Gay youth suicides should fuel American wake up call

By Jonathan Allen

Tyler Clementi jumped off a bridge. That’s the long and short of it. After his Rutgers University roommate live-streamed gay sex involving Clementi on the Internet using a hidden webcam, Tyler, a closeted student studying music, was so stricken with fear, anger, anxiety and unknown emotions he took his own life. I have always wondered what could drive someone to such an end. Even more devastating, Clementi is one example of a disturbing statistic.

Seth Walsh, a California middle school student, spent his final 10 days in the hospital, most of that time on life support. After relentless torment at school for being gay, he was found by his parents on Sept. 19, unconscious and not breathing after he attempted to hang himself from a tree branch. He was taken off life support and passed away on Sept. 29. Walsh was

13 years old.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide in America, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey.  A more recent survey in 2009 by Dr. Caitlin Ryan found gay adolescents without their parents’ backing are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. In September, six teens, three of them no older than 15, chose to end their lives rather than be harassed. In most cases pleas of the students fell on the deaf ears of school administrations.

You don’t have to be gay to find this epidemic heartbreaking. And yet, the numbers aren’t surprising. There is a continuing tradition of intolerance in this country, and it is driving our LGBTQ  youth toward drastic, devastating decisions.

As a gay American, I have no idea whether I am welcome in this country. While a small amount of rights have been given to me as far as job protection and discrimination, there is still an air of disgust and inconvenience when it comes to gay rights, from both Democratic and Republican politicians. It is a dividing issue in this country.

Even worse, we now have the tea party movement taking the most radical stance on gay rights while it advocates small government, one that stays out of citizens lives. This ever-growing nonsensical cluster claims to have had enough with taxes and demands a smaller, less-involved government. At the same time, many of its most notable leaders—such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and newcomer Christine O’Donnell—take very oppressive stances on gay rights. This, to me, not only screams large government involvement but also a frightening step in the wrong direction.

President Barack Obama, who made the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a cornerstone in his campaign, is backing off the issue. His administration is now saying our nation is not adequately prepared for this transition.

We are much less prepared for the growing financial hit “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has caused. The costs of discharging LGBTQ troops and training replacements, as enforced by “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” cost the country an estimated $363.8 million between 1994 and 2006. From 1994 to 2009, more than 13,000 troops have been discharged.

While we try and claim things are getting better for the LGBTQ community, it is clear battle lines are being drawn. This issue is paramount.  People are dying.

I understand the dilemma these youth face. I was lucky enough to have grown up in a liberal town, but many are not as fortunate. This country breeds generation after generation of intolerant, apathetic Americans through its policies and culture. It is time for a change. It is clear we have a major flaw not being addressed.

I wonder what these young teens’ last thoughts were. Did they feel free? Did they regret it? Did they realize everything they left behind? No one should live such a poor quality of life that death is preferable. This has gone far beyond simple politics.

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