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Letter: Queer youth need support and visibility more than ever

Seidler writes, "When states attempt to ban schools from talking about LGBTQ+ topics or when our senator joins efforts to remove LGBTQ+ individuals from television by prompting warnings that a show will feature these characters, we will lose more youth. These directions that we’re seeing are irresponsible and dangerous. And it is sad to see so much political theater out there that is thinly disguised hatred for the queer community."

Faye Tengen Seidler.jpg
Faye Tengen Seidler
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According to the 2019 North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 61.6% of our queer youth seriously considered attempting suicide. Nearly 85% of these youth do not turn to an adult when feeling sad, empty, hopeless, angry or anxious. These numbers are the result of social stigma and cultural hostility. We know this because we know when queer youth are accepted and affirmed for who they are, then we have better outcomes in mental health, reduced depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. It is the only way to get better outcomes in this population and this is backed by decades of research by major medical organizations.

When states attempt to ban schools from talking about LGBTQ+ topics or when our senator joins efforts to remove LGBTQ+ individuals from television by prompting warnings that a show will feature these characters , we will lose more youth. These directions that we’re seeing are irresponsible and dangerous. And it is sad to see so much political theater out there that is thinly disguised hatred for the queer community.

I want to be clear that there is no choice or lifestyle around being queer. Queer people are a diverse group of folks found in every religion, political party, hobby, and culture. It would be absurd for someone to choose to be part of a community so stigmatized and marginalized in our country that the right to work without discrimination didn’t exist until this decade. There is nothing inherently sexual about being queer, in the same way there isn’t strictly anything inherently sexual about being straight or seeing straight relationships on television. Accusations that LGBTQ+ individuals as a community are grooming or pedophiles is disgusting and propagated by trolls and extremists who want queer people to experience violence.

And when we get into this political theater we lose sight of the very important risks happening today. That queer youth are less likely to reach out for help if they have problems. They are more likely to run away from homes that are hostile and by extension are more likely to be trafficked or experience sexual abuse. They are more likely to attempt suicide, be hopeless, denied lifesaving medication, or try to cope with illicit substances. Our queer youth are struggling and so long as our conversations are not rooted in how to make their life better, we are continuing to fail them. Not just fail, but in the case of some states, giving them no chance to survive.

Research shows one accepting adult can reduce suicide attempts of a queer youth by 40%. That can be you. Please find out what your community and school is doing to keep queer youth safe or fight for that. Don’t wait for your kids to come out, tell them you’ll love and support them today. I know our state is better than the hate we read about, but keeping our youth safe will require caring parents and professionals to stand up and fight for a better tomorrow.

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Faye Seidler, Moorhead, is the author of Community Uplift Program's ND LGBTQ+ School Climate Report.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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