BZN NDO 2NITE!

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Be at the City Hall hearing room by 5:30pm to show your support! Here’s my testimony:

 

I am a native Montanan (4th generation).

I am an ordained priest with 3 degrees in theology and scripture.

I am a licensed Mental Health Counselor.

I am also a gay man, and Bozeman is my home.

Despite the prejudice and discrimination I have experienced in Bozeman, I choose to live here. Despite the stories and concerns I hear from parishioners and counseling clients who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender- I choose to live here. Why? Mostly, because I am now an adult, and I am supported and loved by my family, friends, neighbors and my church.

And I want to ensure that no kid repeats my Montana childhood here. Not anymore.

As a 15 year-old, I attempted suicide because my church and my community called me “disordered”, “unnatural” and a “pervert”. Not to my face- but they didn’t have to. The climate of my community and church and school – where there were no protections against discrimination- did it for them.

I think we forget how sensitive kids are.

But if nothing else happens tonight- I want you to remember just how sensitive kids are.

Thankfully, my suicide attempt failed, but every time I see the obituary of a teenager, I wonder, “Did sexuality have anything to do with this? My God, did a church have a part in this”?

I’m reminded of this verse from Matthew (18.6): “Whoever causes one of these little ones to lose faith in me, it would be better for them to have a great millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Well, the behavior of discriminatory churches is causing a lot of these little ones to lose their faith.

I know. I’m one of the ones they call, in tears and pain, wondering how they can be a Christian if God hates them so much. They wonder what they did.

They did nothing.

And I always tell them God loves them very much- even if God’s people don’t seem to.

Sexuality is NOT a choice. It is a fact. Gender is NOT a choice. It is a fact.

We have to trust the experience of others to help us to see them clearly.

WE HAVE TO.

That’s what civil societies do. We encourage people to tell the truth about themselves- because it sets them free- and maybe the rest of us as well.

This ordinance provides Bozeman with a chance to speak loudly in favor of truth.

Allowing even the perceived sexuality or gender of a child- or an adult- to be the cause of bullying, pain- or even suicide is inexcusable.

It still happens. Right here. There are too many examples to list in the available time.

If any of you would like to speak to me about it, I am available.

Please pass this ordinance.

 

Thank you.

Montana LGBT Youth At Increased Risk for Suicide

Today, a groundbreaking piece in the Billings Gazette:

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Port...

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Portal:LGBT). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting through adolescence is hard enough.

There’s the agony of puberty, the mood swings and the withering self-consciousness. Then comes the clumsiness of emerging sexuality.

It can be overwhelming.

For some young people, the passage can be even more daunting. For a few Montana kids coming to terms with their attraction to the same gender — in a religious and rural culture that doesn’t always know what to make of them — the challenge can be deadly.

A 2009 survey of more than 7,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender middle and high school students aged 13 to 21 found that in the past year, at least eight of 10 students had been verbally harassed at school; four of 10 had been physically harassed; six of 10 felt unsafe at school; and one of five had been the victim of a physical assault, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

LGBT youth also are at far greater risk for suicide. A national study of adolescents in grades seven to 12 found that LGBT youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.

There is little specific research in Montana concerning how much of a role sexual orientation plays in youth suicides, said Karl Rosston, Montana’s suicide prevention coordinator. However, national studies have shown about 15 percent of youth who reported suicide attempts also reported same-sex attraction or relationships.

In Montana between 1999 and 2009, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24, behind unintentional injuries like auto and farm accidents.

In the two years between 2010 and 2011, at least 57 youth ages 15 to 24 killed themselves in Montana.

It’s difficult to figure the current number of gays and lesbians in Montana. However, according to a report from the Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA researching sexual orientation issues, there were 1,600 same-sex couples in Montana as of 2005, up from 1,200 in 2000. This number is almost certainly higher, especially since the study didn’t include youth. The number of male couples and female couples were nearly evenly split, with 806 men and 853 women.

About 2.6 percent of Montana’s population — around 26,000 people — is gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to the report.

Teen suicide is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the state, which has had one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation for more than 30 years. Consider that during 2010, at least 227 Montanans took their own lives. Another 225 people committed suicide in 2011.

D Gregory Smith, a Bozeman-based licensed mental health counselor and executive director of AIDS Outreach, counsels LGBT high school and college students, gay men and a handful of heterosexual men and women. He also counsels parents wondering if their child’s sexual preference can be changed, although he doesn’t believe that’s possible. He counsels parents on how they can better understand their child’s sexuality.

Most of his youth and young adult clients have contemplated suicide.

