27 November 2010

"Most gay youth...I'd say 90%, are actually doing quite well."

"They are not depressed, they are not anxious, they're not attempting suicide; they're really quite ordinary adolescents."

So says Professor Ritch Savin Williams, professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University.

I think he's crazy.

But have a listen for yourself.

One of my straight, LDS friends who is trying to better understand me and mine sent this to me wondering what my reaction was. At OTR's prompting, I decided to post it here as well.

Granted, it's not a well thought out, refined literary masterpiece I'm turning in for any sort of grade. It's quite jumbled actually, and follows no set exposition, other than its reactionary nature.


"First off, let me say that I find the attention gays are getting in the media and from celebrities encouraging. It's time we stood up and faced head-on the issues of the day. But people so often don't want to. Along with abuse and rape, to name two, there are myriad problems facing our world. We as a people simply turn away from them in the hopes they won't affect us, instead of giving them the attention they need.

"I don't care what science and studies say, he's wrong. I'm not going to simply dismiss his arguments completely, but he openly admits picking and choosing his studies to show the results he wants. Likewise, often scientific studies are skewed by the fact that people know they are participating in them. And if they don't, what's to guarantee they will be honest? Gay teens aren't depressed, anxious, or attempting suicide? I completely disagree. When I was at BYU, struggling with coming out, I wouldn't have shared my anguish with ANYONE, not even my best friends, let alone some doctor or "scientist" coming and asking questions about my healthy adjustment to youth-dom. I would pretend to be happy, well-adjusted, and fine to the greater public eye of scrutiny (which I would say would be the indicators showcased in these studies) and then I'd lay on my bedroom floor at night curled up into a ball sobbing until I couldn't breathe, wishing I had a pistol. What 'study' is going to be able to document that?

"Scientifically, maybe there's not a distinction, but in reality there is. And even if it's slight, we're still talking about people. People who are killing themselves, or thinking about it. This is not okay.

"I think the difference is even starker among gay mormons, who face even more problems with the added difficulties of deep-rooted, socio-cultural belief, faith, and stigma that completely envelops them. Every gay person I've ever known has considered or attempted suicide. I first tried when I was 12. How does that make me 'just as healthy, resilient, and positive' as other youth? I don't think it does. I think he's off base.

"Again, people are dying. I know of 4 gay mormons in utah alone who killed themselves this year. And then there are the ones in the media that prompt our attention... these are only the ones that make it into the headlines. How many don't?

"I don't want to judge him the way he's judging kids, but I find it interesting that he uses the term "same-sex attraction." Pretty sure he just pegged himself as a Mormon. I don't know that that word exists outside LDS circles. And I won't go into what that would allow me to say about his motives and arguments. Granted, I could also be wrong.

"Likewise, I don't understand his claim about bullies. Just because we talk about gay teens struggling to adjust and identify in healthy, happy ways doesn't mean that we are actively empowering bullies. This statement is logical fallacy at best - they don't relate. Bullies are inherently empowered to begin with. That's the whole essence of 'bully' - power over someone else.

"I feel like he's trying to bully these results and the larger message being put out into something he wants to see; something he wants to believe in order to do exactly what I said at the beginning: ignore that the problem even exists in the hopes it will go away and won't affect him. Well, it will go away. After all the gay kids are dead.

"That said, the one thing I *do* agree with very strongly is that this IS the best time to be young and gay. When I was in High School, I wouldn't have dared come out in a million years. When I came out at BYU I was alone with my pain, fear, and confusion. Now we have the Trevor Project, the It Gets Better campaign, prominent gays in the media and politics (we even have a gay city council member here in Salt Lake); it's way more socially acceptable to be gay. So it is getting better.

"On the other hand, kids are still dying. And yes, gay kids ARE fragile, and we can't ignore that. All teens are fragile - trying to find ways to healthily adjust and determine who and how they will be. Gay teens, I feel, have a harder time because they have to find ways to reconcile their faith with their feelings. Others can just build their feelings and self around their faith with no problems. Gay people can't because the two are mutually exclusive and completely antagonistic. Well, maybe that's too dichotomous of me. They do not fit easily together. When you have yet to establish your core identity and struggle internally on a daily basis, what do you have to draw upon to stand up and defend yourself against a bully? I definitely never was able to. And even if it doesn't show up scientifically, I have plenty of examples from my life and the lives of my friends. I always believe my reality and my experience over some ambiguous, biasedly-hand-picked, made-up 90% opinion.

"Today I'm not depressed, anxious, or attempting suicide, and consider myself resilient and positive - but this is on the other side of a 2-year HELL [OTR votes the hell was much longer than two years. 10? 27?] the likes of which you will probably never understand. Yes, I got there, but it cost me SO much. So which teens is he measuring? Just the ones who made it and didn't die?"

1 comment:

Julia said...

Yeah, I definitely agree with your assessment. And I've never heard it called "same-sex attraction" outside of mormon-dom.

And I don't disagree that now is the best time to be a gay-teen, but... it still sucks. Lol