Gay Teen Suicides

I’ve been afraid to write about the recent suicides by gay teenagers.

Suicide comes in waves. One person kills himself. Others hear about it and imitate. An epidemic begins. Even talking about it can make the problem worse. DC had an outbreak of suicides on the Metro last year, partly because it’s difficult to hush up a Metro suicide.

The kids in the news who have been killing themselves all share a connection — each was bullied because of perceived or actual sexual orientation. I can only presume, prudently, that a network effect may be taking place, and it frightens me that I might become a part of it.

Outside that, it’s unclear to me why matters have come to a head just now. Gay teen suicide is nothing new. One third of all teens who commit suicide are gay. And those are just the ones we know about. If I’d killed myself as a teen, no one would have known I was gay. At the time I was planning it, I had no intention of telling.

So pardon my cynicism, but is there really a sudden outbreak of gay teen suicide? Or is it just a sudden outbreak of our media giving a shit? If it’s the latter, then great — except maybe that it’s leading more kids to kill themselves.

I’ve been watching a lot of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign on YouTube, and as you can probably guess, I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand: Hell yes it gets better. I’ve got my own house, a husband, a daughter, supportive friends, and a work environment where I can’t even imagine getting the treatment I faced in high school. The haters still exist, but they mostly work in Congress or the hip hop industry, so I don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis.

On the other hand: It’s not enough to have a YouTube campaign with dozens of gay and lesbian adults coming forward and saying, “Yeah, high school is hell on earth. Everyone suffers there. It passes.”

It may offer hope, and hope is great, but it’s simply not enough that when you’re an adult, you get to move on. We need to face down the problem of high school itself. Rather than focus on the tragedies, let’s look at the deeply weird, deeply authoritarian place that is high school. Let’s look at how it’s set up, which seems designed only to foster cliques, to identify scapegoats, and to stomp out all individual differences. How a place like this can possibly be a good thing for our society is beyond me.

High school seems made to hurt, which is insane. I knew this back when I was in high school. I faced it every day. I also knew of social spaces for people my age that weren’t designed to hurt. I could never understand why I faced abuse by my schoolmates, but not by the friends I found outside my school. In time, we developed a social circle composed entirely of outcasts, and we had some great, great times together. But that only made me ask all the more insistently: Why is high school the way it is, not just for gay-identified kids, but for all kids?

I’m thrilled that adults are finally coming around and remembering that time in their lives, and looking at it without the usual romantic platitudes. (“The best years of your life,” my ass. If I’d ever believed that, I most certainly would have pulled the trigger.) But what can we do?

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91 thoughts on “Gay Teen Suicides

  1. Well since kids are like adults but simultaneously unjaded, sensitive and savagely cruel I don’t know what can actually be done about it.

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    • I’m not prepared to blame it on kids just being kids. As I said, I had some good times in high school, but only in settings divorced from the school environment itself.

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      • @Jason Kuznicki, What I’m saying is that adult intervention to prevent hurt feelings, whether in the form of anti-bullying campaigns, administrator intervention or innumerable studies from the social sciences, has been a pet project of liberals for decades and has had, as far as I know, highly limited success.

        Is there something that can be done that isn’t? I’m unsure, but being the neoliberal that I am I’m skeptical.

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        • @North,

          I agree that adult intervention usually does backfire. Worse, it can sometimes raise some troubling constitutional issues.

          But compelling a student to endure someone else’s threatening speech — and often much worse than speech — is also wrong.

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          • @Jason Kuznicki, I concurr Jason, and anywhere that institutional persecution still persists it should doubtlessly be destroyed root and branch. But even if every school administrator were even handed and fair the misery of these students would continue at the hands of their peers.

            But if you have any ideas I’m all down for listening, I don’t have any of my own which is part of my cynicism on the matter.

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        • @North, The trouble is that high school is an authoritarian environment. Authoritarian environment cause people to find ways to assert their in-group status, since being part of the out-group is horrible. Unfortunately one of the easiest way to do that is to find someone else more-obviously-different to push into the out-group. Were it a normal, non-authoritarian place of the kind most adults inhabit their day-to-day lives, the out-group people will simply go somewhere more congenial, but of course it isn’t – you have to show up and play out certain approvide behaviours regardless of whether you want to or think you might have better uses for your time.

