Let’s talk mortality/morbidity rates from a non-idiotic POV, aye?
Firstly, one must ponder what someone defines death as. Car accident? Cancer? Cardiovascular fatality? You may say ‘HIV/AIDS!’ and before you even get to the forward-slash mark, Imma stop you there and tell you now that most people live with good lives, at a low viral count—thus not progressing onto AIDS—happily. Yes, especially in the eighties’ (where certain morals may still be stuck) the death in the gay community due to AIDS was high. By the end of this decade, WHO reported at least 400,000 AIDS cases worldwide, from 145 different countries.
Now that’s a high death count, but you have to also take into consideration:
- What AIDS, medically, is
- The state of medical care in the eighties and the lack of biologics
- Other contributors to this: needle-stick users, for example
In summary—people were (rightly) starting to panic about this oncoming epidemic. The LGBTQ community were terrified. In a more touching, personal account of these experiences it was revealed that whilst a lot of people within this community were not affected—there is a snippet with a lesbian woman there—people didn’t just abandon gay sufferers, whereas on the converse, gay sufferers also found that there were people who wouldn’t even kiss them on the cheek. Information about transmission and avoidance was sparse, because nobody knew what the hell this awful thing was. Some believed it to be pneumonia; some believed it to be some kind of rare cancer; others just thought it was a disease ‘from the gays’. It’s horrifying, the ignorance displayed especially during this decade—yet it’s almost made up for it by the sheer kindness shown.
Reports from the same article remember the kindness of other citizens as AIDS sufferers unavoidably sunk to their deaths. For a more dramatised version (and a decent film—and I’m not big on musicals, actually) you might want to watch (or have seen) ‘Rent’.
I’m not talking miracle cures. There just weren’t any. I’m talking about the kindness of people—lots of them women—in bringing these suffers food they could stomach. Making sure to look after their symptoms with any cough medicines, blankets, items for sweats and fevers; I’m also talking about the more unpleasant tasks like cleaning up after vomit and self-defecation. Some today may see AIDS as a four-letter acronym that is a near impossibility now, but back then, it was very real, very scary and very unknown. It did not only touch the lives of the gay community, but the drug-using community—and all their families and friends too. And something common shared between them? The huge, disgusting stigmatisation driven directly at them.
This was hugely prevalent, and of course I wasn’t even alive during that time—I don’t know what it was like. It’s also not the focus of this little piece—but if you’re interested in researching about this, I’d for once not recommend scientific articles, but more personal accounts—such as this reddit thread from responders who lived through the HIV/AIDS terror.
I’d firstly like to make a point of being sensitive about this topic. My last wish would be to offend any who have lost LGBTQ friends or are feeling this subject sitting heavy on their shoulders. I’m not a health practitioner—yet—but all I can offer are condolences, and also to advise you to stop reading and perhaps block the crap out of some people on Twitter if you’re following them.
I want to say what I feel like is a really bloody difficult concept for people to grasp: that people within the LGBTQ community are humans. They are human just like everyone else on this planet (this includes the bigoted idiots, unfortunately—sorry). We are, scientifically, junk DNA with a small proportion making up our individuality. If you cannot treat people openly, equally and respectfully for simply who they are—whether that is because they are in this community, or because of their race, their religion…then quite frankly that is disgraceful. You are not doing humanity in a service. You are, in fact, dividing humanity into unnecessary sects and spreading pointless hate when you could, I don’t know, take a walk or go for a jog or see some sunlight.
When it comes to LGBTQ deaths—like any other death rate—statistics must be transparent in order for people to make (ignorant) statements about it. I don’t know where this myth of ‘there’s high rates among LGBTQ’ folk came from—because the LGBTQ community are not massive. That’s not to say they don’t make up huge numbers, but they are—er—don’t shoot me, but they are a minority (hey at least I didn’t say “for a reason”, leave me alone).
