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Monday, October 18, 2010

One-Third of Gay Middle Schoolers In S.F. Have Attempted Suicide, Study Claims

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 3:59 PM

The recent coverage of gay teen suicides has the country on high alert, with even President Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, speaking out against bullying. While many of the "It Gets Better" videos on YouTube feature people talking about their horrendous experiences growing up in less liberal and gay-friendly locales than our flaming city of St. Francis, a frightening percentage of queer kids here have attempted to kill themselves. According to recent studies, 34 percent of gay middle schoolers, and 23 percent of high schoolers had attempted suicide in the last year alone. 

Those stats are just part of the results from two surveys conducted in the city's public middle and high schools from 2007 to 2009, tallying responses from more than 80 percent of the student body. Here's some more:

  • 34 percent of middle schoolers identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) had attempted suicide in the last year -- compared to 7 percent of hetero kids. Forty-three percent of LGB students had made a suicide plan; 56 percent had seriously considered suicide

  • In high school, the numbers go down -- a bit. Twenty-three percent had attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 31 percent who'd made a plan, and 38 percent who'd seriously considered suicide.

While the San Francisco school district was the first in the country to establish support services for LGBTQ youth 20 years ago, it seems anti-gay slurs are rampant within the city's schools: 84 percent of middle schoolers had heard slurs like "fag," "dyke," or "that's so gay," thrown around, while only 59 percent had ever heard teachers or staff stop students from making those remarks.

"Definitely, to an extent, there's homophobia," says Taica Hsu, the faculty adviser of the Gay Straight Alliance at Mission High School. "I still hear 'that's so gay' in the hallways, and the f-word."

As far as experiencing actual violence, queer kids are more likely to get in fights. Forty-six percent of gay high schoolers had been in a fight, while only 20 percent of hetero kids had in the past year. Things get even worse for transgender kids: 56 percent report being in a physical fight.

Gay kids were also astronomically more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or use cocaine, inhalants, or marijuana.   

So how many gay students are we talking about here? Some 12 percent of middle schoolers considered themselves LGBTQ (with the largest amount, predictably at that age, identifying as "Q," or questioning). In high school, 10 percent of high schoolers identified as LGBTQ. One percent of all students identified as transgender.

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Lauren Smiley


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