          In my (obviously very limited) experience it is possible to ameliorate this by making the institution itself a bit less authoritarian, and there’s a good deal of theory about this – see eg. Montessori (sp?) schools and Steiner schools. These philosophies unfortunately are not very mainstream, since most adults want their childrens schools to be at least somewhat authoritarian. Unfortunately that affects the nature of anti-bullying campaigns too – the normal anti-bullying campaign consists of punishing bullies, which while it might “work” in the sense of reducing the number of really unpleasant abusive incidents, worsens the problem with the institution by introducing even more constraints on normal expression. At the very best it simply redirects the in-group/out-group identification to put all the students in the in-group.

          There’s some kind of microcosm of ill-advised coercive interventions in all of this …

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            • @North, Sadly this isn’t even remotely new – The first Montessori school opened in 1907, and the first Steiner school opened in 1919. They had their heyday in the 1970s, since hippy parents understood at least partially that something was wrong with the normal schooling model. They’ve declined somewhat or at least stopped growing so quickly since – sadly parents, teachers and school boards for various reasons often want childrens education to be at least somewhat authoritarian.

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  2. Yeah, I hated high school, tried to kill myself, and just about flunked out. Funny thing is I didn’t want to share the fact that I just about flunked out with anyone in my graduate program. But it came up at a grad student dinner and I discovered that just about everyone in our PhD program had either nearly flunked out or done terribly in high school.

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    • @Rufus F., That’s because people who do well in University and are genuinely unique and self-motivated often do horrendous in High School, but fabulous in University because they enjoy learning… not being force fed.

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  3. I agree high school is deeply screwed up these days. We expect children to put up with stuff we would never accept in a workplace.. I despised high school and got into 4 fist fights(2-2). Since high school I haven’t been in fight since and I don’t anticipate it happening again.

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  4. The funny thing is, it’s been known that kids kill themselves because of being gay for about twenty years. It’s not like this is something new. Why do we all of the sudden care now?

    The other question I have is what can we do? Do we start locking up bullies? Can we really create an environment where no one will ever be taunted. I don’t have the answer.

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    • @Dennis Sanders,

      Instead of locking up bullies you could try in school suspension, out of school suspension, sending them to an alternative school. Contacting their parents and letting them know that this is not to be tolerated.

      In addition the administrators and teachers could stop participating in the stigmatization.

      I’ve heard the statistics frequently from FoF types as an argument for how harmful being gay is. Which disgusts me as people like them are why the rate is so high for gay kids.

      I don’t know why the media cares now but people on the gay rights front have been trying to help for years but repeatedly blocked by people paranoid about the homosexual agenda and “anti-christian” discrimination.

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      • @ThatPirateGuy, Conversely, you could address the problem better with the kids being bullied. What Jason is talking about with other social spaces. Here in Hamilton, they let the kids leave for lunch hour and go eat with their friends off campus- I remember lunch being terrible for the kids who were bullied. A more extreme example- I was sent to a satellite program for the “emotionally disturbed” for my “bizarre behavior”- it was a bad situation, but the environment they created there was much more nurturing and treated our teenage drama as something worth addressing constructively. Also, I should note that my problems at the “normal” high school were not with the kids as much as bullying administrators and teachers who felt that the nail that sticks up should be hammered down.

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  5. Get rid of the government indoctrination centers and force parents to be responsible for raising their own children rather than placing them in a Lord of the Flies socialization experiment.

    Why in the hell do you want teenagers socializing other teenagers? They’re animals! Have adults do it!

    This notion of “adolescence” is also seriously in need of an overhaul. They should be apprentices somewhere. Interns. Learning responsibility rather than self-esteem.

    How many more folks would be protected if we assumed that Hobbes was right instead of trying to keep forcing folks into a Lockean model of how the world works and then being surprised when people turn out to be only a few steps away from howling barbarism?

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    • @Jaybird, Well I believe the cult of self esteem has run its course (finally), and produced a charming crop of young entitled douche bags to show for it.
      Certainly in the US I am puzzled by the lack of affection for trade schools. I’ve heard you can make a decent living as a plumber so long as you don’t mind -working- for a living.

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      • @North, Give it a few years and you’ll need a masters degree to get a business license to work as a plumber. My Mum, who has been a physical therapist more or less since it officially became a real profession and therefore did not have official qualifications, was recently horrified to discover that some entry level PT jobs in the US now require a masters degree.

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            • @greginak,
              Greg, I won’t deny that there is purpose to licensing. I’m not an anti-licensing absolutist. But surely you can concede that a great deal of licensing represents turf protecting on the part of already established practitioners. They get to erect barriers to new entrants and increase their fees. Look at taxi cab companies or hairdressers for example.

