Many of us spend our adolescent years, and some of us even much, if not all, of our lives, struggling to change who we are in order to fit in and be accepted.
How freeing would it be if we didn’t have to be afraid to be exactly who we are?
Think of what we could do, with all that extra time and emotional energy we’d have, if we didn’t waste it hating others and hating ourselves.
Last week, I read a fascinating report, Gay-straight alliances in schools reduce suicide risk for all students, on the findings of a new study.
Two of the study’s key findings were that, in schools with gay-straight alliances implemented three or more years ago:
- The odds of homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts were reduced by more than half among lesbian, gay, bisexual boys and girls compared to schools with no GSA.
- Heterosexual boys were half as likely to attempt suicide as those in schools without GSAs.
Wow! How awesome is that!
I don’ t know about you, but I’d do anything to reduce by half the number of young people who were so miserable that they wanted to kill themselves.
What I think is profoundly important about these findings, though not at all surprising, is the reduction in suicide rates for all children, and not just those who identified as LGBT.
Of course, that makes perfect sense.
Because the cool thing about GSA clubs is that they are safe places for all students, not just LGBT students, to find support and feel free to express themselves. As in, they are places for students who are struggling with an identity that is perceived by others as being “uncomfortably-unlike-me”.
Adolescence is tough. Heck, life is tough.
If the presence of a GSA club has been linked to a decrease in suicide and suicidal ideation amongst young people, why isn’t every single school in the country encouraging its students to form one?
And more importantly, why is the Lake County School Board fighting a court battle against one?
This LGBT Youth Allies article is one of many about the Lake County School Board’s continued “battle to block the formation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) as an officially recognized student club at a local middle school.”
Why are we scared to teach our children that it’s okay for me to be me and you to be you?
How on Earth do we expect to grow as a species, if we teach our children to fear their identities, instead of encouraging them to embrace the rich diversity of our humanity?
Kids aren’t stupid. They get it. Better than we do, in fact.
As long as we are still fighting court battles, such as the one in Lake County, we are teaching our children that:
- Some loves are more equal than others
- Some types of being perceived as “too-unlike-me” are less acceptable than others
GSA clubs are about supporting young people, not just LGBT students, but all students – so that they can feel free to be exactly who they are.
We have an opportunity to provide something precious to our children – permission to spend their adolescent years embracing and reveling in their identities as they discover their own journeys as human beings, instead of wasting those years hating themselves and others.
It’s not about being gay or straight.
It’s not about who we love.
It’s about having the safety and freedom to be who we are, and to love who we love.