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Jan 31 2012

What About All the Non-Gay Kids Who Kill Themselves?

Anti-gay loony Michael Brown was on an American Family Association radio show last week and he admitted that gay teenagers do commit suicide because of anti-gay bullying, but then said, in essence, that it’s no big deal because kids kill themselves for lots of other reasons too:

Brown: For every one kid, gay teen, that commits suicide because of bullying or because parents say ‘homosexuals go to hell’ or because they just feel ‘I have no future, I have no hope, I can never marry’ and so on, these should be weighty issues to us as Christians, this should hurt us, what if it’s our own kid? That’s why we need to look at every kid. But for every one that commits suicide for that cause, there are–is it dozens, is it scores, I don’t know the exact stats how it breaks down–but a whole lot more kids who commit suicide for other reasons, we never hear about them in the news! We don’t hear national campaigns about them!

But what about all the people who don’t die of cancer?

39 comments

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  1. 1
    sqlrob

    I think he needs to be given the rates. IIRC, doesn’t he have his numbers backwards?

  2. 2
    The Lorax

    Would that be a strawman argument? I’m not very familiar with terms like that, so I’m not sure if it is. Sounds like it, though.

    I guess the reason we don’t hear about all the problems with society and the world is that there is a fucking lot of them. We’d never hear the end of it. And we certainly don’t have the time to tackle all of them at once. We do hear about kids committing suicide for various reasons, though more often than not, the reason is bullying. Peer pressure. And a lot of us who are saying “gay kids shouldn’t be bullied” are also saying “no one should be bullied”.

    Of course, I don’t know the exact stats how all that breaks down, so I must be… right?

  3. 3
    sqlrob

    Yup, I was right, he has it backwards. 4x more in LGBT

  4. 4
    matty1

    but a whole lot more kids who commit suicide for other reasons, we never hear about them in the news! We don’t hear national campaigns about them!

    Google search ‘national campaign against bullying’ About 3,050,000 results.

    Now those results are worldwide and I imagine Mr Brown is interested in his own nation. Luckily the very first link is to Stop Bullying.gov a site run by the US government. Now it certainly does have sections on bullying of LGBTQ but it doesn’t ignore other cases.

    In short if you’re not hearing, maybe you’re not listening.

  5. 5
    Avicenna

    I actually think that “It Gets Better” should apply to bullying as a whole. Whether you are GLBT, Queer or Straight. I think that outreach to these kids is highly important and the we should not exclude kids of any persuasion from the message that it does get better.

    I know it’s weird. I sort of agree with the fanatic but in a completely different way. I think GLBT kids in schools need it the most but the outreach should be universal.

  6. 6
    eric

    And a lot of us who are saying “gay kids shouldn’t be bullied” are also saying “no one should be bullied”.

    I think you’ve reversed the logic. The primary argument is no kid should be bullied. It simply follows that yes, dammit, “no kid” includes gay kids. We honestly shouldn’t even have to point that out, but evidently, we do.

    When they whine about their religious beliefs, you’ll probably have to follow up with this: no, religious belief doesn’t grant you an exception to the civil rules by which society functions. Never has. Never will. Not for this issue. Not for any other. Repeat after me: when religious requirements conflict with civic law, civic law trumps religious requirements. You cannot legally torture gay kids any more than a rastafarian can legally smoke pot, and for the exact same reason. What is that reason? Repeat after me, again: when religious requirements conflict…

  7. 7
    eric

    sqlrob: the in-group rate is four times higher. But I’m pretty sure Brown was trying (somewhat confusingly) to refer to total numbers. His argument’s still stupid, but there’s no reason to misrepresent it.

  8. 8
    jamessweet

    @sqlrob: Yeah, same thing eric said. Michael Brown can hide behind this being technically true, because LGBTQ teens are a distinct minority. Higher suicide rates multiplied by less of them to begin with equals fewer total suicides.

    It would be like arguing that the safest thing you can do in a lightning storm is strip off all of your clothes and dance naked on your roof while brandishing a giant pole, because after all, the majority of people killed by lightning strikes weren’t doing that…

  9. 9
    Mr Ed

    By this logic if 10 out of a 100 road fatalities are caused by drunk driving we should do nothing about driving drunk as it doesn’t help the 90.