              I love liberalism, especially social liberalism, but we’d do well to confront some of our older more useless habits, especially in the economic sphere and double especially when it comes to government regulation of small businesses.

              Liberal’s love of regulation and idiocies like rent control are the equivalent of conservative’s love of eighteenth century social laws; they’re generally useless, don’t accomplish what we want them to and people hate us for them.

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  6. As a Mom, to me it is the competition between parents to have their kids be the “cool” ones. The cliques and politics of PTA, parents groups etc is translated into social status among the kids. I stood up to the bullying of the “Stepford Wives” moms who ran our school and worked with like minded parents to change the atmosphere of at least our local elementary school. In middle school, where 7 different elementary schools feed into it, working with school administation to make a zero tolerance policy on bullying, name calling or othering of children and educating parents on how their actions are modeled by their children…(giving examples without using names made people turn and look at the parents in question because their behavior was so recognizable). Taking a stand and saying this is not acceptable behavior for our children, or our parents made transitioning into that hormone soup called adolescence easier. There still is the divides among, jocks, brains, geeks, etc but by being a vocal advocate for zero tolerance for “othering” of any person for any reason helps build tolerance, acceptance and fosters friendships across the divides. Teaching children to speak up, with out fear of shaming and enlisting parents to cut out the jockeying for position is the key. My oldest son once asked me “Mom, why do some people have kids if all they are using them for is social status?” I still don’t have an answer but I am grateful that I have raised two young men who stand up for themselves and for others.

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    • @Teri, What a great question your son asked! One thing I realized when I was still a teen was that the biggest bullying jerks in school inevitably have the common denominator of bullying jerk parents. Miserable people try to make others miserable too.

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  7. I had no idea high school was this miserable for so many people. I had the usual gripes when I was a teenager – mindless school work, over-bearing parents, jackass classmates etc. – but I never wanted to kill myself. Maybe the real problem is a lack of awareness – the vast majority of us have no idea that high school can be this cruel to certain people.

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    • @Will,

      I’d like to relate that for people like me who had it rough in school but not as bad as the people we are worried about I find this expectations based on blindness in myself as well.

      Only it goes the other way. I can’t imagine anyone finding high school anything other than a hell-scape. I am still shocked when I meet men who have never been in a fist-fight. the first time I heard someone say that I was blown away that someone could make it to adulthood without someone trying to beat them up.

      As a kid with ADHD the school system decided to put me in separate classes with all the children with special needs including the ones with mental disabilities. This and my extra energy and behavior painted a target on my back for both the other students and the people in charge. I finally stopped having to have my entire school day wasted in middle school but I still spent hours simply reading my science book as the teachers had to monitor the kids who could not take care of themselves.

      I had almost zero friends a condition that lasted through most of high school and that only abated in college. I am so glad that I knew as a simple matter of fact that I would be going to college and that it would be better. College had some truly terrible(you don’t want to know, yes it did include a brief flirtation with suicide) moments but it was better. After college ie the real world was so much better that I can say with no doubt that if college and high school were the worst years of my life.

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      • @ThatPirateGuy, I would have thought the old Junior High school years were the worst (7,8,9th grade). By 10th grade things settle down as well as some who don’t want to be in school just leaving. Now with todays middle schools, it moved the last year into the high school.

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        • @Lyle,

          I agree. Junior High, (grades 7-9 where I lived), had much more backbiting and bullying. For me it was a big relief to get to high school. People seemed much more mature and willing to accept one another, at least where I went.

          I do think that different schools will have different cultures, and some will foster more or less of this type of behavior. I think that it would be worthwhile to have anthropological studies of many schools in the US and around the world so that we can better identify what circumstances foster better school cultures.

          But, I fear that heavy-handed, top-down measures to try to change student behavior are doomed to fail or even backfire. And I cringe whenever I hear someone use the phrase “zero-tolerance,” in connection with education. To me “zero-tolerance” is just a code-phrase for “dispense with any reasoning or common sense.”

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  8. “I’m thrilled that adults are finally coming around and remembering that time in their lives, and looking at it without the usual romantic platitudes.”

    Yeah. That’s good. But I’d caution about going too far in the other direction. Yeah, high school sucked and it should be better. But I imagine that no matter what system you develop, there is some percentage of people who are going to flounder emotionally, socially and/or intellectually. Ten percent, maybe?

    Yes. A lot of people are pretty much tortured in school, but I think the number of people who exaggerate their athletic glory days is probably matched by the number of people who exaggerate how unpopular they were.

