My senior year of high school, I took an advanced placement writing course. Each student chose one topic that we would cover for the duration of the semester. We would then research and write about the topic using a variety of different styles. For example, the same topic could be covered in a news paper article, a diary, a fictional short story, a poem, etc. The topic was completely student choice. Everyone announced their topic and then each person wrote three topics that they would like to peer edit. In this way, our teacher formed groups of writers and editors. I don’t remember what most people chose. Probably not something so controversial. I chose to write about LGBT Teen Suicide.
It was a bold choice in a high school with VERY limited number of out gay students. In a school that had just started (a year earlier) one of the first gay-straight student alliances in Wisconsin. A high school where the gay-straight alliance was the target of many bullies and vandals. A high school in a liberal, but not that liberal, suburb. It was the 90s. I was bi and out, but not yet out and proud.
The truth is, I wasn’t popular in high school, so nobody was going to want to be my peer editor because they wanted to hang out with their friend. I had chosen a topic that was akin to social pariah. I was sure no one would chose to edit my pieces. I was wrong. In fact, I got one really nice guy (geeky but sweet) and one of the most popular boys in school. I figured it was a fluke. Again, I was wrong. Turns out, they were both gay and closeted. Only, I didn’t know that until a decade later and some late night procrastination while goofing off on facebook.
I don’t think my papers changed anything. I don’t even still have them so I don’t really know what they said. I know one was a newspaper like piece with lots of statistics. I remember being really sad the more I read about how many kids commit suicide because they are afraid to be accepted. I remember both identifying with the kids and having the revelation that I was in fact pretty strong. I think one was a fictional piece about being bullied. That is all I remember.
Some articles on LGBT youth suicide:
- Better Dead Than Gay? Depression, Suicide Ideation and Attempt Among a Sample of Gay and Straight-Identified Males Aged 18 to 24 published in Youth Studies Australia
- Suicide and gay/lesbian/bisexual youth: implications for clinicians published in Journal of Adolescence.
Risk Factors for Attempted Suicide in Gay and Bisexual Youth published in Pediatrics.
- Death by Denial: Studies of Suicide in Gay and Lesbian Teenagers (book)