Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Her family reported that this girl was questioning her sexuality, underscoring this tragedy and highlighting the reality that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) youth comprise an unacceptably large percentage of youth suicides in Maine.
Middle schools are the newest institutions coping with our changing culture. At increasingly younger ages, our country's young people receive messages about and explore their own sexuality. Research has taught us that differently gendered or oriented children know they are different before the age of 10.
Our school teachers and administrators need to be trained in the sexuality issues of this younger age group.
Maine's new anti-bullying legislation is an important first step. Helping all of our kids feel welcome in our schools, however, requires more than anti-bullying policies.
All children who are bullied, regardless of the reason, need adults who are willing to take notice, step up and speak out at the first sign of trouble.
For LGBTQ youth, we need to provide visible and audible reminders that LGBTQ people are well-represented in our communities: teachers, community leaders, authors, inventors, bankers, etc.
They need safe spaces that provide a place for them to explore who they are and how they can stand tall in our communities.
They need help and support in finding their voices and how they can best contribute to our community at large.
Out! As I Want to Be is a group that provides affirmation, support, guidance, advocacy and education to LGBTQ young people and their allies ages 14 to 22 in Midcoast Maine and its offshore islands.
We offer an evening drop-in in Rockland for interested people every Wednesday and Friday. We offer a telephone lifeline for isolated rural youth: 800-530-6997.
We grieve that we don't reach every LGBTQ youth in need.
Our youth members responded to news about the Mt. View student's suicide by initiating the drafting of letters to fellow young people, urging them not to consider taking their own lives. As a community, we need to provide alternatives to suicide.
Out! is working to establish GSTAs (Gay, Straight, Trans Alliances) and Safe Spaces in all of our schools. We ask others to join us in our grief and in our work to build communities where all of our kids can thrive.
Together, we can build on our state's support for equality for all to make our schools and communities safe, supportive environments for each and every youth.
Dora Lievow is president of the board of directors of Out! As I Want to Be.