    Some people should probably file lawsuits. But others should probably get over it. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to tell the difference ten years later. Worse, I think it’s hard to tell when it’s happening. When I look back and think about the real outcasts in my class, which ones were unfairly scorned and which ones were pains in the ass who nobody should have to get along with? Honestly, I can’t say.

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    • Congratulations, you’ve written the single most despicable thing I’ve ever read here at the League.

      If ten percent of students want to kill themselves, wow, that’s just too bad. And where did that number come from? I can’t imagine.

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      • @Jason Kuznicki,

        Well, I honestly apologize. I did not mean for it to be despicable in any way, and as I re-read it, I guess I can see how it can be taken that way. So allow me to recast it:

        I am not saying ” to hell with the people who are truly outcast and hurting.”

        Rather, I am saying that kids are incredibly melodramatic, and a great many of them FEEL like they are hard put outcasts with nowhere to turn. I felt like that all the time. But when I look back, I recognize that I was pretty much a middle of the road kid, reasonably popular and accepted. But in the haze or hormones and perceived slights, I moped around half the time like the world was crashing around me.

        That’s the thing, though. I never seriously contemplated suicide. But I am not sure how–or if–even the most well-intentioned adult would be able to tell the difference between me and the kids who really, truly needed help.

        So here’s what I mean: Sometime a black trenchcoat is just a black trenchcoat. Sometimes it’s a little more than that, a signal of struggle and acting out. Other times, it’s a blaring siren that says, “I am right on the edge, and I am ready to hurt myself or somebody else.”

        I worry that given the level of this stuff going on, the signal to noise ration might make it impossible to sort through this in a productive way, and in order to do something about it we end up spinning our wheels, instituting zero-tolerance policies that have us expel kids for bringing Advil to school instead of actually doing anything.

        Like you… I am not sure what to do about that.

        Again, I apologize for being the creep of the day, but that’s not how I intended it.

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        • Apology accepted. It was the 10% bit that set me off, to be honest. It seemed to say — snidely — that gay kids are always just like that, and, hey, oh well.

          10% as you may know is the infamous number of primarily not-straight men in the Kinsey report. This isn’t the time or place to argue about the accuracy of the number (I think it’s almost certainly too high), but it is iconic. It says something special in this context.

          My own personal experience doesn’t bear out the idea that depressed teenagers can’t be helped much. For the first three years of high school, I was pretty despondent, and yes, I considered suicide. Then in the summer of my junior year I entered a very different social situation, a new job that I adored, and a new circle of friends that went with it. My entire life changed overnight, and I’ve never been similarly depressed again. Even when school was awful — and it often was — I’d at least have the weekends to look forward to, and I could spend them with my new friends.

          So… at least for some, environment can matter.

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          • @Jason Kuznicki,

            Actually, I just made that number up as conjecture. I was not familiar with the Kinsey report, or at least I had forgotten about it.

            That’s the thing. I think it’s incredibly difficult to quantify who’s in real trouble (and I mean trouble in terms of real emotional peril, not gay versus straight). I know really brilliant school administrators. They are actually working to make sense of it. And kids are such a mess in general that it’s really hard to figure out who needs help. Excpet it retrospect, of course. Some kid goes over the edge and hurts somebody, and it’s really easy to look through his stuff and find all these obvious warning signs. Only… they aren’t obvious at all except in retrospect.

            I agree that it’s possible to help. The incredibly hard part if figuring out who needs it. As mentioned, I didn’t. But I can imagine a set of circumstances emerging in which I would have done something stupid.

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        • @Sam M, I read your first comment the same way Jason did, and probably for the same reason. “Ten percent” is so well-known in the LGBT community that it’s even the name of a successful company that markets to LGBT’s and their supporters.

          So, the first paragraph of your first comment reads as an exquisitely turned verbal javelin saying that high schools should be the crucibles they are precisely to cause as many gay suicides as possible.

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        • @Sam M,
          For the record, I have wore a lack trench coat in highschool (not a duster!). A decade removed from it, my coat of choice is still a black trenchcoat from London Fog. I replace them every 6-7 years.

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    • @Sam M,

      Sorry, but you are right. There are always going to be those that flounder in high school as well as life. Liberals seem to think that with enough gov’t intervention that human nature can be changed but they are wrong. I was a nerd in high school, wasn’t popular and hated all four years but sucked it up and drove on.

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      • @Scott,

        I guess Jason was right that this is how it came across. But I really didn’t mean it that way. Yes, some people need to just move on. But some subset of the population cannot, either because of their own internal turmoil, or because the system really does treat them incredibly cruelly. I see no sense in telling these people to “suck it up.” And certainly don’t see this as a liberal/conservative issue. You want to see preposterous, counter-productive zero tolerance policies, ask around. I think conservatives are just as likely to make this mistake as liberals, if not more so.

