. Many call it self-medication. Maybe in the beginning it was. However , pretty soon, I was into full blown "preventative medicine." I am here today. And I am living with a transplanted liver because of my choices, but living none the less through the Grace of God. So now I ask: What about the ones that do not take the addiction road? What about the ones that do take the addiction road and still are unhappy? They fall into the suicide category.

Study after study states with almost certainty that gay males are more apt to commit suicide than members of the general male population. According to Gordon Slovut of the Star Tribune (Gay Youth at Higher Risk for Suicide - MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE August 28, 1997) "Gay junior and senior high school students (males) were seven times as likely to try to kill themselves as their straight counterparts." (as quoted from C.R. Bagley, a researcher in the Minnesota schools.)

I really do not plan or want to get involved with a bunch of scientific studies and have footnotes running out every corner of this page, but let it suffice to say that the suicide rate for gay males is more than significantly higher than straight males. Also, studies have shown that drug addiction and alcoholism rates are also significantly higher. And it is also generally recognized that counselors in addiction clinics are quite often homophobic and therefore the people who desperately need their help are shunned and discounted. So where does this leave them? Isolation. Rejection. Now I am not saying that just because one is gay, he is predisposed to suicide. But rather, it is the failure to deal with the different sexuality and all of its complications that prompt the act of suicide.

So if I agree that this correlation between teen suicide and homosexuality and alcoholism/drug addiction and homosexuality exists then what is to be done. I have asked allot of questions about the two men that I was told had committed suicide in my fraternity chapter and I got few answers. [And please do not misunderstand and jump to conclusions. There is no evidence that either man was homosexual. There was, however, evidence of parental abuse in one case.] In our world today, no one wants to talk about suicide period, much less the reasons for it, least they be held responsible in some way.

But what about me? Do I just ignore what has happened (they are already dead and I can not help them now) or do I persue the idea? Being the person that I am, I persue the idea and search for the answers. (Many will think that it is none of my business and I should not go opening up cans of worms. So be it.) But it bothers me and I am genuinly concerned for the others that may fall into the same cracks regardless of the reasons.

But what if one or both of the men were gay and could not face himself or others. I had fears (that almost killed me) of my brothers in the house finding out how I really felt. I would have rather died than to let them know. I can believe that others might feel just the same. Now this is one chapter of one fraternity. And there are hundreds of chapters in hundreds of fraternities in the world. And the pressure is the same in each one. Pressure to drink and pressure to score with the ladies.

So what happens to the young male who has a same-sex attraction? He becomes alienated from his family and friends and begins to isolate. He must protect his secret identity from all who will possibly scorn, reject or harm him. When one cannot live with one's sexuality in the open, one must suppress the most instinctual functions of man -- sex. Suppression of any of our mental, emotional or physical aspects will lead to depression, denial, isolation, addiction, self-hatred and low self-esteem. All levels of the being -- cognitive, emotional and physical are affected. Each makes one a prime candidate for addiction and possible suicide. It is a tragic situation.

A Plan of Action - Suicide Is Not An Option

Before I can even think of what to do or any plan of action to remedy this tragedy, the public at large has got to recognize and accept the fact that from 10% to 12.5% of the general population is homosexual. This is a fact that can be found in every country on earth and during every time period in history. And even more than that, the public must recognize and accept the fact that this homosexuality starts at birth or before the formative years and especially that it exists in young adolescents and teens. Only when the general public comes to terms with this concept can we even think of offering the trouble youth of the world a program of Suicide Prevention. How could we ever save someone from the hatred and fear that is driving them toward suicide if we will not accept the fact that the fear is real and exists in a portion of our youth as well as adults. To the contrary, men do not, at a pre- selected age, make a conscious choice to be gay, straight, or bisexual. It is not a choice. One does not choose to live in fear, rejection and in harms way just for the fun of it. At least not to the tune of 10% to 12.5% of the entire population. It is time for all of us to wake up and smell the dirt!