Friday, February 1, 2013

Our Lady of Statistical Reduction

Perhaps what is so shocking about the elevated likelihood of gay teen suicide is that it has taken us this long to figure it out. Were the statistics any lower in Shakespeare's day? Was growing up gay easier for Oscar Wilde than for Truman Capote?

The current statistics indicate that LGBT teens are four to six times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-gay peers. Think about that--not twice as likely, not even three times as likely; four times. Six times. And I have to think that historically, before records were kept, the statistics were probably even higher.

Since coming out, much of Chely Wright's considerable energy, brains, leadership experience and (presumably) cash have gone toward lowering this statistic. I suppose this is the part where I should list all the different LGBT initiatives and organizations she's part of, and the interviews she's done, and the hours and weeks of traveling, and the money she's given, and the sleep she's gone without, and the scholarships she's funded and the oh-my-word the woman is obviously serious about lowering this statistic...but truthfully I don't know that I could list them all. I'm neither a Chely Wright Scholar nor a Chely Wright Watcher nor, believe it or not, even a long-time fan of her music. Listing all those things is her story to tell, not mine; plus it would require more time on google than I care to spend.

Here's what I do know: statistics change incrementally, a tiny fraction at a time. Sometimes, statistics change almost imperceptibly--but they do change. And they are changing right now, as you read this, because people like Chely Wright are beside themselves with dedication to seeing it happen.

Someday--think of it--someday, people will be wringing their hands and demanding change because LGBT teens are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-gay peers. And then eventually, we'll say "twice as likely," and it will be too much, and we'll be right. Twice as likely is too much. And we'll continue demanding change, and we'll get it, eventually.

NOTE: If a young person you know is struggling with LGBT issues, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386, or visit them online at http://www.thetrevorproject.org.