        Bleh. I disagree entirely.

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        • @Robert Cheeks,

          Me? Depends. Most people I know, looking back, tend to magnify their awkwardness. Very few people want to claim to have been the cool kid, for whatever reason.

          The best modifier for me would have been “bookish.” I played football, not incredibly well, but I played. I got in trouble for drinking beer. I had no game for the ladies, though, so that places me where? I would say in the normal-popular range. Didn’t feel like it at the time, though.

          In college, I guess I was “popular,” but that term hardly means anything in college. I mean I drank a lot of beer and didn’t study so hard that anybody thought it strange. Still no game for the ladies, though. Dammit.

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      • @Scott,

        I have one simple rule that if enforced would fix the situation without having to change human nature.

        If it would get you fired from a corporate job if you did it to a fellow employee, then the school should punish you for doing it. If you still keep doing it then you should be kicked out.

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  9. A while back Matt Steinglass wrote about bullying. The below quote may be useful in thinking about what can be done, pragmatically, tangibly, right now for these bullied kids in high school:

    “I have to confess that I’ve often taken a skeptical attitude towards the new prominence of anti-bullying campaigns. Kids have always bullied each other, and with little data to suggest the problem is any worse now than it has been in the past, other issues seemed more pressing.

    But I’m pretty sure my instinctive hesitancy on this point is wrong… research suggests anti-bullying programs in schools work fairly well…something really has changed in adolescence since the advent of the internet… The term “cyberbullying” is one of those faddish media-hyped scare labels that generally signals the presence of much smoke and little fire, but in this case the change is real…”

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/03/bullying

    I think what people said above is correct: we expect high school kids to put up with abuse that would never be allowed in an adult workplace.

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  10. Anecdotally, back in ’64, my senior hs year, we had a buddy “Richard” who ran with the rich kids from the blvd. Richard (never Dick) was effeminite and riotously funny with sight gags and irony and humor. Everyone liked Richard and no one, I ever heard, made disparaging remarks or bullied or threatened or mocked. Richard was Richard and he was just one of us. His sexual Orientation wasn’t even considered, at least not by my crew and he kids I knew. Richard was fairly ‘popular.’
    After hs, maybe two years, the minds a bit fuzzy, Richard killed himself. I forget the particulars but I remember thinking ….why, why would he do that. It never occurred to me that he has ‘issues.’
    Ironically, yesterday I asked my old hs pal, Butch-the-Greek about Richard. The above is what, between the two of us, we remembered about one human being’s life.
    The thing about it is that both Butch and I would have defended Richard if some assholes would have bothered him. Butch and I rather enjoyed that sort of thing, what with him Greek and me an “Irishtown” Mick. Kids today are sheep. Back in the day some of the kids pissed into the wind.
    But, our grades were just average.

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  11. Jason,

    “Rather than focus on the tragedies, let’s look at the deeply weird, deeply authoritarian place that is high school. Let’s look at how it’s set up, which seems designed only to foster cliques, to identify scapegoats, and to stomp out all individual differences. … High school seems made to hurt, which is insane.”

    Like Will, I had a pretty mild time in high school. I didn’t have trouble moving between cliques or being eccentric. So while I can guess at what you’re talking about, I never had any immediate experience of social structures of cruelty. I know such structures were there, and regrettably I think I participated in them on a few occasions, but from my perspective, high school never seemed made to hurt. So I’m interested in hearing more ideas, or at least identifying particular problems in the design of high school. (E.g., Rufus seems to be right about lunchrooms.)

    -wrb

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  12. The reason Dan Savage started the ‘It Gets Better’ via YouTube is that advocates/support groups for LGBT kids are usually not allowed anywhere near high school students who need it most. So he’s trying to reach them and, I expect, trying to bring that fact to the forefront enough to actually get gay high school kids access to the kind of support that is currently denied them.

    I don’t think the point is to minimize bullying (though I’m sure Mr. Savage would be very much in favor of that) but to try and reach those kids that are without hope and teetering on the edge of suicide. Bullying is a major factor in those feelings, but also the subtler psychological damage of hiding who you are, of believing there is no one out there you can trust are also major factors.