“Their biggest fear is believing they cannot have a good life,” said Smith, a former Catholic priest who is gay and HIV-positive. “They believe they cannot stay in Montana, be who they are and be happy.”
There’s so much more here: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/lgbt-youth-at-increased-risk-for-suicide/article_d7e8360a-f437-5ba6-8d03-8aeb2d67d701.html#ixzz2MVkAw1EE

See The 10 Montana Senators Who Want Gays To Be Criminals

From Cowgirl:

 

On Tuesday, the Montana Senate voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

 

But yesterday, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

To see them, click here.

Car Crashes Knocked Off By Suicide

From WebMD:

Suicide has overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S.

English: Skull and crossbones

English: Skull and crossbones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While public health efforts have curbed the number of car fatalities by 25% over the last decade, a new study shows suicide deaths rose by 15% during the same period.

“Comprehensive and sustained traffic safety measures have apparently substantially diminished the motor vehicle traffic mortality rate, and similar attention and resources are needed to reduce the burden of other injury,” researcher Ian Rockett, PhD, MPH of West Virginia University and colleagues write in theAmerican Journal of Public Health.

“Contrasting with disease mortality, the injury mortality rate trended upward during most of that decade,” write the researchers.

The top five leading causes of injury-related deaths were:

  1. Suicide
  2. Motor vehicle crashes
  3. Poisoning
  4. Falls
  5. Homicide

Researchers say the findings demonstrate that suicide is now a global public health issue.

And I would remind readers that LGBT youth attempt suicide at four times the rate of their peers. Notably because of intolerance, shame and fear perpetuated by ignorant institutions and people- sadly, many of them “Christians”.  So here’s a not-so-gentle reminder:

“…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble,
it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck,
and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” ~Matthew 18.6

“Dead Gay Kids And The Politics Of Hate”

You’ve heard of the “It Gets Better” campaign? Well, according to one Tennessee legislator ,”It Just Gets Worse”.

Christy Diane Farr writes an excellent article about the rhetoric used by the ignorant to allow- and justify- the death of our children. Excerpt:

Behavior

Image by Rickydavid via Flickr

The next morning, she received a response from Tennessee State Representative John Ragan that sounded as if it had been taken straight from Hitler’s playbook. I am not exaggerating, even a little, and invite you to go here and read for yourself.

I cried as she read me the message. I thought I would throw up. His final point literally took my breath away:

“Examining another statistic, it has been well known for a decade that suicide is attempted much more frequently in the homosexual community than in the heterosexual community (Mathy, Cochran, Olsen, & Mays, 2009). This same source pointed out that, on average, suicide is approximately three times more likely among homosexuals than heterosexuals.

“As a fitting critical thought question, it could be asked if other identifiable groups that engage in behavior of which ‘others may disapprove’ commit suicide at similar rates? In other words, do prostitutes, pedophiles, polygamists, murders, etc., commit suicide at the same, or similar, rates to homosexual behavior practitioners? If similar rates were hypothetically so (not proven to be the case), do these behavior practitioners commit suicide at a higher rate because someone may have disapproved of their behavior or for other reasons? Should society avoid disapproving of pedophilia, prostitution, murder, etc., because practitioners of those behaviors may commit suicide at higher rates?”

The author makes a lot of amazing points- chief among them is that for a lot of of kids, the “It gets better” message isn’t coming through- because teachers and legislators and parents are stifling the message- and countermanding it. But there is a need to stay vigilant, there is a need to speak up- and it’s because of one simple philosophy:

The list of the others–the “they” who are allowing their fear and hatred to erode our National integrity–goes on and on, but the truth is that this radical lesbian-headed household doesn’t even believe in “they.” We teach our children about how everyone is equal, even those who think we are not. We believe that human difference is real, that it’s important, and that diversity, inclusivity, and integrity are what make us strong–as individuals, families, communities, states, counties, and as a planet.

We live by one guiding principle: Be nice or leave.

That means we don’t make life harder for other people (rinse your dishes before they go in the dishwasher and dispose of your waste responsibly). It means do your best so the collective “we” can be at our best. We tread lightly on the planet. We disagree respectfully because we certainly won’t always agree, but we can always do it respectfully and intelligently.

Oh, and we ask for what we need because we understand that it’s codependent and manipulative (prime examples of the “not nice” that can result in being invited to leave) to expect others to know what you need and desire.

Read the rest of this excellent essay here.

