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The Epidemic of Cyberbullying LGBT Youth

March 9, 2010

I blog a lot about issues like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and marriage equality and I often (but not often enough) try to bring this back to the impact on the lives of gay kids.  Unfortunately, I don’t write enough about the issues directly facing young men and women who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered.  But here is the blunt, incredibly disturbing reality: Marriage and the right to serve openly in the armed services only benefit LGBT youth who survive to adulthood.

A new study from Iowa State University found that more than half of LGBT youth were victims of cyberbullying in the previous 30 days.  Nearly half of the bullied LGBT kids reported being depressed because of the bullying through websites, email, chat sites, and cell phone, among other technologies.

The most upsetting finding?  More than 1 in 8 LGBT teens had entertained thoughts of suicide. Lead researcher Warren Blumenfeld summed up the study:

“There’s a saying that we’ve now changed to read, ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can kill.'”

Over half of the kids who had been bullied felt the schools and parents couldn’t do anything about the bullying.  Half also feared telling their parents because they thought their internet use would be limited, which Blumenfeld interestingly points out as significant because LGBT kids frequently use the internet to connect to other gay youths–forming a virtual community where they might lack a real world support network.

Marriage and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell both send a strong signal to LGBT youth because they set a tone for our society and how we view LGBT people.  But that only goes so far.  We need to do more so that people don’t have to be in the closet to have a childhood that is free of torment and bullying.  Every child faces bullying for something–whether it be their weight, intelligence, hair color, athleticism, or socioeconomic status–but we should be doing more to ensure that kids aren’t so tormented they’re driven to thoughts of suicide.  When one in 8 kids from any group have suicidal thoughts, we must step up and do more.

I hope studies like these can drive more attention and national advocacy efforts to support groups like The Trevor Project.  This is an organization that I personally had not heard about until I read about Daniel Radcliffe filming a public service announcement for them–and if I’ve not heard of them, it’s probably safe to imagine that closeted gay, bisexual and transgendered teens across our country have not either.  We need to do more to change the tone from schools up, as well as society down.

Watch Daniel Radcliffe talk about his work with The Trevor Project below.

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