Surviving the Struggle: A Personal Perspective on LGBT Youth Suicide
By Stephen & Adam Podowitz-Thomas
Though Stephen and I have addressed serious topics here before, we’ve avoided confronting an issue that is not something I talk about often and it’s a bit dark – so this is your forewarning.
Like a lot of gay individuals, my teenage years were tough. Coming out at thirteen didn’t go well. Rejected by my parents, put through the ringer at school, feeling isolated by my church, I felt like I had nowhere to turn. As is unfortunately the case for many gay teens, I found myself caught in a downward spiral of depression and suicidal thoughts. To this day, I’m not sure how I was lucky enough to get through those years without causing myself serious harm.
Mom and Me at Graduation
My mom came around after a difficult period, realized I was her kid no matter what, and became my biggest supporter. I was fortunate to get into an arts high school where my sexual orientation was less of an issue than what color my hair was that week. And going off to college, I was able to date freely, eventually meeting Stephen and settling down with him.
For those who don’t know, LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. The figures are worse for Trans youth, but since numbers are lower, the stats are a bit harder to validate. Luckily, two major shifts have occurred since I was a teen that hopefully will make things better for future gay youth.
One is the increasingly positive outlook of the gay rights movement towards full inclusion in mainstream society. Though there are certainly those that would decry whether major LGBT organizations should be fighting so hard towards goals like same-sex marriage, rather than alternative family recognition, the very fact that the fight is over how gay families should be recognized, rather than whether they should be recognized at all, is a major rhetorical shift. Polls coming out across the nation have indicated increasing acceptance of gay people and their ability to form families. While there might end up being a backlash in some localities, the overall trend is positive.
The other major advancement is an increased national awareness of the struggles that gay youth face. Several organizations have become faces for this, including the It Gets Better Project and the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project holds a special place in my heart, since its stated goal is to decrease the suicide rate among LGBT teens. In fact, the cause was so important to Stephen and I that we asked our guests to donate to the organization as presents to us for our wedding.
Being able to be there for your kid, no matter what they face, is a goal I think most parents or parents-to-be have. I think for gay parents, particularly those that struggled with acceptance for themselves, it becomes even more important. I pray every day that, when I’m fortunate enough to have a child of my own, I’m able to show them how much I love them, no matter what. And I’m glad that, for gay kids in our community, Stephen and I can help, in our own small way, show that you can grow up, find happiness, and have a family of your own.
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