Editors' Note:Guest blogger John R. Selig is a gay dad, writer, photographer, podcaster and activist living in Dallas, Texas. Selig produces and his "John Selig Outspoken" podcast to provide role models to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
Though most of us LGBT adults are frustrated with the hatred we face from the political and religious right and the slowness in our obtaining the equal rights we deserve, most of us lead relatively happy and productive lives. Having long ago accepted ourselves, built strong bonds with friends and those within our families who accept us we lead full lives. It is easy for us to forget just how difficult it is for youth coming to terms with their sexual orientation and gender identity as well as the all-engulfing feelings of being alone with little hope for a future and often feelings of deep panic and despair.
The recent spate of LGBT suicides that have appeared in the mainstream media during the past few months has bewildered us along with straight people into facing the brutal reality of just how hard it is to be young and gay. Bullying is a huge problem and it has been highlighted year after year in GLSEN's National School Climate Survey. Their 2009 survey showed that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students face harassment. Nearly two-thirds of students felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation and more than one-third felt unsafe because of their gender identity. 29.1% missed one day of class and 30.0% missed a full day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
Often schools do little or nothing to protect their LGBT students even when the students' parents complain to the schools. Many LGBT youth do not have supportive parents as evidenced by research that show up to 40% of homeless youth being LGBT. It is shocking but not surprising that gay youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth and gay youth who attempt suicide are much more likely to succeed than straight youth.
The recent media coverage of bullying and suicides of gay youth has jarred each of us to take on responsibility to do what we can to make life easier for LGBT youth. We have blogged, passed on links to coverage of the issue in the media and spoken about the issue with friends, family and coworkers. Some of us have even heeded Dan Savage's call to record videos, upload them to YouTube and pass along a link to the videos to his "It Gets Better Project" site.
I regularly post comments and links to articles and videos on my Facebook page. I have made an effort to build my "Friends List" in part to promote my "John Selig Outspoken" podcast but also to provide an audience for my links that many find both informative and useful. I have "friended" people from around the globe.
When Dan Savage promoted his project on his podcast and in the media I posted a link to the video he produced on my Facebook page. On October 4th comedian Kathy Griffin posted an excellent video on help available for gay youth and she gave out contact information for The Trevor Project (866.488.7396). I saw the video and I immediately posted it on my Facebook page the evening of October 6th. The next day when I returned home from work, I was stunned to read the following email from a young gay man in India telling me that my post had saved his life.
Thanks for posting that video to your profile. You'd be glad to know that this small gesture of yours saved a life. I know we don't know each other even though we are in each others friend list and I also know you have a huge fan following and you may not have time to read this message, but still I thought of letting you know that.
Few hours ago I was on the terrace of this 15 floors building ready to jump off it as I've been feeling very depressed and lonely about my sexual orientation and thought of posting a last note on my fb profile before I took the fatal step and I got to see that video you posted and called up "The Trevor Project" guys to see if they could be of any assistance. I am so glad I called them, even though Ii was skeptical if they had any services for people living outside of America, but I was wrong. Their telephonic counseling (as I live in India) helped me change my mind and here I am writing this message to you, which I can't believe!
I am sorry to send you a private message instead of directly commenting on that post as I wanted to keep this thing discrete and thank you as well.
Each of us impacts the lives of countless LGBT youth without even know it. I didn't really do anything; I just posted a link to a video that I thought to be important. But because that video appeared on my Facebook page when it did a young, educated gay man in India has decided to live. We have been in frequent communication since I received his initial email and I am impressed with his intelligence and challenges he faces and am proud of the strides he is making now that he has chosen to live.
Each of us can impact the lives of LGBT youth who all too often have nobody else to do so. It is up to each of us to do what we can.