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    • @Plinko,

      I wish Dan Savage and others who want to help would pay more attention to the fact that a very large part of kids’ feeling that they are “without hope and teetering on the edge of suicide” is due to the fact that they can’t reason through their stress. It is a fact that the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s center for sound decision-making, impulse control, and consideration of consequences — isn’t fully formed until the mid- to late-twenties. Kids think they know everything and can take care of themselves, but they literally lack the ability to think themselves out of a crisis (real or perceived).

      By no means am I belittling the horror of stigmatization or of bullying, but I think most adults are missing the real danger. It’s not depression, or drugs, or jackasses. It’s the kid’s own physiological shortcomings that is the real risk — gay or straight.

      Get these kids to acknowledge they actually have limitations and offer them a trusted sounding board to think things through, and I’m sure suicide rates will drop a lot.

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  13. K-hairdressers- beats me, realtor’s- meh, they probably should know the various laws, doctor, pilots, electricians, etc- yes they should be licensed. While i don’t see the need for barbers or psychics to be licensed i also can’t see how it is some major drag on the economy. i’m sure that is only my own blindness. I also don’t trust professional orgs to police themselves and their members all that well given the obvious mixed loyalties and incentives.

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    • @gregiank, For one example Greg; why are taxi rates so high? Why are they so scarce in many big cities? Answer; because the barriers to entry due to medallions and licensing requirements prevent new competitors from easily entering the market. Customers suffer, people who want to start cab companies suffer but existing cab companies make bank.

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      • @North, Don’t know much about cab rates. I don’t think i’m disagreeing with you, i think some licensing is a waste, but certainly not all. Just because some requirement keeps some competitors out doesn’t mean its bad. Keeping some nefarious or unethical people out of field is what licensing is supposed to do. Of course licensed people will push the value of their license for obvious reasons and try to keep out people who don’t like the license requirement, that, in itself, does’t make the requirement bad.

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        • @gregiank, I don’t believe all licensing is bad Greg, but at the moment the natural momentum is in favor of licensing regardless of benefit or harm. So I feel that licensing should be viewed very skeptically and we really should explore if it is possible to unlicensed an industry.

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      • @North,

        With all due respect….this argument presupposes that a market economy is the be-all and end-all of humanity. Boo-hoo for the poor businesspeople who can’t get into the market because of EEVIL GUBMINT REGULASHUN!!! OH NOES!!!

        Licensing exists as a sort of prior restraint to prevent businesses or individuals from engaging in stupid acts which can’t be remediated, whether it’s as simple as burning a customer’s scalp with a bad perm or leaving dioxins in the environment. Stating that litigation is the answer – which is to say, redress – is, pardon the expression, complete horseshit. Libertarians make this argument knowing full well that it’s disingenuous – all too often, the victim of corporate bad acts can’t be compensated, either because the damage can’t be reasonably assessed (plastic surgery scarring, anyone?) or because the victim is dead and his/her heirs (assuming that same exist) are able to mount litigation which they can fund through the end of the process, and can afford the risk of an unfavorable outcome.

        It’s a calculated risk taken by businesses, and it essentially bets that the losers will be sufficiently injured or otherwise incapacitated to take action against bad actors. It’s a libertarian position taken with the credulity-stretching assumption that human beings are always rational actors with sufficient resources to defend themselves.

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        • @Matt, Boo-hoo for the poor businesspeople who can’t get into the market because of EEVIL GUBMINT REGULASHUN!!! OH NOES!!!

          Let me rephrase this for those of you at home.

          “Tough shit for the human beings who want to earn a living but are prevented from doing so by established players who have colluded with the government to create barriers to entry.”

          Which means that people who want to get semi-skilled jobs need to pay money to the established guilds before they’re allowed to braid hair or drive a car.

          The best part is that the people who are keeping these (mostly poor, disproportionately minority) from getting jobs can hide behind how they’re doing it for the children when, really, they’re racists who hate the idea of a black middle class.

          Well, let me just say boo-hoo for racists.

          Yay.

          Discussion.

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        • @Matt, Matt, it does not presuppose anything is a be all or end all. Markets are merely the best method we’ve found in a couple centuries of experimentation for allocating scarce resources efficiently and equitably. No one claims it’s a panacea but the absence of any superior alternative has been demonstrated over and over.
          You also seem to be presupposing that licensing is an issue only for big eeevil corporations when in fact the majority of licensing impacts small businesses and individual proprietorships and partnerships. Large corporations actually rather like licensing, it puts a fence around their business to keep scary competitors out.

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          • @North, No one claims markets are a panacea? You can’t be serious. Have you ever actually listened to a Republican justify his or her economic positions? If only the market fetishists were so intellectually honest.

