Faith Writings

LGBT Suicide: A Risk Reduction Strategy

I was highly honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Midwest Regional Suicide Prevention Conference last week in Kansas City. There were many intimate discussions about what can be done to lessen the likelihood that people will choose to attempt to bring an end to their own lives. Much of the discussion centered on the struggles that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals go through on a daily basis - how to alleviate some of those struggles and how to replace hopelessness with hope.

My own personal battle with suicidal ideology begin about the age of thirteen and was a pretty much daily visitor in my life for the following 35 years. For whatever reasons, I never took direct suicidal action. Those 35 years were, however, filled with non-stop self-destruction and extreme risk-taking. Although I didn't attempt to take my own life directly, I certainly didn't see my life as worth the cost of the air I somehow continued to breathe.

My participation in the conference included helping with a workshop on "Compassionate Counseling with Transgender & Questioning Youth & Adults" with Marcia Epstein, LSCSW. I was also honored to sit on an LGBTQ panel discussion about suicide prevention. I was further honored to meet the founders of Trans Lifeline, Greta Gustava Martela and Nina Chaubal; the amazing Nathan Belyeu of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center; and many other equally amazing people.

There are all these amazing people in the world and I am often blessed to meet a few of them, to get to know them, to begin to learn their stories. The beauty of the world can be measured by sunsets and moonrises, of mountains and meadows, in nature and all the marvels and magnificence that surround us. The beauty of the world can also be measured in random kindness, human endurance, unconditional love, and breathtaking human diversity. How is it that our diversity can be seen as anything other than beautiful?

In the first paragraph of this column, I mentioned the struggles that LGBT individuals go through on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this is the way our struggles are often described. Accurate in the sense that far too many of us go through these struggles on a daily basis. Not accurate in the sense that they are inherently OUR struggles.

At no point in my life did I make a decision about who I am that should have invited the disdain of society. There is nothing about living my gender authentically that should ever be perceived as inappropriate. It has not been a struggle of my choosing. It has been a massive, conspired, and intentional devaluation of the ability for human beings to be who they are and love who they love.

Let's call it what it is. These are not LGBT issues. They are issues of religious oppression - people trying to force their personal beliefs into the rule of law. They are issues of genocide. They are crimes against humanity. It is the deliberate destruction of the lives of living, breathing human beings. In any other context, we would call it what it is.

Because some people invoke an angry, white, male god to justify these atrocities; we, as a society, pretend that human lives are not being destroyed. We ignore the fact the LGBT youth are attempting and completing suicide at rates far higher than their heterosexual, cisgender peers.

There was much discussion at the conference about how to reduce the risk of suicide. For LGBT Americans, there is one thing we could do to dramatically reduce the risk of suicide, the risk of violence, the risk of homelessness, the risk of substance abuse . . . we could stand up and say to those people who are demonizing other people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity . . . Stop it! Children are dying!

For my part, I will continue trying to share openly about what it's like to be transgender. I will share more, and more often, about the resources that are out there as a means to reduce the risk of suicide. And I will continue to share what I believe is one of the most fundamental truths of our existence on the planet. The beauty of the world can also be measured in random kindness, human endurance, and unconditional love. And by our breathtaking human diversity.

© July 29, 2015, Stephanie Mott

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