Caleb Laieski: Teen Advocate

You may have heard of the 16 year-old student who is fighting to protect other students, after he himself was forced to drop out of high school because of bullying and threats of violence.

Photo courtesy of Brody Levesque

Caleb Laieski, 16, of Surprise, Arizona, started his anti-bullying activism when he was forced to drop out of school when teachers and administration wouldn’t protect him from bullying and threats- even after repeated incidents had occurred. He was being threatened with violence and death threats because he happened to be gay.

Laieski, who has since received his GED, brought the fight to his school district starting with a legal notification that he would bring suit to protect himself and others in the same situation. After the school district agreed to change its policies, he sent a similar notice to every other school district in Arizona, and then went to the Arizona Legislature to fight for laws to protect all students.

He was invited to the White House’s first ever, Conference on Bullying Prevention and is now advocating for the Student Non-Discrimination Act, in Congress and is currently in D.C. “for those who are afraid to speak up.”

Laieski says the bill would “include sexual orientation and gender indentify into the current federal law under education, guaranteeing all students a safe place.” Laieski also pointed out that “when some have opposition to these categories being protected, we must get past that and realize that it’s about giving ever student the right to his/her education a safe place to learn.”

Caleb successfully met with over 30 Congressional Representatives in his first week in D.C., and plans to keep the pace for the remainder of his time in our nation’s capital.

Brave kid.
You’ll get to meet him this week on Same Sex Sunday– I interviewed him today.

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.

Dear Moms and Dads,

Parents of LGBT kids don’t have an easy time of it. Parenting a child is difficult at the best of times, but adding the complexities of sexual diversity to the mix can make parenting downright terrifying.

It’s worse if those parents are practicing Christians.

Kathy Baldock writes clearly and firmly to Christian parents of LGBT kids in her latest post at CanyonWalker Connections. She’s not advocating marching in parades and becoming a fierce advocate and PFLAG zealot, she’s advocating simple acceptance.
Excerpt:

Kathy and friends

If God has given you a gay child and you are trying to make that child heterosexual, that is not “the way of him”. If you try to impose change on your child or reject who he is (yes, that is really what you are doing when you tell them to “not be gay”), there are some general , predictable consequences.

If you reject your glbt youth they:

  • Are EIGHT times more apt to attempt suicide than those who are accepted
  • May suffer depression SIX times more often than those who are accepted
  • Are THREE times more likely to get involved in drug abuse than those glbt that are accepted
  • May contract HIV and STD’s THREE times more than accepted glbt youth

Are you catching the key words here? “than those who are accepted”   The unhealthy, risky behavior is a result of rejection.  Mom and Dad, you are completely in control of that dynamic.  If you withhold love, acceptance or security from you glbt youth because of their sexual orientation, you will, in all likelihood, be damning them to these statistics. I cannot imagine any parent knowing this and choosing to ignore it.

If you’re the parent of a gay kid and don’t know what to do, contanct me. I’m available.

If you’re an LGBT kid who’s been rejected and kicked out of the house- or is about to be, contact me. We’ll find a safe place for you to be. Promise.

My email: Dgsma@hotmail.com.

Please read Kathy’s full post here.
And then share it with your friends and Christian parents.

Speaking of Coming Out…

Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts does just that. After 40 years of “suffering in silence”.

Why now?

Mostly, Welts said, he was inspired by young athletes who might be suffering in silence.

“I thought, there might be some young people out there who was in the same position I was, who love team sports …  but are afraid,” Welts said.

“If by telling my story, if even just a few young people are encouraged to follow their passion and have a successful career, then it will have been worth it.”

Are we seeing a groundswell? Time will tell, but we all know that being gay has nothing to do with ability or aptitude in any profession- including sports. By coming out, all we do is strengthen the diverse human factor of sexuality.

And that’s always good.

NYT story here. NY Daily News take here.

What’s Gay About The News

A couple of things.

On the one hand, Don Lemon, CNN weekend anchor and brave human being, has come out as a gay man.
Entertainment Weekly:

CNN’s weekend anchor Don Lemon reveals that he is gay in his new memoir, Transparent. “I abhor hypocrisy,” Lemon told theNew York Times. “I think if you’re going to be in the business of news, and telling people the truth, of trying to shed light in dark places, then you’ve got to be honest. You’ve got to have the same rules for yourself as you do for everyone else.”

Lemon admitted he is scared by peoples’ reaction, but that CNN has assured him of their support. “I think it would be great if everybody could be out,” he said to the paper. “But it’s such a personal choice. People have to do it at their own speed. I respect that. I do have to say that the more people who come out, the better it is for everyone, certainly for the Tyler Clementis of the world.”

Like I said, brave. Lemon, also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, will no doubt become a more active voice in the LGBT community- as well as a sign to other human beings that being gay is not an obstacle- and that we have nothing to fear from the truth of who we are.

Next comes a poll from Fox News affiliate WACH in South Carolina. The poll, which attempts to gauge the pulse of its readers on the topic of the Presbyterian Church’s inclusion of openly gay clergy is clearly Fair and Balanced:

Oh, Lord.

“Sins, sinners, sinfulness- love the sinner, hate the sin”- the patronizing terms many evangelical/fundamentalist christians use to describe people they hate, is just one of the ignorant ways that keep them from facing the reality of human sexuality.

And Fox News seems to be contributing to that ignorance.

Again.

But the commenters are taking them to task. Which I love. Go ahead and read the story and comment. It’s getting interesting.

Sunday Sign 5/15/11

From reader Mark (again!), comes this little treasure:

If you see a fun/ironic/stupid/sick publicly posted sign, grab your phone/camera,
click and send it to me! Dgsma@hotmail.com- and put “sign” in the topic line.

HIV Spike In Montana?

The Billings Gazette is reporting a spike in positive HIV tests done by RiverStone Health clinic:

Six new positive tests were reported between March 24 and April 18, compared to nine new cases in all of 2007 and 2010. The newly diagnosed cases include five men and one woman, ranging in age from 24 to 43. In three of the cases, there was a history of intravenous drug use. The remaining three cases were sexually transmitted, according to RiverStone Health officials.

We know there are Montanans who are HIV-positive and have never been tested, or have been tested and for some reason, have never entered care.

HIV is a manageable disease. The sooner HIV-positive persons enters care and begins treatment, the less likely they are to have more difficult health issues later on in life. And because of lowering the amount of HIV in their bodies with medication, they are much less likely to transmit the virus.

Click here for more info...

Full story here.
Then, think about getting tested- and encouraging those you love to do the same.