LGBT suicide rates are stunningly high. In studies that encompass PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gay), California State University and Pediatrics, it is estimated that the suicide rates for the LGBT segment of the population comprises up to 30 to 40 percent of those who successfully complete suicide. Any suicide is a truly shocking event; however, in the case of suicides in the LGBT segment of the population, it may not be all that surprising that individuals who identify as LGBT choose to attempt suicide.
One of the biggest stresses that anyone, let alone someone who is lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual, can endure is living a life based on a lie. That is why so many celebrate when a celebrity chooses to come out, but when someone is worried about coming out, fearing a lack of acceptance, they may choose to remain closeted. They lead a life where everything seems as it should, but in reality, nothing is as it should be, as the person is not living as the person they are, as they are fundamentally denying who they are. This can lead to a sense of confusion, resentment that they cannot ultimately come out of the closet, and plain old fear that they will not be accepted. That can very definitely contribute to the fairly unsurprising statistics that LGBT suicide occurs at a higher rate than previously anticipated.
The coming out process is difficult enough, and people may not come out simply because there are those around them who simply are not willing to accept them as they are. The ignorance that continues as a result of homophobia is simply due to lack of education and concerns, perhaps, that those who are part of the LGBT population will “turn them gay.” Here’s the thing – you cannot turn someone gay any more than you can “turn” someone straight. There’s a very definite culture clash that occurs at times between the straight and non-straight segments of the global population that takes some work to overcome. Sometimes, that culture clash alone can lead to higher instances of LGBT suicide.
Some of the confusion may come in where it appears as though being LGBT is what ultimately drives the suicide rates up. This is not the case; there are a variety of factors that contribute to any one choosing to commit suicide, including ongoing bullying behaviors, mental health issues, and a lack of a support network. There is undue stress that comes with realizing you are living a life that is not authentic, particularly when you are closeted. How can you find love, true happiness and joy in your authentic self when you feel as though you are the target of ignorance, it’s difficult to feel happy and it’s easy to get engaged in depressive behaviors and feel as though you are truly alone.
Higher instances of LGBT suicide occur because that particular segment of the population feels a high degree of personal stress because it is their own sense of who they are that becomes under attack. This is either because they believe – either mistakenly or not – that they will no longer be respected or cared for if they come out of the closet, or they feel as though it is too risky to come out, for whatever reason. Regardless of the reason, the higher rates of LGBT suicide are shocking, but not entirely surprising.
By Christina St-Jean