  10. 10
    Natalie Reed

    UMMMM… can someone please point out to this jackass the dramatically higher risk LGBT youth are at for suicide, relative to “all the other kids”?

  11. 11
    Natalie Reed

    @Avicenna:

    I think you’re fundamentally misunderstanding what the It Gets Better project is about. It’s specifically about how things get better in adulthood relative to LGBTQ acceptance…not just a general message about adulthood being nicer than adolescence, which simply isn’t the case, and it’s not about bullying in general. It’s about addressing a PARTICULAR issue with very PARTICULAR consequences that targets a PARTICULAR at-risk group. How about we get rid of all the gay bars, because shouldn’t all bars be accepting? How about we take away transgender support groups, because shouldn’t we be helping to make sure everyone is supported? It’s a silly argument. There is a hugely increased risk of suicide amongst LGBT youth and that deserves a specific answer. Those specific needs deserve to be met, those particular kids deserve a message meant FOR THEM, encouraging THEM to hang on, not a general watered down message about how everything is going to be fine and dandy for everyone. Which would be a lie anyway. Heck… one of the failings of It Gets Better as it currently is is how it seems to ignore the fact that sometimes It Doesn’t.

  12. 12
    lofgren

    It might be worth pointing out that some of those straight kids who killed themselves did so because they were bullied, and one of the primary tactics of those bullies is to label a kid as gay regardless of the truth of the situation. When our society tolerates homophobia, it hurts everybody.

    P.S. If you haven’t ever seen anything about the teen suicide rate on the news, you are not fucking paying attention.

  13. 13
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    @#2 The Lorax.

    It’s the tu quoque fallacy. You can wiki it for details.

    It’s also irrelevant. The suicide rate amongst LGBTQ youth is a serious tragedy and social problem. It doesn’t matter how many other tragedies and social problems there are, it doesn’t take away from the LGBTQ issues.

    Bullying is only part of it. Non-acceptance, marginalization, discrimination all take their toll too. I wish I could tell people that things will get better, but I can’t. I don’t know that they will. For far too many, it doesn’t.

  14. 14
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    eric:

    What is that reason? Repeat after me, again: when religious requirements conflict…

    -Can we make every evangelical fundie (of any religion) stay after class and write that on the chalkboard 6000 times?

  15. 15
    Avicenna

    Yes there is. It’s sad and it’s true. However I think it should be universal solely on the basis of there is the assumption that straight kids don’t commit suicide or get bullied and there is not as high profile a movement in reaching out to them.

    I think children as a whole irrespective of what their sexuality, belief, colour or creed should get help. You don’t lose anything by expanding who you help and who your message is aimed at. That these messages apply to everyone who is bullied for what they are. Do you think that any of the messages sent in about how it gets better suddenly lose meaning to the GLBT if straight people are included? I don’t feel that they do. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the message does lose meaning but I don’t quite see it as that.

    I actually speak not as a former bullied but as a former bully. I feel these kind of messages would hold a lot of meaning for all children, not just GLBT/Queer ones.

  16. 16
    alost

    @ #12 Lofgren

    You’re correct. Countless bullies try to ostracize their peers by using sexuality as a weapon, even if they haven’t declared themselves to be apart of any particular sexuality. If you’re personally straight, you still run the risk of hurtful speculation from bullies because they don’t like how you carry yourself, how you talk, who you choose to associate with, etc, especially if they think it is stereotypically “gay”. Tolerance of gay stereotypes is harmful for all students who are at risk for bullying, period.

    It has much to do with how “gay” has also become a broadly negative description of something.

  17. 17
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Natalie:

    Heck… one of the failings of It Gets Better as it currently is is how it seems to ignore the fact that sometimes It Doesn’t.

    -I can’t comment on the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign too much as I’ve not read up on it. At a glance, however, the slogan reminds me way too much of ABC after school specials.
    There’s an anti-bullying commercial on Boomerang (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqzSDJpc9Jo) that is so massively simplistic that it irritates me. Yes, the message is ‘bullying is wrong’. However, the simplistic answers provided aren’t how things work in reality.