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            • @DKF, Since I am no republican and carry no water for the party I don’t have anything to say on that. Just because Republicans are wingnuts (and worse, dishonest wingnuts since they don’t govern like market fetishists when in power) doesn’t mean that Dems need to be idiots in the opposite direction. A little economic brains would do the party good and regulating for the sake of regulating while calling businesses evil strikes me as idiocy; just as idiotic as Republican rhetorical market worship just in the opposite direction.

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            • @DKF, So….you’re not outting yourself as a Republican sympathizer?
              Frankly, I thought your comments were logical and representative of common sense, something of which far to many of our interlocutors have any knowledge.

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            • @DKF,

              It does seem that Republicans say this. And then they do things that aren’t pro-market, like creating prison cartels for corporate special interests, or no-bid government contracts for their friends.

              Most things that favor corporations aren’t pro-market. They are only pro-corporation. But they are sold to the public with the rhetoric of the market. Alas.

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  14. “Liberal licensing cabals?” Liberals’ “love of regulation?” Liberals who believe that human nature can be changed through government intervention? Who the hell are these weird cartoon liberals you people are talking about? I have never in my life encountered an actual liberal like that. Of all the fallacies, I think I hate the strawman most.

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  15. isn’t a lot of trouble in high school come because incompatible teenageer forced to spend their time in close space together

    a sprawling high school with lot of open ground or
    breaking it into several high school probably help

    my high school is alot better from junior high
    because there are two high school near my house
    they have different culture
    and most student gravitate to one
    based on their temperament or friend

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  17. First, let’s dispense with this:

    “The haters still exist, but they mostly work in Congress or the hip hop industry, so I don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis.”

    That’s not just cheap snark, it’s pollyannaish bullshit, and any functional adult knows this to be true.

    Furthermore, the “haters” do not restrict themselves to the LBGT community. There’s plenty of malice in the world. Ask the fat kid, or the kid with a stutter, or the kid with a frustrated athelete for a father, or an overbearing mother; ask the kid with Asperger’s or dyslexia or acne…

    David Hwang shrewdly observed that “there’s no guarantee of failure in life like happiness in high school.” C’est la vie. As such, high school is not the problem; the problem is acquiescence. Life is hard for almost everybody. There is a fortunate few who are exceptions to this rule, and there is the pathetic demographic that tries to wish it away.

    And then there’s the rest of us. High school is a model of life, which is an exercise in difficulty.

    “Fix high school…” Right. Let’s see you flesh out this plan.

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    • @unclesmedley,

      “The haters still exist, but they mostly work in Congress or the hip hop industry…”

      This was cheap snark. So snarky, and so cheap, that it stood for days before anyone thought to challenge it. I’m very, very obviously not making a demographic claim, so if you want to tilt at that particular windmill, be my guest.

      As to how I’d reform high school, are you familiar with the unschooling movement? I think there’s a lot to be said for it, personally. Outside of such radical solutions, see elsewhere on this thread, where you’ll find links to anti-bullying programs and their studied effectiveness.

      Sorry, man. Kids are killing themselves. That ought to be a sign that something is seriously wrong. If that’s not a sign to you, then I’m not sure what ever could be.

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      • @Jason Kuznicki,

        “Sorry, man. Kids are killing themselves.”

        This appears to be the truth, but perhaps not the complete truth. What I mean is, is this confined to high school? Or does the propensity to commit suicide follow gay people later into life? I poked around and saw a few studies, most of which seem to indicate an elevated risk at least up to the age of 40.

        So yes, a problem. But perhaps a wider one than what we are worrying about here. I am not sure that you can “fix” high school, or rightly blame it for wider problems. Whatever biases exist there will continue to follow people after graduation.

        You can unschool, but you can’t “un” a whole lot of other things.

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        • @Sam M,

          By the way, I am not syaing that there is a genetic component to suicide, or that gay people are inherently more likely to kill themselves. What I mean is, gay people clearly face a lot of bias, and it seems that its relationship to suicide is not something confined to high school.

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          • @Sam M,

            Could you cite your source? I ask for two reasons.

            First, there are many studies out there that were crafted deliberately to make gay people look like they have much worse life outcomes than they actually do. These have tended to have severe methodological problems, but because many people find them ideologically convincing, they get passed around a lot anyway.

            Second, I’d be astonished if one third of adult suicides were of gays and lesbians. That’s the number for youth.

