Gay/lesbian youth are doing better than you think, says Ritch Savin-Williams
Do gay and lesbian kids have more problems than straight kids as they’re growing up? Do LGBT youth really have higher rates of suicide, depression, and other problems than their non-LGBT counterparts?
Maybe not. LGBT youth are a lot stronger and more resilient than we usually give them credit for. That’s what Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams of Cornell University said this past Monday as a guest on Line One: Your Health Connection on KSKA, Anchorage’s public radio station. The program can now be downloaded or listened to online.
Here’s KSKA’s description of the program “Trials and Tribulations of Teens with Same Sex Attraction”:
[caption id="attachment_3045" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Ritch Savin-Williams of Cornell University"][/caption]
Do gay and lesbian teens really have more psychosocial problems than heterosexual teens? If so what can be done to treat and/or prevent these problems? Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams of Cornell University is currently writing about the experiences of growing up with same-sex attractions, the resiliency and mental health of sexual-minority youth, and the sexual development of heterosexual youth. Join your host Dr. Thad Woodard and Dr. Savin-Williams this afternoon on Line One: Your Health Connection.
Dr. Savin-Williams is the author of The New Gay Teenager (2006) — winner of a 2005 Distinguished Book Award from the American Psychological Association — and other books on the lives of youth with same-sex attractions. He’s a professor and chair of Human Development at Cornell University. And he doesn’t necessarily agree with the prevailing wisdom that there’s a gay youth suicide epidemic. In an interview at the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, he told Britannica editors,
We have no data about suicide rates separate by sexual orientation. To assert there is a “gay youth suicide epidemic” without empirical evidence that this is true borders on professional misconduct, and is certainly irresponsible.
Dr. Savin-Williams went on to explain to Britannica some of the many methodological problems with studied that have found higher rates of suicide attempts and related problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance abuse) among LGBT youth. Overemphasizing problems which which LGBT youth might encounter, he believes, hurts gay youth. Referring to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, about which Bent Alaska has written, Dr. Savin-Williams told Britannica:
My Dan Savage YouTube alternative is: “It’s Better, Right Now.” I would love to have youth of all ages telling their story about how they are actually living their lives, not in fear of bullies, but curbing the bullies and protecting other stigmatized youth. They talk about the positives of being gay and that they have plenty of supportive friends and are living a regular kind of life. No weeping, no pitying, no hysterics.
Dr. Savin-Williams offered similar advice to KSKA’s listening audience last Monday. Gay and lesbian youth, he said, are a lot stronger and more resilient than they’re often given credit for. As a fellow Cornell faculty member, anthropologist Meredith Small, wrote in a review of The New Gay Teenager,
Adolescence is no picnic — but is it especially hard for gay teens? Ritch Savin-William’s ground-breaking book reveals that being young and homosexual is not the identity crisis we might expect. Today’s teenagers are more at ease with homosexuality–and with a more flexible and shifting view of human sexuality in general — than their parents’ and grandparents’ generation.
After all the past years’ bad news about the situation of LGBT youth, Dr. Savin-Williams brings a refreshing and optimistic perspective. A big thanks to Dr. Thad Woodard and KSKA’s Line One for bringing him to Alaska’s airwaves. I hope — as Dr. Woodard indicated — that we’ll get to hear from Dr. Savins-Williams again.
Listen to the complete program “Trials and Tribulations of Teens with Same Sex Attraction” at KSKA’s website.
- 5/16/2011. “Trials and Tribulations of Teens with Same Sex Attraction” with Thad Woodard and guest Ritch Savin-Williams (Line One: Your Health Connection on KSKA-FM 91.1, Anchorage Public Radio). Download audio (mp3).
- The New Gay Teenager by Ritch C. Savin-Williams (Harvard University Press, 2006).
- 10/27/2010. “It’s Better Now and the Gay Suicide “Epidemic”: 5 Questions for Psychologist Ritch Savin-Williams” (Encyclopedia Britannica Blog).
- 10/8/2010. “Is There a Gay Teen Suicide Epidemic?” by Benjamin Radford (Live Science).