  18. 18
    Avicenna

    Oh Crap! I forgot! My last post was @Natalie Reed

  19. 19
    harold

    UMMMM… can someone please point out to this jackass the dramatically higher risk LGBT youth are at for suicide, relative to “all the other kids”?

    They could, but it would be a waste of time, because he is being deliberately obtuse.

    He is pretending that, instead of saying “One of the many problems with homophobia is that it can lead to tolerance for bullying so severe as to increase risk of victim suicide”, that people have said “Homophobic bullying is the only important cause of youth suicide”.

    In essence, he is implicitly creating a straw man.

  20. 20
    timberwoof

    There’s been a national suicide hotline aimed at teens for a long time, so it’s not as though the problem of teen suicide in general was being ignored. Teen suicides were ascribed to depression and general malaise; antigay bullying was not bright on most people’s radar.

    Before the “It Gets Better” campaign there was nothing specifically for gay kids. Some people knew that gay kids had a higher suicide rate than other kids, but few had a clue what to do about it, and any time anybody tried, the fundies raised holy hell.

    The criticism against “It Gets Better” seems to be that since it is not intended to help everybody, it is discriminatory and thus harmful to everybody else. To which I say, fuck off. If you think there’s a problem within some specific social group and you understand something about what it takes to solve it, then by all means, do something to solve it. Don’t feel obligated to solve all the world’s other problems first.

    Collectively, we humans are a massive parallel processing architecture, capable of handling an astonishing number of tasks at once. We are not a one-bit Turing machine capable of only one operation at a time; there’s not even a central scheduler. There’s no reason to expect people to drop everything else in favor of the number one problem—and if you do expect that, you will probably find that your personal pet problem isn’t the number one problem anyway and you’ll have to wait your turn.

    It does get better … and it gets better faster if you chip in and help. So quit your bitching, Michael Brown.

  21. 21
    Natalie Reed

    @Avicenna,

    You’re engaging in the exact same fallacy, strawman argument and derailment Michael Brown is.

    The existence of the It Gets Better project, as a campaign designed to help LGBTQ youth maintain hope, does not in any way imply some kind of attitude that straight and cis kids aren’t also bullied. This is not a zero-sum situation. Addressing a certain problem doesn’t mean on is ignoring other problems.

    It is TOTALLY OKAY to have certain projects, campaigns, movements, communities and so forth prioritize specific problems. What you are doing is more or less analogous to the “What About Teh Menz?!” responses to feminism. But you’re doing “What About Teh Straightz and Cizgenderz?!”

    It’s also reminiscent of the “Where’s the straight pride parade? Where’s white history month? Where are the Men’s Studies classes?” attitude. (We have all of those things. They’re called Traffic, every month that isn’t February, and History)

    If you are concerned about bullying in a general sense, go ahead and start some kind of project. Or find projects that do so (like almost every project directed towards youth at risk EXCEPT for It Gets Better and related efforts). I’ll support you. But don’t go around co-opting or derailing what few efforts there exist to address the specific needs and risks of LGBTQ youth, who are in very desperate need.

  22. 22
    Natalie Reed

    Also… what Timberwoof said. Timberwoof gets it.

  23. 23
    Michael Heath

    Michael Brown:

    For every one kid, gay teen, that commits suicide because of bullying or because parents say ‘homosexuals go to hell’ or because they just feel ‘I have no future, I have no hope, I can never marry’ and so on, these should be weighty issues to us as Christians, this should hurt us, what if it’s our own kid?

    If there were an award for most obviously faked sincerity . . .

  24. 24
    Ace of Sevens

    To add to what Natalie said, IIRC the majority of kids bullied for being gay are actually straight. Bullying is about finding some way to torment people, not so much accuracy. From that perspective, the It Gets Better Project helps straight kids more than gay ones.

  25. 25
    M can help you with that.

    @24:

    To add to what Natalie said, IIRC the majority of kids bullied for being gay are actually straight. Bullying is about finding some way to torment people, not so much accuracy. From that perspective, the It Gets Better Project helps straight kids more than gay ones.

    Well, yes and no. The straight kids have the option of assuring themselves that since they’re being bullied under false assumptions, the way out is to take refuge in their proud heterosexism — “once they know I’m not really a deserving object of ridicule and violence, it’ll get better”. For LGBT kids, it’s about knowing that they’re targeting you because they know or suspect who you really are.