Now if we’re talking suicides—and I’m going to assume nobody made statements about ‘LGBTQ folk are more likely to get hit by a car because everyone got a tramp-stamp saying they were a minority for a reason and those Fiat Pandas went mental and ran them all over’—then yes, among the LGBTQ community—suicide rates or suicide ideation can be high. I wish to reiterate that this is within the community. A community that is a minority. This may come in later when—okay, I’m just going to say it now—LGBTQ death rates aren’t bloody high. Over 17 million people die each year due to a cardiovascular disease. Some may be from the LGBTQ community; in my experience they are mostly not. CVDs are a slow and creeping danger—especially with diabetes on the rise.
If we briefly get back on to the topic of suicide—there’s a wide under-reporting that makes even WHO unsure (their latest stat collection was back in 2012) and that’s because of stigma, religion, laws…all sorts—as Bertolote & Fleischmann find out here in their 2002 paper.
Perhaps one of the biggest reviews of the literature on this topic is the Figueiredo and Abreu (2015) paper and I have quoted this one already before. The rationale is because these two researchers noticed that among the community, co-morbidities such as depression and panic disorders were prevalent too. With some digging, they found this:
There is evidence of elevated rates of reported suicide attempts in LGBT compared to heterosexual adolescents and adults, worldwide. Individuals reporting a bisexual orientation had an increased risk of suicide attempts and ideation compared with their homosexual and heterosexual peers. Mental disorders do not appear to entirely explain elevated rates of suicide attempts in these individuals. Social stigma, prejudice and discrimination associated with this individual are important factors.
Before anyone makes misinformed and quite frankly insensitive comments on the topic, perhaps take—literally—a few seconds to type in ‘LGBT’ and ‘deaths’ in the search bar of JSTOR, ScienceDirect, ncbi—or any other reputable journal collation and read. Inform yourselves. I’m not saying this generally because I know there are people out there who have done so, and I know there are people out there who are loving, kind and generous—and non-ignorant.
LGBTQ deaths (I’m just going to assume it was meant as suicide, because that makes the idiotic comment…somehow less idiotic. I can’t believe I’m helping this) are not just part of life—they can be avoidable, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic showed us in the eighties. With the still rampant stigmatisation of gay individuals, medically that area of focus was swamped with research and the development of life-saving drugs—some so old that they are still in use today for their efficacy. Today, women with HIV can be treated to a point where their viral count becomes so low that they can give birth to their child without vertical transmission of the disease i.e. the child does not have HIV. HIV patients get such effective treatment that quite rarely they progress onto AIDS, and instead live a happy and fulfilling life.
I think most tellingly, what has told us of the action we can take towards LGBTQ suicide rates—if we cared—is the inspiring fundraiser set up by those oh-so-meddly minority groups. Informed websites such as We Deserved Better, LGBT Fans Deserve Better and outreach onto platforms like twitter via @LGBTFans is important and necessary. I’d like to point you towards the Testimonials page of the LGBT Fans Deserve Better website because if that isn’t further proof that this project and this fundraiser has united this community and given everyone a helping hand, allowed people to meet others they hadn’t before—then what is? I can say from a personal level I never thought I’d chat to the start-up of this fundraiser, ‘G.T’, but G.T. is so inspiring and positive that she makes me hope for a brighter future. The mission statement exhibited by both websites is so positive and wonderful that I hope others take heed. This is not a fundraiser made of spite; this is a fundraiser made of a spiteful scenario and the community capitalised on that by responding with something beautiful. Anger will not get you anywhere; positivity and intelligence will get you everywhere. By that, I mean the attention of esteemed critic Ms. Mo Ryan, the willingness to listen and understand by the lovely and admirably open Mr. Ryan McGee and even the massive Washington Post.
Again, some may claim “hey yeah but this lesbian was so mean to me!” and I’m just thinking—please…stop. Stop making generalisations based off a minority within a minority community (so many jokes to be had here—I’m gonna keep the tone serious). I’d advise you to read Ms. Mo Ryan’s article closely again (if you haven’t read it fifty billion times already because it is awesome). Do you realise how hurtful it is when privileged people make sweeping generalisations of an already marginalised group just because of who they are? Against hard evidence that a.) they have raised an insane amount of money for charity and b.) have inspired fandoms past and present to join and support; c.) hit the straight community hard and let them take a step back, and come back into the fray with determination to learn and understand.
