Help for kids with different sexual expressions, part 1

The suicide of transgender 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn on Dec. 28 brought national attention to the stress and angst that many lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) teens live with and sadly sometimes die with. She stepped in front of a moving tractor trailer. She meant business, so great was her sorrow.

She wrote in a final letter posted to her blog, “I want 100 percent of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s–t which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s f—ed up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

Leelah was born as male Joshua Ryan Alcon, but didn’t feel comfortable in a male body. “Her parents forced her to meet with Christian conversion therapists and banned her from social media, which isolated her and made her feel more neglected than before.”

There is no blame here. Leelah’s parents thought they were doing the right thing. They were conservative Christians who believed that homosexuality was wrong in God’s eyes. Many other Christians follow Jesus’ teaching to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 And also, to let God do the judging: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:1-2.

Yes, it is sad that Leelah felt she was not heard, and that she was isolated, but we just cannot judge Leelah’s parents even if our philosophy is different, or we are no better than they are.

Leelah was isolated. Isolation is dangerous for those who are depressed. One keeps playing the same loops of negative self-talk over and over again, without another perspective. Psychologists have found that if a person tells a lie repeatedly, he actually begins to believe that it is the truth. In a group, a person’s worries can be shared. There may be others who have been in the very position as the sharer, and can offer their experience of how they turned things around.

There is a whole section on LGBTQ youth at our government’s Center for Disease Control, which exists not only to save lives, but also to “protect people.”

Their findings are that most of these youth can thrive if their schools create a safe and supportive learning environment, and that they have loving, caring, and accepting parents.

Sadly 12 to 28 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property and 18 to 29 percent had experienced dating violence in 2008.

Their school recommendations are:

w Encourage respect for all students and prohibit bullying, harassment and violence against all students.

w Identify “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, designated classrooms, or student organizations, where LGBTQ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers or other school staff.

w Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment (e.g., gay-straight alliances, which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations).

w Ensure that health curricula or educational materials include HIV, other STD, or pregnancy prevention information that is relevant to LGBTQ youth (such as, ensuring that curricula or materials use inclusive language or terminology).

w Encourage school district and school staff to develop and publicize trainings on how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and encourage staff to attend these trainings.

w Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling, to LGBTQ youth.

w Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience in providing social and psychological services to LGBTQ youth. (http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm)

Other topics at this website include gay and bisexual men, lesbian and bisexual women, transgender people, LGBTQ youth, resources and health services.

LGBTQ Services Specialist Matthew at The YWCA of Kauai states: “The YWCA is proud to offer LGBTQ services for our Kauai community. These services come in forms of referrals and resources, community and provider education regarding LGBTQ issues in context of awareness, transgender competency, myths and misconceptions and understanding all violence including sexual violence within and against LGBTQ populations. The other form of LGBTQ services is direct services for the LGBTQ community through the YWCA of Kauai through individual or group support.

Support could be for LGBTQ who encounter bullying, harassment, discrimination, domestic violence and sexual assault on LGBTQ status, coming out, and offering a safe place to be yourself without judgment. We want our LGBTQ population on Kauai to know that they have support. For more information, feel free to contact Matthew at the YWCA of Kauai 245-5959 ext. 256 or email matthew@ywcakauai.org. Youth can contact him. He will listen. He knows many services that are supportive to LGBTQ youth in the area. This project was supported by a grant awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.

There are clubs in two of the high schools that kids can join to listen, share, learn and ask questions. Psychologists understand the power of healing that can occur in groups. That’s why there are AA, NA, Cancer support groups, and the like. One is at Waimea High School, Waimea High GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance). At Kauai High, the club is named the Kauai High Diversity Club. So we’re right in step with our government’s recommendations!

For LBGTQ youth who are still in the closet, and who want to talk to someone without a local contact yet, there is https://www.trevorspace.org/ a social networking site for LBGTQ youth ages 13-24. They also have a suicide prevention hotline: (866) 488.7386.

Next week the topic will be on how LGBTQ kids can help their parents understand them and what the local PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends, and Allies United with LGBTQ People to move Equality forward.) offers. It feels so good to move forward, once that first step is taken!

•••

Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org

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