  26. 26
    jaycee

    Brown: ”…I don’t know the exact stats how it breaks down…”

    Then shut the fuck up please.

    I heard something similar from a religious friend: ”there’s too much attention and funding given to AIDS. You never hear so much about other diseases as AIDS. ”

  27. 27
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Avicenna

    I actually think that “It Gets Better” should apply to bullying as a whole.

    That is the point of the We’ve Been There campaign.

    (My error; apparently the campaign is actually called “We Can Help Us”.) http://us.reachout.com/
    _________

    As for stats and research:
    The Connection Between Bullying and Suicide PDF Both bullies and their victims are at a higher risk for suicide…

  28. 28
    marymallone

    Ugh. It’s not like helping out gay kids is a zero-sum game. We can provide resources for LGBQT youth and set up reach-out or advocacy programs without having to kick the other bullied or depressed youth to the curb. It seems like all the people opposed to helping out LGBQT kids (sorry if I got the letters in the wrong order) think, “Oh, well, if we raise awareness for kids who are depressed because their peers harass them because of their sexual orientation, then we can’t help out those kids who are bullied for other reasons, and there won’t be any empathy left for kids who are just dealing with depression.” There’s enough desire-to-help, advocacy, empathy, or whatever you want to call it to go around. “Targeting” one group doesn’t mean the other groups get neglected, it means that we are addressing a problem.

  29. 29
    dingojack

    What’s with that whole ‘only for those who are amputees’ thing?
    I demand artificial limbs for every man, woman and child!!
    @@ Dingo

  30. 30
    Avicenna

    NatalieReed –

    I never said it was a zero sum game. What I said was that it’s very easy with this enormous infrastructure and outpouring of support and massive response in place to make it about anti-bullying as a whole and acceptance as a whole rather than simply saying that “it’s worse for GLBT/Queer people”. I mean do you know how much pressure Indian and Chinese kids are to perform and their corresponding suicide rates?

    I was unaware of anything similar for “kids” rather than a specific group of kids. It’s a testament to how effective the campaign is and possibly how it can be used to benefit more people.

    I ask

    “Do you Lose Anything By Increasing Inclusiveness? Does the message change it’s meaning to GLBT/Queer children? Or is the idea of hope universal to all humans?”

    It’s not a Strawman. It’s a genuine question. And yes I support It Gets Better although I tend to write articles in favour of it on a general note and applies to all rather than a specific focus to GLBT and I try to make sure what I write applies to everyone since I don’t think I am qualified to write about GLBT kids since I never experienced the kind of bullying they go through. It gives support to a lot of kids who need it. Can it support more? Can it stop more tragedies? Can it improve? Yes. I think it can.

    I understand the specific outreach it has. I really do. But it can do so much more. For starters? I was unaware that there was a general alternative. It’s a testament to how huge and global the It Gets Better Campaign has become when compared to the universal alternative. I work in the middle of a place which only gets power for 20 hours a day in the middle of nowhere in a third world nation and I have heard of the movement… So think what you can do with that kind of international clout and goodwill.

  31. 31
    dingojack

    Sure, I support the idea of giving artifical limbs to those who haven’t got them either congenitally, through accident or by violence. But I am simply asking what harm would there be in being more inclusive?
    Artifical limbs for everyone (needed or not).
    @@
    Dingo
    —–
    I mean do you know how much pressure Indian and Chinese kids are to perform and their corresponding suicide rates?”
    Wouldn’t the most effective strategy be confronting those who are bullying them into performing?

  32. 32
    matty1

    A few random points.

    -If you think the existing campaigns against bullying don’t get enough publicity then help publicise them
    -Similarly if you think there is a specific group at risk who need more help then go to it and start campaigning for that help, you don’t need to wait for an existing campaign to join you
    -Criticising It Get’s Better because sometimes it doesn’t is stupid, the point is to offer hope not a psychic prediction of the future. If a kid was struggling in school and you told them ‘I believe you can learn this, I did’ would that be a lie because not everyone does well academically?

