2018-2019 Deirdre Furr Essay Contest, Third Place Essay

By Riley Sheldon

In today’s world, we don’t celebrate our differences, but instead try to assimilate into the "normal" population. Those who do not hide these shunned traits are scorned and shamed, and those who hide it are exposed to this hatred as well. These people experience more stress than non-minority groups, something known as minority stress. Suicide rates are much, much higher amongst the LGBT+ community, according to the Trevor Project. Almost all of the LGBT+ people I have known in person have mentioned suicidal thoughts to me at least once. As a member of the LGBT+ community and someone who cares deeply for my friends, this is disturbing. Almost all of them deal with stigma and a lack of understanding from friends and relatives. This was never our fault, and it never will be. It’s the fault of a biased society and the people who subscribe to its beliefs. Change is what needs to happen. We cannot and will not change ourselves to fit their agenda. We will persist until the inevitable happens, and society changes. There are so many things that need to be changed, but I could not fit all of them in this essay, It would take a book, or two, or three.

The first step to preventing LGBT+ youth suicide is raising awareness for our community. A lot of these youth take their lives because they don’t feel understood or accepted. Raising awareness would bring more tolerance and support towards our community. The LGBT+ community is great at being seen and raising our voices, with our brightly colored flags and festive parades, but there is still more we can do. For youth, bringing LGBT education into schools is extremely important. Discussing issues with not only those in the community but the entire school would be a step forward. More GSAs in schools would also be a provide support. Both of these things would decrease bullying directed towards LGBT+ individuals and create a more welcoming learning environment, a thing many schools strive to have. Educating parents through special programs could directly benefit youth at home, where they spend most of their time and personal lives. This could better relationships with parents and other family members as well.

In schools, we often have anti-bullying campaigns, but these have little to no effect, because they don’t target decreasing stigma from the root cause of bullying. These issues are often sexuality, race, gender identity, and religion. But, since schools are so afraid of approaching these issues in fear of backlash, they continue to let students, children, suffer like this. If we teach kids from a young age that it’s okay to be the way they are, we would see a decrease in bullying and perhaps suicide as well.

LGBT+ youth are more prone to developing mental health issues. This stems from a few reasons, one of which I have already gone over: lack of acceptance. In some cases, this lack of acceptance can become abusive. Trans people are especially prone to lack of acceptance, and have an overall higher suicide and mortality rate. Transgender people often see no comfortable future for themselves. We need to enforce the fact that there is hope of being happy for them, that they can get the surgeries they want, and they can get hormones, and be accepted as who they are. "You will find people who love you for you, and you will learn to love yourself", we must tell them. We must let them believe it. We must raise awareness for mental health issues, and include LGBT subjects.

We have made plenty of progress, but it isn’t enough yet to fully prevent these deaths. We can, however, continue working towards equality and equity. We need to show the world that it’s okay to be who we are. Fight ignorance, fight hate, and save lives.