STUDENT NON DISCRIMINATION ACT NEEDED TO PROTECT GLBT YOUTH FROM BULLYING

Kathy Baldock, www.canyonwalkerconnections.com

Casey, sixteen and gay, was being bullied by two students at his high school in Ohio. His youth pastor, a friend of mine, helped to secure a restraining order to protect him, but the principal downgraded the severity with a weaker solution.  He let Cody come to the office five minutes before classes ended and stay until five minutes after they started; Casey would then be safe from bullying in the hall-passing time.  One of Casey’s bullies was still in class with him.  Did this principal create a safe learning environment and protect Casey from abuse?  Why did it even get this far?  Why was there no policy in place to protect this child from bullying due to his sexual orientation or even his perceived sexual orientation?

No gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (glbt) child in public schools in the United States is federally protected from bullying and harassment for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Shocked?  This is true.  No Child Left Behind (2001), soon to be re-authorized after ten years in the updated Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization 2011 (ESEA), made it out of committee in October 2011 without the bipartisan support it needed to include protection for glbt students.   Currently, students are protected from bullying for: race, sex, religion, disabilities and national origin, but not sexual orientation and gender identity.

When the ESEA is brought to the floor of the Senate in either December or January, there is a push to attach the Student Non-Discrimination Act HR 4350 (SNDA) to it. SNDA includes comprehensive federal prohibitions against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would forbid schools with public funding to discriminate against glbt students or ignore harassing behaviors.

The bill was re-introduced, having not been added in committee in ESEA, by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). (watch the video, grab a tissue.)  Co-sponsored by 34 senators, it needs the approval of 60 senators to attach it to the ESEA before going to the House for a vote before it becomes law.

“Is it needed?” you may ask.  Only 13 states have laws protecting glbt students from harassment at school; this is not a surprising statistic when you also realize that 15 states do not even include sexual orientation and gender identity on the “hate crimes” list; in 29 states you can still be fired for being gay; and in 34 states you can be fired for being trans.

Come on, it is really necessary to pass another law?  Lots of kids are bullied in school; that is “just the way it is.”  Research shows highly rejected glbt youth were at a very high risk for health and mental problems when they become young adults.  Highly rejected glbt youth were:

  • More than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs and
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases *

Knowing that the primary socializing institutions for children and youth are families, schools and faith communities, should we not try to make those places safer for children?  This is not just a “family issue” forglbt youth.  Many of them are not even out in their own families.  As mysterious as that may seem, the biggest loss a child fears is family rejection so many will delay coming out to their own parents.  Churches are wellknown sources of anti-gay rhetoric, leaving many children thinking they have only one protected place: school.

Now is the time to voice to your senators and representative  that it is their duty as public servants to serve the most vulnerable of their constituents: glbt children.  Tell them to get on record now in support of the Senate bill and the version that comes to the House.  Any senator or representative that votes against the protection of vulnerable children should not hold that position of trust.

I am a Mom too, with two straight, adult children.  I am a straight, Evangelical Christian compelled by my faith to stand for justice and against oppression.  The argument of some conservative family groups and lobbies against this bill is the fear that this bill will “victimize people of faith by turning religiously-based, anti-gay comments into ‘thought crimes’ ” (Rep. John Kline R-MN).  This is fear-based rhetoric.  Anti-discrimination laws punish actions, not opinions or beliefs.

Who should care and act on this now:

  • Parents of glbt children.  There are over 350 chapters of Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) with over 200,000 members nationwide.  Be the advocates you already are and tell your families and friends to insist on the addition of the SNDA in the ESEA.
  • Educators who see the crises and have no guidelines under which to operate when they witness bullying of glbt students.  School boards will take seriously the loss of federal funding should they not enforce the law.
  • Members of the glbt community know the damage many of them suffered for being gay or perceived as gay.
  • Christians are to take seriously the mandates of our faith to fight injustice and stand against oppression (oh, and toss in a good dose of helping the poor) Isaiah 58. A Christian who would consider blocking the protection of a child needs to consider deeply the examples of Jesus.
  • Any parent that understands the difficulty of peer bullying in schools.  Consider that the children that may not be yours suffer it more profoundly; look at those stats again for rejection of glbt youth.  Teach your children well.
  • Conservative family groups need to hold to their own missions—protecting families which include glbt youth.  The irony of Family Research Council ignoring family research and producing policies directly impacting the health and mental wellness of glbt youth is glaring.  Focus on the Family really does need to focus on families and help families with glbt youth.  Concerned Women for America should be concerned about the children of women in America.  Excluding glbt children from the mission statements of those organizations shows severe bias which places religious beliefs over a higher calling of caring for the families and children that even the names of their organizations imply.
  • Any person with even a modicum of wisdom that understands that all children desire the comforts of love, acceptance and security. Healthy children grow into healthy adults and build healthy societies.

Bottom line: who should care that the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) be voted into law as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization Act (ESEA)?  All of us. Partisan politics drives me crazy.  When I see a vote that goes right down party lines, I know the public servants are voting to maintain power and money balances and have succumb to party/special interest groups pressure.  Voting for the protection of children is not a partisan issue.  Every public servant in this country should be protecting the least of these.