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            • @Jason Kuznicki,

              Finding reputable studies is a problem. A have seen some mention of one from P-FLAG, another from Genre magazine. On the clinical side, most things seem to reference studies done in the late 90s, or all the way back to the 70s. The best round-up of these is at the CDC (Canada) website:

              http://people.ucalgary.ca/~ptrembla/gay-lesbian-bisexual/2g-gay-suicide-study.htm

              It’s not the prettiest site, but it has a round-up stating that to age 37, gay men are 5-6 more like to kill themselves than straight men.

              I cannot speak to the veracity of it, and I agree that the question is explosive enough for people on either side of this culture war to toy with the numbers. All that being said, all of the studies that I dug up on short notice point to an increased likelihood of suicide.

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      • You speak of anti-bullying programs as a panacea: Please. I’m no a professional educator, but I am an active, involved student of education–both “special” and “neuro-typical.” I’m in the schools, I read the literature and I see the consequences of the metastasization of the anti-bullying craze, and I’ll tell you this:

        This “code” of unnatural nicety has reached such a degree of zero-tolerance as to diverge from being a useful tool in the service of civility, to a likely vector for the spike in suicidal behavior.

        When we insulate our children from disappointment–hermetically and from birth–and expect them to suddenly cultivate as teenagers, the coping and problem-solving skills necessary to function in the real world, we do them no favors.

        We need to acquaint our children with disappointment, early and often, under controlled circumstances, so the ferocity of human nature’s dark side doesn’t come as such a shock as to drive them to suicide. To spirit away the mean kid at the first hint of misbehavior is but the path of least resistance for those who we pay to look after our kids. To pretend that grown-ups are never nasty is an out-and-out toxic lie.

        Sometimes, people suck. This needs to be part of the curriculum. Tolerance is a laudable goal, but a dangerous expectation. We all have our biases, our foibles, our inner demons. Sometimes people are disliked for who or what they are. Sometimes, we really are all alone. Sometimes, life sucks.

        You speak of “unschooling” and call me quixotic.

        The first step toward solving a problem is identifying it for what it is–and it ain’t high school.

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        • @unclesmedley,

          You speak of anti-bullying programs as a panacea…

          No, I don’t.

          I do however find it repulsive that you would encourage bullying because you want to teach that “people suck.”

          I find it appalling how argue that “this needs to be part of the curriculum.”

          Really? Bullying needs to be part of the curriculum? Perhaps we should just have teachers administer everyone a swift kick in the groin on the first day of class. It would teach the same lesson, wouldn’t it? We want those kids to be prepared for the real world…

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          • @Jason Kuznicki,

            Come now. Disagree if you must, but let’s not be specious.

            To borrow one of your recent umbrages: “I’m very, very obviously not” pro-bullying. To be clear, I would oppose including bullying as part of the curriculum.

            I am for conflict resolution, good manners and appropriate, proportional consequences for bad behavior. But you can put me down for a “no” as to preemptive teacher-kicks to the ‘nads. It’s bad form, and it sets an awful example.

            Beyond this, I’m sorry that you’re unwilling to take my point (that the world is not all lollipops and roses,) and that you (evidently) prefer the illusion that there are rules in place, upon which we can rely, to prevent bad things from happening. In the end, such a philosophy can be a source of considerable, avoidable disappointment.

            But who knows? I could be wrong about this.

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            • @unclesmedley,

              Beyond this, I’m sorry that you’re unwilling to take my point (that the world is not all lollipops and roses,) and that you (evidently) prefer the illusion that there are rules in place, upon which we can rely, to prevent bad things from happening. In the end, such a philosophy can be a source of considerable, avoidable disappointment.

              It’s also a misrepresentation of what I’m saying. (Did I ever say the world was “all lollipops and roses?) How you came away with such a distorted view is just beyond me.

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  18. Pingback: A Purposeful Education | The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

  19. First, to quote the inimitable Sam M:

    “Jason is going to read into what he will as he feels aggrieved by your statement.”

    Twas ever thus: Easily aggrieved, insistent on the last word, unwilling to give an inch–and convinced that this approach will win over converts to the cause…

    “Our greatest foes, and whom we muct cheifly combat, are within.” ~ Miguel de Cervantes

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    • @unclesmedley,

      Truly, I don’t understand.

      Why is it you think I’m telling everyone that life is perfect outside of high school? I said no such thing.

      It’s not so much that I insist on the last word, as that I don’t care to defend the position you’re ascribing to me.

      All I’m saying here is that I think we’re failing our high school students, and that we can maybe we can do better. Caricature it all you like, but doing so isn’t likely to convince me otherwise.

      (Also, that was Scott, not Sam M, whom you quoted.)

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