  33. 33
    hunter

    One things that’s been missing from some of the arguments here — specifically, the “we should worry about bullying for all kids” trope — is that generalized programs aren’t as effective as those that concentrate on specific causes. We know this. So to criticize a focus on one particular group because it doesn’t deal with all groups is pretty much self-defeating.

    No one is arguing that bullying’s a good thing (except some egregious asses on the right), but reaching out to kids who’ve been targeted for real or perceived characteristics with programs tailored to their specific needs is the most effective way to go about it. (And, by way of corollary, it’s more effective with the bullies as well.)

    As for Michael Brown, he should just crawl back under his rock and pull it in after him.

  34. 34
    dontpanic

    I think a major thing that the Avicenna’s of the world are missing is that the “It Gets Better” video aren’t really all that exclusionary of non-gays. I’ve watched a bunch of them to see whether to point my non-gay child at them and found them quite reasonably speaking to his issue of being bullied (for non-sexual orientation reasons: big, clumsy, intelligent, Aspie).

    Very rarely do the speakers indicate particularly why they were bullied. Sure in some cases it comes up in passing, but most of the emphasis is on generic bullying and how (in general) it gets better after K-12. So these “what about the …” arguments are pretty much off base anyway. Just because it started off in response to bullying of gays doesn’t mean it can’t or doesn’t speak to the topic in general.

  35. 35
    yoav

    It reminds me of the argument I keep hearing from the PaulBots against civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation, that rights belong to individuals not to groups and therefore legislation shouldn’t give rights based on belonging to a specific group. However once you think about this argument for a second it immediately crumbles, civil right laws don’t give specific rights based on being part of a group, they just say you can’t be discriminated against for being part of some group. I’m sure most people will agree that all discrimination is unacceptable but because the way laws are written when you write it you need to use specifics as to what basis for discrimination is forbidden and since race, gender, sexual orientation and religious affiliation were used to discriminate against people then these distinctions made it into the law. The same idea apply here, sure all bullying is unacceptable but since we know gay (or as pointed above, those who are reprieved as gay) kids are specifically targeted by bullies, and unlike other victims can’t even have a safe and supporting situation at home if they come from a fundie family, it make sense to give anti-gay bullying more attention.

  36. 36
    Aaron

    Am I the only one who was disturbed at how everyone jumped on Avicenna? Some of his questions occurred to me as well, and in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t ask them lest I get lumped in with the AFA. Yikes.

    @dontpanic – that’s a great point.

  37. 37
    alost

    I wouldn’t particularly say s/he was “jumped on”. Responses from Natalie and others were a little annoyed, given that it’s one of those “innocent questions” that can sometimes get on your nerves, but not outright hostile to the extent of conservation being impossible.

    Granted, it can be irksome when LGBT advocates, who are still working on building sound support systems for very specific issues, hear the well-meaning but fundamentally flawed “But shouldn’t all bullying be important?” line. But I didn’t see anything on here that was more than a little clippy.

  38. 38
    Avicenna

    Also I am pretty laid back considering I routinely tangle with Animal Lib (death threats) and Anti Vax (been accused of being part of that amazing super group… The Khmer Nazi Communist Rouge Foundation). And it is a genuine question and they had genuine answers. It is discourse after all, it’s not like either me or Natalie were homo/heterophobic in any of it. What we discussed was whether or not the movement should expand or not.

    I think a lot of people who make the videos kind of feel the same thing as me. That they don’t want to make their videos specific to one group but include everyone in their message. I didn’t make a video (I work in a place where I get enough crap for being some sort of delinquent brit without feeding them ammo via my atheism and general stance on homosexuality. Not everyone is as accepting as we think. Avicenna is a pseudonym) but I do write articles for them and general pep messages. And I try to make it as open ended and applicative to anyone as possible.

    On a side note… Khmer Nazi Communist Rouge Foundation sounds like the world’s most genocidal makeup.

  39. 39
    dingojack

    “… Avicenna is a pseudonym.”

    And here was me thinking you were 10-11th Century Arabic philosopher & polymath who invented some kind of time-machine.
    What a silly Dingo!

    :) Dingo
    ——-
    PS: I apologise for getting snippy earlier, but surely you must see that one has to ‘triage’ to determine which cases are critical and which are serious.

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