Dissolved R&B group Xscape’s famous song contemplatively asks, “Who can I run to, when I need love?”

Thousands, if not millions, of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) youth in this country are asking themselves that very question, and are being met with the antithesis of love: hate.

The loss of one child due to suicide is senseless, but the loss of nine young people to suicide, because of bullying they experienced as a result of, or being perceived as gay–what sense could it make?

The truly sad thing about the alarmingly high number of suicides due to sexual-orientation-based bullying is the fact that the number only represents reported cases.

According to a report by 365 Gay, “LGBT teens are between 30 and 40 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.”

Perhaps those chilling numbers don’t mean anything to you, but its unfathomable how anyone with a conscience cannot be appalled or outraged that any group of children, regardless of sexual identity could turn to suicide merely to escape harassment from society. It is disturbing to know that death seems more appealing to LGBT youth than life in an intolerant world full of hate.

With each reported case of suicide due to bullying and harassment for one’s sexual orientation, the blood of the victim stains society’s hands. The blame lies with those who tell these individuals they are shameful, an abomination or something even more hideous.

“It takes a village to raise a child;” a clichéd expression that should be tied to the notion that it also takes a village to destroy a child. Unfortunately, that is what we as a society have done when our homophobia leads children to contemplate or commit suicide.

Interestingly, this phenomenon is not just affecting gay and lesbian youth. Since society has become obsessed with gender and it’s expression, many straight children who don’t perfectly exhibit the masculinity and femininity expected of their gender have been caught in the crossfire.

One of the saddest consequences of homophobia and the policing of others’ gender, is it poisons the well for all of us, not just homosexuals.

A young boy doesn’t have to be gay to be called a “faggot,” he merely has to be perceived as gay, just as a young girl doesn’t have to be a lesbian to be called a “dyke,” she merely has to be perceived as one. However, the pain of the attack rings just as true.

Our culture is obsessed with policing sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity. Many of us have embraced and continue to reinforce notions on gender that seem better fit for the Bronze Age than a contemporary world that is supposedly more enlightened and more knowledgeable. In the aftermath of such catastrophic assaults on human dignity as the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the Holocaust and the Jim Crow South, it feels like many of us have emerged with less or little understanding for respecting differences and tolerating individuality.

We continue to be wedded to the same constricting beliefs that made the aforementioned events possible. Essentially, we have bought into the notion that there is a right and a wrong way to express ones humanity and that anyone who fails to express themselves the way that tradition dictates should be ostracized and marginalized.

We ridicule the boy more interested in the arts than contact sports; we pray for the girl who reveals she has a crush on Maria and not Marcus, because, how dare these children not live up to our own expectations and ideals that we have created for them?

Instead of encouraging them and showering them with love, we meet them with contempt and disgust. We show them early on they cannot run to us or depend on us. We should not only share our love and acceptance with those who meet our requirements for proper gender expression or sexual orientation, but for all people.

It is my hope that we all assess the roles we play in others lives. Are we people that a person who is gay, lesbian, or transgender can run to in a time of need, or are we just more people meeting them with hatred and intolerance?

If the latter, I challenge you to realize your hatred and intolerance may be the very thing that leads someone to seek death as a refuge from a cruel life.

This article was originally published in the FAMUAN, Florida A&M University’s student-run newspaper where McMahon is a senior history education student.