From the Editor: The Power of Potential

By Andy Lien March 2, 2017

Categories: Lifestyles & Communities, Our Lives

Photo by HighwayStarz/Bigstock.com

The community received tremendous news this past week. Every day on Big Gay News, I read four stories that affect this community in some way. They’re on our website, they’re in the podcast, and they’re on Twitter and Facebook.  The potential topics of the news stories skew across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally subgroups of people, and might involve celebrities, politics, athletes, businesses, or anything that affects the rainbow community. At the beginning of the week, I reported via PBS News Hour that same-sex marriage laws are linked to fewer youth suicide attempts according to a new study. What an uplifting, heartening report of data to support this community.

According to PBS News Hour, “State legalization of same-sex marriage appears to be linked to a decrease in adolescent suicide, based on a new analysis published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. The results give more context to the potential effects of social policy on mental health. The researchers found that suicide attempts by high school students decreased by 7 percent in states after they passed laws to legalize same-sex marriage, before the Supreme Court legalized it nationwide in 2015. Among LGB high school students, the decrease was especially concentrated, with suicide attempts falling by 14 percent. But in states that did not legalize same-sex marriage, there was no change.” The study leader and postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Julia Raifman, said that this new research “helps us better understand why we might see elevated rates of suicide attempts among LGBT adolescents.”

The author of the article, Corinne Segal, continued, “While the study drew a correlation between lower suicide rates and same-sex marriage legalization, it did not explain a potential cause for the lowered rates. It is possible that the laws ‘communicated to young LGB populations that they were equal, and that improved their mental health,’ Raifman said. It’s also possible that increased visibility for same-sex marriage, both in politics and media coverage, increased LGB adolescents’ sense of social support, she said.”

Later in the week I also had to report that transgender students would be losing the federal guidance that supported their rights under Title IX to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities. The rights still exist under Title IX, but in a time when we’re seeing how increased support and visibility in politics and media coverage for marriage possibly helps the kids of this community decide against suicide, we need to be ever-vigilant in our advocacy for trans adults and kids whose support in policy and media tends to wax and wane.

Social policy affects mental health. This is nothing new to this community. We know it. Stories from these pages, from our lives, from our families, from our neighborhoods, from our news feeds…they all attest to how this community is always affected by policies and public sentiment. And I will gladly grasp with greedy hands any data that might back up the anecdotal evidence, because we seem to always be building a case for the existence of the people in our pages, in our community, in our families, in our world. This data might say that legalizing same-sex marriage potentially resulted in fewer suicides, rather than definitively proving it, but even a link between the two is fortifying. Feel strength in it. Recognize the power in supporting each other. Suit up and show up. Because, on both large and small scales, we need to be there for all members of this rainbow.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

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