As if there weren’t enough for parents of gay teens to worry about, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just been released, concluding that “gay and bisexual high school students are more likely than their heterosexual classmates to smoke, drink alcohol or do other risky things.”
Nearly 160,000 high school students were suveyed in Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as Boston, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco, about risky behaviors, including wearing a bicycle helmet, drug use and even suicide attempts. Students who self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual routinely reported worse behavior in up to 90 percent of the at-risk categories.
Unfortunately, the survey ended there and did not go further into inquiring as to why these students were taking part in risks other students in the sexual majority were not as likely to take part in.
As a self-identified “queer” person myself, I have to say that, as far as high school is concerned, I did nothing riskier than play ice hockey (with a helmet, of course) and maybe go rollerblading without a helmet a few times. It wasn’t until college that I tried alcohol for the first time. It also wasn’t until college that I came to terms with my own sexuality. By the time I did, I had become a major part of my college’s gay-straight alliance and I had a group of incredibly supportive friends of all sexualities. No doubt, these factors played a role in why I may not have engaged in riskier behavior.
To be sure, thinking back on my own “coming out” process, I can imagine why teens undergoing the same process would turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with it. Depending on where a gay, lesbian or bisexual teen is from, the type of upbringing they were brought up with and perhaps the religion they were raised under, the experience of coming out could be dealt with with ease, or it could be an extremely hellish experience. Most of my friends have experienced something in between the two.
Regardless of the statistics for cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, I believe the results for attempted suicide are the most startling: between four and 10 percent of heterosexual students claimed they attempted suicide in the past year, as compared to 15 to 24 percent of gay and lesbian students, and 21 to 32 percent for bisexual students.
What does this mean? We are not supporting our non-heterosexual teens as well as we should be. How could we be when states like Tennessee are outlawing so much as admitting homosexuals exist? Schools nationwide should be taking statistics and surveys like this into account and train their teachers and personnel accordingly.