Youth, Bullying and Suicide what ONA churches can do...

Youth, Bullying and Suicide

We can make schools and communities safe for LGBT youth

LGBT teenagers are at least four times more likely to take their own life than their heterosexual peers. The publicity has subsided, but the threat of LGBT suicide has not.

ONA congregations are asking how they can help. Here are four suggestions:

  • BE VISIBLE. It’s not enough to adopt an ONA covenant if your congregation does not demonstrate its commitment to LGBT inclusion. Don’t hide your light! LGBT youth need to know that churches accept them as they are. So make sure a brief statement welcoming LGBT people is posted prominently on your website and Facebook page. Consider advertising in local newspapers. Gather your youth to march as a group in the next Pride parade in your community. Use our Evangelism for ONA Churches toolkit for other ideas for your church.
  • HOLD YOUR SCHOOLS ACCOUNTABLE. Organize clergy and lay leaders to meet with your superintendent of schools. Ask if the school district’s bullying- and suicide-prevention programs specifically address LGBT youth. Ask if the school system mandates training programs for faculty and staff, and if they follow Federal guidelines.
  • POST A VIDEO ON YOUTUBE. Through the “It Gets Better” project, thousands of LGBT people and allies have shared inspiring video testimonies that encourage LGBT youth to look with hope towards the future. Members of your congregation may have stories to tell that can reach out to LGBT youth who’ve been bullied, or are close to a decision to end their lives.
  • VOLUNTEER AT YOUR LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER. Many centers provide a safe space for at-risk LGBT youth, and need volunteer and financial support. Some centers also reach out to homeless LGBT youth.
  • AND IF YOUR CONGREGATION IS NOT YET ONA, now is the time to seriously consider taking this step. Your public witness as an Open and Affirming church will show LGBT youth that they have a future in God’s family.

Homeless LGBT youth: A day in their shoes

LGBT youth represent 30 to 40 percent of homeless youth on the streets of American cities. Many of them were kicked out of their homes after their parents learned of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Others fled from abusive homes. This video describes a day in the life of homeless LGBT youth in New York City—stories that could be told in any other American city. Use this video to show why creating safe space for LGBT youth is an important ministry for ONA congregations, and contact your local LGBT community center for more information.