Scapegoating the Church for LGBT Suicide and Stigma

Our legislators need reminding of both law and science as they rush to scapegoat people of faith—and stigmatize reasoned disagreement—as a primary cause of sexual minority suicidality and depression.

If religious convictions are a major contributor to stigma and suicide, one would expect much lower rates of such in nations with relatively fewer people of orthodox faith. But a 2006 study from the Netherlands noted, “This study suggests that even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality, homosexual men were at much higher risk for suicidality than heterosexual men.”

 

Health statistics for people who identify as GLBTQ+ are recognized as poor compared to the general population. Finding causation for those negative statistics in stigma and the religious groups that allegedly promote it is the ideological zeitgeist. California Assemblyman Evan Low just introduced non-binding resolution ACR-99 Civil rights: lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people, which states, “The stigma associated with being LGBT often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBT and questioning individuals;” and it isn’t the only time “religious groups,” “pastors” or “religious leaders” are mentioned in the text condemning “conversion therapy.” It’s conceptual and factual error and ultimately hurts sexual minorities. Blame shifting does that.

Suicidal Behavior

If religious convictions are a major contributor to stigma and suicide, one would expect much lower rates of such in nations with relatively fewer people of orthodox faith. But a 2006 study from the Netherlands noted, “This study suggests that even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality, homosexual men were at much higher risk for suicidality than heterosexual men.” A 2011 Danish study asserted, “The estimated age-adjusted suicide mortality risk for RDP [same-sex registered domestic partnerships] men was nearly eight times greater than for men with positive histories of heterosexual marriage and nearly twice as high for men who had never married.” GLBT-identified individuals in Canada and Northern Europe enjoy government support and subsidy, celebration from liberal (and failing) churches and a public coerced into silence by hate-speech codes, yet their suicide rates remain alarming.

Suicidality in the LGB-identified, adults or minors, has been shown to not be uniformly improving even as society becomes more affirming. Furthermore, the Wang paper from 2015 found that the high rate of attempted suicide in sexual minorities was not explained for by psychological disorders or discrimination. Stigma just wasn’t it.

Three reports in the last five years suggested that the “trans” suicide attempt rate was over 40 percent (Haas 2014James 2015Toomey 2018), results which were trumpeted by activists in the media. All three reports used convenience sampling.

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) epidemiology expert and former male-to-female transitioner Hacsi Horváth realizedthe researchers in each of these surveys sabotaged their efforts by not using appropriate methods to obtain truly representative sampling. Specifically, statistical generalizations cannot be made from convenience sampling, which is what they all used, as Horvath explains well. Horvath details that the William’s Institute, and LGBT “think tank” which also produced and promoted the Haas report in 2014, was contracted by the state of California to use appropriate survey methods and found the trans-identified suicide attempt rate was 22 percent. That is comparable to rates for people with psychological illness, bullying victims and general LGB-identification. So, bad rates, but not uniquely so.

So, what are causative factors for suicidal behavior? There is no one causative factor. Life is multi-factorial. Nonetheless, certain contributors stand out. Horvath cites a study (Nock 2013) showing about 96 percent of U.S. adolescents attempting suicide demonstrate at least one mental illness. Here I would add a 2003 study showing that 90 percent of people (adults and adolescents) who completed suicide had unresolved mental disorders. The Nock study concluded that “the core responsibility of doctors in trying to reduce suicide rates remains the identification and treatment of mental disorders.”

Returning to Horvath, he continues, “Around 5% of all youth suicide can be attributed in part to discussion and media coverage of other suicides (Kennebeck 2018).” That contagious example of publicized suicide is called the Werther effect, a copycat phenomenon; whereas, the Papageno effect is the reduction of suicide rates prompted by the public example of a suicidal individual who finds a way to live on.

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