And what has become of Casey? Along with his youth pastor, PFLAG stepped in to protect this child. The school administration knows they are being watched and are more cautious. This is what ESEA will do for all children and in all schools; it will strengthen the federal law to include the protection glbt students against bullying.  And, after five years of blocking a Gay Student  Alliance (GSA), Casey’s school now has one and he is the president. He is safer.

Apply pressure and make your voice heard now.  There are 90 million children in this country under 18 years of age, including approximately 4.5 million that are glbt.  Speak up for their safety and insist that the non-inclusion of SNDA at the committee level be corrected when ESEA comes to Senate vote in December or January.  Insist and speak up for Casey and other glbt students.

RECAP:

Contact your senators and representatives and tell them that it is essential that the SNDA (HR 4350) become part of ESEA when it comes for vote in the Senate in December or January.  It will expand the protection from bullying based on: religion, sex, national origin and disabilities to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity for glbt students. And stay on them, especially the Republicans who may be resistant to approve it. And big kudos to Al Franken, thank him too. 

 

*Family Acceptance Project, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children” (2009)

 

Bullied Youth Proposes LGBT Youth Advisor To President Obama

Photo courtesy of Brody Levesque

An inspiring story for going back to school….
You may remember me writing about Caleb Laieski, a 16 year old bullied youth from Arizona. Caleb was revently invited to the White House to share his experience as a bullied teen. Laieski was one of a few youth chosen to meet with President Obama for a photo opportunity. When they met, he proposed to President Obama that the administration appoint an LGBT youth advisor to the President. The advisor would serve as a liaison between the Obama Administration and our nation’s LGBT youth population to specifically address anti-LGBT bullying and other major issues that LGBT youth face and seek appropriate and immediate solutions. 
Laieski refused to accept bullying as a rite of passage for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens. Raising funds and creating awareness, he took his passion to Washington, DC where he used his personal experience to lobby Washington lawmakers on the Student Non-Discrimination Act. After meeting with almost 200 different legislators and various administrative offices in just 22 days, Laieski worked on Capitol Hill to promote a safe schools bill; The Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 998 – S. 999).
With his personal experience on bullying, he was invited to speak with the Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to discuss the effect that bullying has on today’s lesbian and gay youth and the dire situation bullying creates for at-risk youth. The story stuck with Secretary Sebelius – a few days later, Laieski was included in the Secretary’s speech at the first-ever Federal LGBT Youth Summit that was held by the Department of Education.

Bullying has taken many at-risk LGBT youth and a recent study shows, that LGBT youth who come from “highly rejecting” families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGBT peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. In a tragic event that struck too close to home, Laieski lost a close friend his age to suicide last year. This friend had endured similar bullying- and Caleb has had several other close friends attempt suicide due to the same systematic and sustained harassment in public schools.

Reluctant to create more pain from his experience, Laieski has begun channeling his inner pain in a positive way by becoming a strong personal advocate for bullied LGBT Youth- an inspiring story, especially as students head back to school.

We’ll keep you informed about the LGBT Youth Advisor to The President….

More about Caleb here.


 

Study: Bullying Leads To Dangerous Risks For LGBT Youth

A new study in The Journal Of School Health gives another reason to protect school-age LGBT’s from bullying and threats of violence. This is the first study to examine school victimization in adolescence in relation to physical and mental health in later life- and the results are not surprising:

“We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students. Prior studies have shown that school victimization of LGBT adolescents affects their health and mental health. In our study we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more. It is clear that there are public health costs to LGBT-based bullying over the long-term,” said lead author, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona.

Those public health costs include higher suicide attempts, increased risk of contracting STD’s (including HIV), and greater levels of anxiety and depression- mostly due to decreased levels of self-worth directly related to victimization.

Key Research Findings:

  • LGBT young adults who reported high levels of LGBT school victimization during adolescence were 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt that required medical care, 2.6 times more likely to report clinical levels of depression, 2.5 times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and nearly 4 times more likely to report risk for HIV infection, compared with peers who reported low levels of school victimization.
  • Gay and bisexual males and transgender young adults reported higher levels of LGBT school victimization than lesbian and bisexual young women.
  • LGBT young adults who reported lower levels of school victimization reported higher levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and social integration compared with peers with higher levels of school victimization during adolescence.

This provides substantial scientific evidence to create safer environments for our youth. Please share with school administrators, teachers and parents.

San Francisco State University. “School bullying, violence against LGBT youth linked to risk of suicide, HIV infection.” ScienceDaily, 16 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2011.