This last week has provoked feelings of sorrow and anger deep within me and within many in our community. I have presided at countless funeral liturgies since my ordination in 1985 and the most difficult of these are funerals for suicide victims.
Aside from the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one to death. Losing a loved one to suicide adds to the grief feelings of anger. That anger is directed at oneself, for not having been more aware and more sensitive to the needs of the deceased. Anger is also directed at the deceased for not having spoken directly and plainly the depth of their pain and need.
When confronted by the death of a loved one to suicide, we attempt to console ourselves with the realization that each of us has a “breaking-point.” That the person we loved was overwhelmed, that the pain or fear simply became too much to bear. That there, but for the grace of God, goes I.
In the cases of the young gay men who took their lives this last week, I remain personally affected. Even though I did not know them personally, I have known many gay people who have been pushed to their “breaking-point” and I’ve been there myself. I recall at nineteen years of age standing on the balcony of the thirteenth floor of Fontana Hall at the University of South Florida and staring down at the sidewalk and considered doing a jackknife into eternity.
Growing up gay in the 1960’s meant that it never even crossed my imagination that I could fall in love and make a home with someone I loved. It meant being subjected to taunts, emotional abuse from classmates, it meant countless fights because of something I never chose. It meant living in fear of rejection by parents, family, relatives, friends and classmates. Later in life it meant fear of loss of employment and career.
The American Psychological Association makes the following statement on its website:
"Is sexual orientation a choice?
No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
No; even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable. However, not all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who seek assistance from a mental health professional want to change their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may seek psychological help with the coming out process or for strategies to deal with prejudice, but most go into therapy for the same reasons and life issues that bring straight people to mental health professionals."
The statement by the APA quoted above contains an important insight as to why those young people took their own lives. “Some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Study (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide. Each time I am asked to speak at an LGBTQ event, I think about that missing one-third of the room.
"They sacrificed theirs sons and daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters."
Are you angry about the suicides of the young people who took their lives last week? Do something constructive with that anger. Do something that can prevent suicides in the future. Find out more about the role of the Mormon Church leadership in oppressing LGBTQ persons, view the Documentary “8 The Mormon Propo$ition.” Expose the Mormon/Catholic leadership’s financing of laws that strip LGBTQ persons of their Civil Rights and human dignity. Ask your elected officials to direct the IRS to investigate possible tax-exempt status of these organizations. Were members of the Mormon Church coerced into making specific dollar amount donations to the Prop 8 campaign in California? Write to LGBTQ organizations and ask them to do the same.