Recently, Indiana’s Republican legislature was forced to backtrack and amend the “Right to Discriminate” law, which had implicitly legitimized discrimination against LGBTs by Indiana businesses. As a result, I was feeling optimistic. The arc of history seemed to be bending more sharply in favor of LGBT rights. In response to my phone call, I received a form email from my Indiana Representative claiming that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act “was never meant to deprive any individual of their rights” and that she is “vehemently against discrimination”. Now, I don’t buy this transparent, post-hoc rationalization for a second. But I am pleased to see my Republican State Representative at least paying lip service to the principle of equal treatment under the law. It says something about what is becoming “the new normal“. I’d be happier if here were no bigots, but I’ll settle for a society where bigots don’t feel comfortable admitting (much less legislating) their bigotry. And so, at the beginning of April, I was feeling pretty positive about the state of affairs.
Then last week, a 16 year-old girl in my son’s high school band committed suicide. She was lesbian. I’m not close enough to the situation to know for certain that her sexual orientation played a role in her suicide. But I can only imagine what being an openly lesbian teen in a conservative Indiana community must be like. The “Anti-Gay Day” organized by Pennsylvania high school students recently might give us an idea of what LGBT teens must face. Even if they don’t face overt bullying or harassment at school or condemnation at home, the added pressure of living as an openly LGBT in a heteronormative and homophobic culture, on top of the typical stresses of adolescence, explains why LGBT teens are at a higher risk for suicide attempts. A quick search found three trans teens whose suicides have been linked to their gender identity, just this year — at least one of whom had suffered years of bullying. I’m sure there are more.
Here are some resources for getting involved:
- Support the “It Gets Better Project” which shares positive messages of support with LGBT youth.
- Get involved with the Trevor Project which provides suicide prevention services for LGBT youth.
- GLSEN’s Day of Silence was observed on April 17 this year. Although it’s passed, you can mark your calendar for next year. Day of Silence is a student-led movement to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.
- May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. The official website has some good ideas for taking action.
- June is Gay Pride Month. Find a Gay Pride event near you during the month of June and join in.
- October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Even if your not an LGBT, you can still “come out” as a supporter. Here’s a guide for how to come out as an LGBT supporter. And here’s a guide for creating an LGBT Allies program.
- October 16 is Spirit Day. Wear purple to show you stand against bullying and to support for LGBT youth.
- Check out where your state and your municipality rank on equal rights for LGBT citizens, and write to your elected officials.
Let’s make it better for our kids now!