The younger generation as a group is very accepting of others who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (I will use LGBT as a simple name for this article). But many older folks are still uncomfortable dealing with these issues. And some are hostile or hateful towards such youth.

It is time for the older generation to accept these people. And it is for a very simple reason: LGBT youth are much more likely to attempt or complete suicide than straight youth. The statistics are even worse for LGBT kids who are rejected by their family, church or friends. It does not matter if you think such lifestyles are proper or correct. You still don’t want young people to die.

According to studies quoted by the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-24. LGBT youth are five times as likely to attempt suicide as straight youth. Suicide attempts by LGBT youth are much more serious than by straight youth, being four to six times more likely to result in harm that requires intervention by a medical professional. Forty percent of transgender Americans have made a suicide attempt, mostly before the age of 25. Every episode of physical or verbal harassment increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by two and a half times. You can find information about the studies that provided these statistics at thetrevorproject.org.

We should not wish so much unhappiness or harm on anyone, especially adolescents and teens. So try to learn more about people who are different from you. Realize that kids would not choose a life that is scary and unaccepted by many. They have recognized that they are not traditional heterosexuals. But they still want to be loved, be happy, have productive lives and partnerships. But this is difficult if you are rejected or thrown out by your friends, family or church.

We all have much to learn. As a practicing family physician I thought I understood all these issues. I spoke to many adolescents about homosexuality. But I always considered transgender people to be rare. In the 1950s an Army veteran and photographer from New York went to Denmark for sex change surgery. Christine Jorgensen was the first American woman to publicly announce her gender reassignment. The discussion in our home at that time was that this is really unusual and aren’t those Scandinavians interesting. But a conference in Portland presented by the endocrine group who work with transgender people of all ages opened my eyes to the fact that this is a common condition. Estimates of 1 million transgender people in the U.S. were given. Presentations by several youth in that program stressed that the kids were accepted by their peers when they came out as transgender. But two of the three were immediately thrown out of their church.

You may not understand how people can be in the opposite political party from you, but you don’t wish them dead. You may not think another person’s religion is sensible, but you don’t wish them dead. So please apply the same thinking to people with different sexual orientations or gender identities. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can accept them.

If you want to learn a bit more, look at the website of the Trevor Project. If you know of an LGBT youth in crisis, you can direct them to the hotline 1-866-488-7386. In Maine, EqualityMaine is a good resource. If you want to find local youth groups in Maine or resources for parents and friends, download the brochure “I think I may be LGBTQ” from the Resources section of the www.healthreachchc.org website.


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