Monday, October 4, 2010

Gay Suicide & "Shoulds"

Every action is a result of a thought.  When we are talking about preventing suicide, and more specifically, preventing the deaths of more young gay people, we are gravely remiss if we do not address the "shoulds" behind the attempts. More specifically, no gay suicide has been attempted without the following equation:

I should be straight + I should be normal 
= I shouldn't be alive

If parents/educators/churches/mentors/communities don't start training youth to challenge and question harmful "shoulds," then I am concerned that there will be more deaths in the future.  I am writing this to ANYONE out there, of any age, that feels there is anything "wrong" with being gay or lesbian. Borrowing from Absolutely Should-less, here is how I approach saving a life:

1. Who told you that you "should" be straight?  This question encourages you to examine the unspoken "normal" parts of your world.  Sources of this learning [or brainwashing] might be parents, bullies at school, church, society.  You can learn how to question these sources, and decide if you want to believe everything you have been told to believe. 

2. Is this "should" true for everyone everywhere 24/7? Is it true that everyone should be straight? Is it true that everyone in the world should be "normal"? And what, exactly, is "normal?" Isn't it possible for some people in the world to be gay and happy? If it's true for them, it can be true for you.

3. How does it feel when you think this "should"? Unhappy? Overwhelmingly depressed? Hopeless? What's implicit in this question is that how you feel is a direct result of what you are thinking.  When you change your thoughts and beliefs, you change the way you feel. 

4. Who is profiting or benefiting from your "should"? Who has the most invested in your unhappiness? The bullies at school who want you dead? The school that enabled the cruelty? The family that wants you straight? The homphobic right wing that hates gay people? ANYTIME you feel there is something wrong with you and you "should" be different there is someone who has something to gain.  Do they really deserve that level of power over you?

5. What would one day be like without this "should"? Imagine one day without the "should." One day where you wake up without a "should" hanging over you about being straight or being normal.  What what that feel like? What would you do? Where would you go?  It is quite possible for you to have many more days like this if you let go of the "shoulds" that are causing you grief.

6. Who would you be without this "should"? Who would you be if you didn't think of yourself as somehow inferior or less than?  Have you come to identify yourself as a "loser" or victim? It is easy to take that on if you have spent a lifetime of being mocked and attacked.  But you still have the control over your identity and the responsibility to change that in order to have a happier life. 

7. Replace the "should." Language is powerful.  You can change your perspective by changing your words.  Examples may include, "I'd prefer to be straight but I still have the right to be happy if I'm gay," or "I am deserving of love and happiness no matter what sexual orientation I am," or "There is no normal," or "Anyone who tells me I 'should' be anything has an agenda and does not have my best interests at heart so I choose not to believe them."  

Using these tools daily, over and over, can change the way you see the world, the way you perceive difference, and even the way you see bullies.  There are always going to be people in this world who have an agenda to bring you down.  You do NOT ever have to give them the power to hurt you. 

*For additional help and resources please go to The Trevor Project

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist who has been working with GLBT youth since 1997.  He is currently practicing at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


John Hedtke said...

Exceptional post. I'm reposting in a few places so more people read it.

John Hedtke said...

I reposted the link and the opening on my blog. Excellent work. Thank you.