Survey reveals struggles
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, November 07, 2009
11/07/09 at 3:55 AM
View a copy of the Tulsa
reaches out LGBTQ Youth
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families and individuals affected
by suicide, and hear how
they continue to cope. Learn
more about the warning signs
of suicide and resources for getting
Related story: Inside Openarms, all are welcomed.
Ben Crittenden was not shocked by a survey suggesting nearly 40 percent of gay, lesbian or bisexual young Tulsans have attempted suicide.
"It doesn't really surprise me," the Catoosa High School junior said.
"Coming from my own experience, before I came out I had thoughts of suicide because I wanted to be accepted in the world," he said.
Crittenden was one of about 150 young people who filled out an informal online survey sponsored by Tulsa Reaches Out, an organization that promotes the social service needs of Tulsa's "LGBTQ" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) community.
He said he realized he was gay at age 13 and came out at age 15.
"Most of the school knows it now. Things are good. I don't get discriminated against, and I don't get rude comments."
He was mentioned in a recent New York Times Magazine article about junior high school students coming out.
Michelle Hoffman, chairwoman of the Tulsa Reaches Out advisory board, said the Tulsa survey was prepared by Chad Johnson of the University of Oklahoma and made available online.
More than 100 of the respondents filled out the poll on computers at Openarms Youth Project, a center for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth and their supportive friends at 2015 S. Lakewood Ave.
Most of the respondents were anonymous, and 21 percent identified themselves as heterosexual.
Hoffman said she found three areas of the survey particularly disturbing: questions about suicide, bullying and religious institutions.
"We were alarmed by the number of respondents who indicated that they had thought about or attempted suicide," she said.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents reported having suicidal thoughts or feelings, and 39 percent said they had attempted suicide.
"The main thing that worried me was that so many have considered suicide," said Tim Gillean, founder of the Openarms Youth Project. "That's because of harassment and bullying they get at school and, in some cases, at home."
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publication says that gay adolescent males are two to three times as likely to commit suicide as their peers.
In the Tulsa survey, about half of the respondents said they felt safe at school, and 34 percent said they did not.
Half said they had been bullied at school.
Hoffman said she was alarmed by the response when asked to identify people who had stepped in to stop a bullying situation.
"A tremendous number of teachers and counselors did not intervene," Hoffman said.
Respondents said 17 percent had witnessed a school principal intervene, 29 percent a school counselor and 41 percent a teacher.
Hoffman said she was alarmed many gay, lesbian and bisexual young people find no solace in their religious institutions.
Three percent said they had turned to religious institutions for support, and 30 percent said they did not feel safe at church. About 21 percent said their pastors or ministers had been somewhat supportive to very supportive.
Gillean, a lifelong Tulsan and self-employed interior designer, founded the youth center seven years ago "to provide a safe place, where they can be free from judgment, be who they are, and express themselves however they want.
"We give them a sense that they're part of a larger community. That helps create a higher self-esteem and empowers them to be who they are."
Chad Johnson, assistant
professor in human relations
at the University of
discuss the Tulsa reaches
out LGBTQ survey at an
interfaith breakfast from
8:30 to 10 a.m. Thursday
at Fellowship Congregational
Church, 2900 S.
Harvard Ave. To make a
reservation, contact Karen
Davis by Wednesday at
494-8823 or KLDavis@Tulsacf.org.
Bill Sherman 581-8398
Youths gather in a circle during a meeting at Openarms Youth Project. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Misti Teufel (left) grabs the hand of Katie Hill during a meeting at Openarms Youth Project. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World