It's been a hard month for many LGBT people and their allies. The news has been filled with horrific story after horrific story of bullied gay or questioning youth who have taken their own life. While LGBT bullying and the increased risk of suicide is not a new problem, the recent media coverage has finally helped push a huge problem into the spotlight. The five reported suicides this month alone show the need for education, visibility, and action:
According to The Trevor Project, the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, LGBTQ teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. Statistically, a member of the gay community will attempt suicide every 5 hours -- with most suicides and attempts resulting because of intolerance, harassment, and bullying. And for every successful suicide, 100 - 200 attempts are made. This isn't just a problem, this is an epidemic.
But Chicago isn't sitting by silently in the face of this tragic problem. And I couldn't be prouder of my new hometown.
A collective of grassroots organizations in Chicago have joined together to hold a community-wide candlelight vigil honoring the LGBTQ teens that committed suicide due to homophobic bullying. The vigil will be held on Friday, October 8, 2010, at 7:30 PM on DePaul University's quad near the corner of Fullerton and Seminary, in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.
These senseless deaths did not occur in a vacuum, but rather in a society that lacks respect for LGBTQ people and their right to dignity and equality. The atmosphere created by opponents to equality and civil rights and by those that demonize the LGBTQ community in the political, religious, and public realms all play into the feelings of shame and hopelessness that can lead to LGBTQ suicide. This vigil is being held in the hopes that both the LGBTQ and straight communities will come together to remember those lost, to provide support for the living, and to inspire hope and action for the future.
Some of the organizations coordinating the event include: The Trevor Project, LGBT Change, Join The Impact Chicago, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, Gay Liberation Network, All Saints' Episcopal Church, 50 Faggots, Adler Pride, The Civil Rights Agenda, Genderqueer Chicago, and many others.
The Trevor Project, which runs the nation's only 24-hour suicide and crisis prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth (1-866-4-U-TREVOR or 1-866-488-7386), has been reaching out to the Chicago community to help in its mission. They are doing this by establishing the Chicago Ambassadors of The Trevor Project, a local, volunteer organization that seeks to aid in crisis and suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth by establishing a vibrant presence in the Chicago Area, leveraging the community's unique history of diversity and legislative development concerning civil rights and education. I am honored to be part of the group helping to organize the Chicago Ambassadors.
The group is hosting its first official Chicago event next week. They will be hosting an evening of cocktails and hors d'oeurves to learn more about the lifesaving work of The Trevor Project. You can meet other Chicago-area supporters and the Executive Director Charles Robbins as they explore ways to build a larger presence within the Chicago community and save more young lives. By joining us this evening, you will directly impact Trevor's growth within our community and the lives of young people in and around the Chicago area. The event is on Saturday, October 16, 2010, 6 - 9 PM ($45 Suggested Donation). Click here to purchase your tickets.
You can also join the Chicago Ambassadors of The Trevor Project Facebook page to stay up to date on all the information from the newly formed group, as well as get more information on the first event.
Here's a great way to spread the word about the Trevor Project and its resources for LGBTQ youth:
And Glee's Chris Colfer has made a moving video reaching out to youth as well:
If you or someone you know needs help, call The Trevor Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866.488.7386) or visit http://www.TheTrevorProject.org. If you're being bullied in school, you're not alone. There is someone here for you -- someone who cares and understands. The Trevor Project operates a free and confidential Lifeline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth that operates 24/7.
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