Across all humanity we are hit with mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. The NHS actually did some research and found that one person out of every four are affected as such, at some point in their lifetime. Perhaps this is higher in the LGBTQ community—but why? Well, I ask you—are many groups like the LGBTQ community targeted for prejudice, discrimination, stigma, hate and death threats (I believe many have so called ‘receipts’ for this) as the others? My solid answer would be no. Are people with different ethnicities other than Caucasian and perhaps privileged ever shunted to one side and silenced because, again, of who they are? I can definitely say that’s a solid yes.
The Trevor Project is immensely important because this is a charity that focuses on saving LGBTQ lives—by protecting those vulnerable people from suicide or suicidal ideation. Without the Trevor Project, there are not that many of such scale. There are support hotlines (if you’re in the UK—the Samaritans is excellent; worldwide, online chatrooms such as 7 Cups of Tea may be useful too) but this is where the money from the aforementioned fundraiser is going to. I cannot fathom why anybody would actually be against that idea because they are taking action to save lives. In my book, that’s a very honourable approach. If perhaps you do not believe in such ideals…I’m speechless.
And if anybody thinks that such LGBTQ suicides (again I refuse to just say ‘deaths’ because it’s so stupid) are just part of life and that sucks for them…well…maybe look at the contributory factors to suicide? Though unrelated to LGBTQ deaths, Arvind in 2008 from the Oxford University Press found that is was highly unlikely for a suicide to be attributed to a single anomaly. I think from personal experience I can support that statement. There’ll usually be 3-4 factors whirling around before somebody tragically tries to (and sometimes succeeds) in committing. But if you look at some of the stronger factors that clue into LGBTQ suicides, these include, as aforementioned: stigmatisation, bullying, hate, prejudice and discrimination. And no, these do not come from within the LGBTQ community (why would they? That’s—oh God, that’s so ridiculous)—they come externally. From the non-minority groups who have also stigmatised and hated on the gay community during the HIV/AIDS epidemic; some still do. This is not to say that all white, straight people do this: absolutely not. I wouldn’t have the audacity to make such a generalisation—in the same way that I would not have the audacity (or idiocy) to make a generalisation of one member of a minority group’s idiocy representing the entirety of the community. It has to go both ways, and if people cared about human lives—if people could just see beyond labels and see that the LGBTQ community as a whole are made up of humans—then would that not change how you see the LGBTQ community? Rather than generalising them all as hare-brained losers?
If you had the opportunity to make a change in such statistics, would you? Because from my stance, discrimination, stigmatisation, hate…they aren’t factors that are simply ‘there’. They aren’t factors inherited and thus unavoidable. They are factors that can be stopped, and changed. If you took ‘bullying’ as an example—perhaps teenaged lesbian girls would not come running into my Direct Messages, crying, because they had been bullied and called awful names—if you didn’t bully these vulnerable members of the community, would that not make a change? Does this make any sense?
For once, change can be made to a crappy reality. For once, people can do something about it. I have no doubt the fundraiser plus its testimonials and comments have saved lives; it has certainly saved mine, on many occasions. I have no doubt that the whopping amount of money the Trevor Project will receive from this will literally save lives—as such is their charity aims to do. But if you sit back with a blasé attitude of ‘yeah well, LGBTQ deaths happen…and they suck’ that’s lazy and that’s uncaring. If you cared at all about humanity—about the sheer talent that has come and is yet to come from this community—about their humour and kindness (I could be making a generalisation—but this is all I’ve encountered from that community—I cannot endorse or condone hateful comments made within the community, of course, that’s despicable—but again: minority of a minority), and if you had half a brain cell you would realise that suicide or death is not something to be so nonchalant about. That if you researched into the factors attributing to LGBTQ suicides…you’d realise that most of them are avoidable and can be saved, if the community are just shown some kindness, love and respect.
I think humanity in general is quite capable of such things—so why can’t they offer the same support to the LGBTQ community like that? Because of a few bad eggs? Would you rather spend your time making huge, unfair, sweeping generalisations of some comments…or would you try and be a bit more tolerant and sensitive?
I know which I’d choose.