About Real Lives, Real Harms, And Real Deaths 

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Sadly, the relentless anti-LGBTQ+ crusade of the new Board of Directors of Hanover, PA’s South Western School District, my beloved alma mater, derives from a toxic psychological profile. 

It’s a simmering stew of arrogance, elitism, malignant narcissism, policy bullying, and fear of “the other” that prevents introspection, healthy empathy, solid logic and moral courage.

That cruel combo shuts down critical thinking skills and basic awareness of solid facts, statistics and logic. It’s more than a “blind spot.” That phrase would be too charitable.

It’s more of a willful ignorance, a snobby entitlement, a chauvinism, interlaced with victimhood and persecution fantasy, that says: “I am better than the others. I am superior. I am pure. I am sick and tired of and victimized by too much change happening all at once. I don’t care for new data, professional opinions, and new ways of thinking. If it was good enough when I grew up, it’s good enough for everyone else today.”

To combat this internal mythology that runs in a dangerous loop inside too many minds of people in power, please repeat and share these facts and figures from The Trevor Project until they sink in with the powers that be: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/article/facts-about-lgbtq-youth-suicide/

The stats stare us right in the face. They are unimpeachable, and they are disturbing.

Real lives are on the line.

Anti-LGBTQ+ policies, stigma, bullying and mistreatment mean lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) kids are at greater risk of suicide, the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 14, and the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).

At significantly increased risk, LGBTQ+ young people are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ young people (ages 13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S.

At least one such young person attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

The Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People found that 41% of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including roughly half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

This isn’t an academic debate. This isn’t about partisan politics.

This is about real lives, real harms and real deaths.

It’s about replacing policy violence with moral policy.

This is a war of the heart; a war about compassion, mercy, and empathy; a war about what kind of town, what kind of schools, and what kind of society we want.

This is no time to sit on the sidelines, to dodge the issues, to bury hearts and heads in sand.

And remember: much pain, suffering and trauma are caused by willful indifference and silence.

These times call for brave honesty, courageous conversations, and bold love for all children of God’s creation.

We only can become great when we respect the value and dignity of all, until we see and treat “the others” as neighbors like us.

The good news is that teen suicides, suicidal ideations, depression, abuse, trauma, and self-harms can be prevented.

But that kind of good change can only happen when folks in power face the facts, get off their high horses, take the beams and motes out of their eyes, grow a backbone of empathy, and effect policies that respect folks from all walks of life.

If they can’t do that, they need to be swept out of office. It’s as simple as that.

A 1990 graduate of South Western High School, Matthew Jackson is a Social Justice Ambassador of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and Co-Founder of THE VALLEY: People Power and Caring Communities, a prominent social media advocacy and leadership coaching group.

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