The “Family” Research Council: Missing the Point and Reinforcing Homophobia

You may have seen the recent study showing that a supportive social environment goes a long way toward reducing queer youth suicide attempts. It seems pretty obvious to me that if young people aren’t being barraged with shame, anger, hatred, bullying, or being rendered invisible, they’re much less likely to hurt themselves. But there’s never any way to keep everyone from twisting things around in order to reinforce a ideology of hate.

A post on the Family Research Council’s blog claims that since there’s a correlation between young people identifying as gay or bisexual and an increased risk of suicide, the solution is to shame them in order to keep them from identifying as queer. As if that isn’t the problem in the first place. Here’s the message the author would like to send to young queer and questioning people:

 

“It is not uncommon for some young people to be confused or uncertain about their sexuality in adolescence. The vast majority of you will end up being exclusively heterosexual as adults. However, if you experience same-sex attractions, or are unsure about your sexual orientation\’wait. Do not become sexually active while in school (even if you are sure you are heterosexual). Do not adopt a “sexual minority identity. Focus on developing your intellect, your character, and non-sexual friendships. When you are an adult, you will be in a much better position to make mature decisions about your sexuality.

As is often the case, there are a very small grain of truth here. The majority of young people will be (mostly) heterosexual as adults. But the notion that teens who identify as straight are somehow exempt from the advice that “things might change” while queer youth are supposed to hold off on exploring their sexualities is heterosexism at its worst. Anyone might find that their sexual desires are different at 15 than at 25, but that’s no reason to invalidate where people are in their lives right now. And isn’t it interesting that telling someone that they’re likely to end up straight is this dude’s idea of being supportive? Isn’t that just going to heap more shame on the ones who don’t?

Further, even in a more accepting environment, queer, transgender, and genderqueer youth are subjected to plenty of discrimination, bullying, social ostracism, and shame, all of which increase stress and make it that much harder to get through school. As if Middle School or High School aren’t hard enough! So it’s no wonder that a more accepting social environment doesn’t eliminate the higher possibility that queer youth will attempt suicide.

One of the studies that this guy cites claims that the earlier someone comes out as queer, the higher their suicide risk. And I can think of several possibilities, including having fewer resources and support, having fewer internal resources to withstand negative reactions, having fewer positive role models, and being less likely to envision a positive future. The younger someone is, the less they’ve differentiated from their parents, which means that negative reactions will have deeper impacts. But then, if we looked at the wider picture, we might not be able to justify shaming and blaming queer kids for coming out, could we.

Bullies always seem to find a way to twist things around in order to justify their actions, so I shouldn’t be too surprised that the FRC is at it again. And I’m still angry about it.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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