iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jonathan Fast

GET UPDATES FROM Jonathan Fast
 

Why the Gay Teen Suicide Rate in the Anoke-Hennepin School District Is the Highest in the US

Posted: 11/22/2011 11:14 am

This summer two lawsuits were filed on behalf of six students in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district. The students had endured "slurs, were stabbed with pencils, shoved into walls and lockers, punched, called names and urinated on by classmates because of real or perceived sexual orientation," according to the Star Tribune.

Eight students in that district have committed suicide in the last two years. (Many school districts go for decades without any suicides.) Classmates of the deceased believe that half the students were gay or questioning. The number may be more. LGBQT students attempt suicide two to four times as frequently as other teens, according to the CDC.

We can better understand the gay/straight suicide imbalance by imagining that all children have shame tanks strapped to their backs. For some children the tanks are so light they go unnoticed. For others, so much shame has been added by disapproving parents, teachers, and bullies that they feel crushed by the weight. Secrecy makes the pressure build. Discussion relieves the pressure the way an escape valve relieves pressure when a boiler overheats and threatens to explode.

Most of the Anoka-Hennepin schools are located within Michele Bachmann's congressional district. Bachmann has allied herself with the Minnesota Family Council. One of the bills they supported in 2009 prohibited "public schools from promoting acceptance of homosexual or bisexual behavior in the schools" (SJ 2139, April 16, 2009).

One of the bills they lobbied against was "the inclusion of homosexuality, bisexuality, cross dressing, and transvestitism as a group receiving special recognition under state's anti-bullying law" (SJ 6315).

According to the Southern Law Poverty Center, which has fought fearlessly against hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan for 40 years, these laws are "a gag policy that prevents teachers from openly discussing issues related to LGBT people [and] makes them reluctant to intervene when students are harassed." Norwegian anti-bullying authority Dan Olweus emphasizes the fact that tolerating bullying is the same as encouraging it.

The inclusion of anti-gay curriculum is often couched in terms of equality. Advocates say they want to teach both sides of the argument and let the students decide for themselves.

Side One: Homosexuality is contrary to the will of God. Same-sex attraction can be altered by decision, or, in extreme cases, by certain kinds of behavioral therapy. In other words, it is like an addiction. It can be overcome if one has the self-discipline. Encouraging or normalizing homosexual behavior -- gay marriage, the toleration of "gay" behavior in school, etc. -- will make more people become gay, damaging society (although in what way is never made clear) and increasing God's disfavor.

Side Two: Gender preference is not a mental illness, an infectious disease, or a political agenda. It is an expression of personal identity. Homosexuals do not wish to convert other people to homosexuality, nor can homosexuality be "caught" from having homosexual peers, nor can it be "cured" through therapy. Because it is part of the child's authentic self, it must not be judged or despised but rather supported and nourished, so the child does not grow up to hate himself.

Although these positions represent different views on homosexuality, they are not two sides of the same argument. The first represents pre-empirical methods of understanding the world (intuition, revelation, a priori reasoning) that were popular in medieval times, when witches were burned at the stake; the second, conclusion is drawn using current empirical methods, by the majority of trained and licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, sexuality researchers, and social scientists (many of whom are also deeply religious but have a different concept of God).

This is not simply an intellectual exercise. Best estimates place the gay population of the United States between 3 percent and 10 percent. Some have estimated it to be as high as 25 percent. This means that, using the more conservative estimates, in a high school of 2,000 students, between 60 and 200 students would be gay. In all likelihood, many teens are pretending to be straight out of fear of disapproval, alienation, and physical brutality.

For a parent to tell a child that God hates them because of who they are is to help them take a step toward self-destruction. I personally do not know if God has a problem with gay adolescents (after all, he created them), but I do know that He loves Life.