Suicide is the fate met by many youth across the country who feel unwanted in their communities and schools due to their sexuality.
They go day to day hearing comments about how being gay/lesbian or any deviation from heterosexual is unnatural and wrong. They are particularly vulnerable to suicide, and more susceptible to depression, substance abuse, and homelessness than other youth.
Simply altering the way that these youth are treated is far easier than attempting to combat the issues that occur as a result. Even on a national scale, the personal opinions of political figures implicitly contribute to the adversity faced by these adolescents.
According to Youth Pride Inc., 36.5 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth in high school have attempted suicide. Eighty-four percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, and 80 percent of gay and bisexual youth reported severe problems with cognitive, social and emotional isolation.
The shocking and lamentable reality of these statistics has not proven sufficient enough to truly amend how LGBT youth are treated in our society today.
Gauging how beneficial it is for a presidential candidate to take a stance on this issue is hard. Even more difficult is knowing their intentions — we do not know whether President Barack Obama favors same-sex marriage either, though he honestly acknowledges the legitimacy of LGBT relationships or because such a position could gain him favor among a larger group of people.
Obama’s position on the issue has changed from one extreme to the other since 2008 when he stated that marriage is a “sacred union” between a man and a woman. During his term, perhaps he contemplated the idea of same-sex marriage, even if his personal beliefs remain the same.
It wasn’t until May 2012, just six months before the presidential election that he acknowledged his belief is not necessarily a solid foundation for establishing laws that are exclusive to a particular group of citizens.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, he stated that after talking to neighbors and friends, he felt it was important for him to affirm his new beliefs favoring same-sex marriage.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on the other hand, openly disagrees with same-sex marriage and is regarded as being insensitive to the feelings and beliefs of LGBT people. He has explicitly vocalized his distaste for same-sex marriage on numerous occasions. Just hours after President Obama’s announcement regarding his change of opinion, Romney told reporters his view on marriage has not changed.
“I indicated my view,” said Romney, “which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.” As president, he would obviously not be interested in addressing the issues confronting the LGBT population.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 42 percent of LGBT youth live in a community that is not accepting of them. How is a presidential candidate’s affirmation or denial of same-sex marriage going to affect these young people?
In a nation where 92 percent of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT, how can they truly believe that “it gets better” if their nation’s leader only insists that their sexuality, an essential aspect of their being, is unacceptable?
At what point is it no longer about bellowing your personal beliefs and shoving them down the throats of the people merely because you are in a position of power? At what point does it actually become about acknowledging that despite our differences we are all human and deserve equal rights?
It is obviously about pride, something presidential candidates tend to have an overabundance of, when they recurrently fail to comprehend that issues such as this are much bigger than themselves. When children take their own lives because they do not feel wanted, affirming that same-sex marriage is “wrong” does anything but help to solve a problem so prevalent in our society today.
Romney’s stance on same-sex marriage could encourage the harassment of youth, affecting their self-image. Students who torment LGBT youth will feel that having a president who is on their side justifies their actions, making the students being tormented feel even more secluded.
On the contrary, having a president who affirms that LGBT youth are just like their peers through his support of equal rights will tremendously affect the lives of these children for the better. It will no longer justify the actions of bullies, and someone with power of that caliber can establish policies benefiting LGBT youth – ensuring that their fate does not differ from that of a child who grew up in a loving setting, not apprehensive at the thought of being harassed.
The conclusive solution is to acknowledge that your opinion is just that, your opinion. Likewise, another person’s opinion is his or her own; it matters not whether or not you agree. Being conscious of how you portray your beliefs through your actions matters most.
A child’s pride and self-esteem is predominantly the sum of what he or she hears about who they are perceived to be. You never know if a snarky comment you make and would not think twice about could cost the life of another if overheard. Likewise, with presidential candidates who can be oblivious to the harsh reality that their opinion affects more lives than just their own.