Showing posts with label Gay Suicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Suicide. Show all posts

February 20, 2020

She Was A Catholic Young Gay Woman Who Killed Herself After Counseling From The Church

 by Carina JuligReligion News Service
Like many teenagers, Alana Chen was sometimes not where she'd told her parents she was going. But while other teens were sneaking out to parties, Chen would tell her parents she was going out with friends and instead take the bus from her family's home in the suburbs of Boulder, Colorado, to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church downtown.
Chen was holding on to other secrets as well. Without her parents' knowledge, Chen's family says, she was receiving spiritual guidance from a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas, who told her that there was something she could never tell her family: She was a lesbian. 
Chen struggled for many years to keep this secret, according to her family and tried to follow the church's teachings. But repressing her sexuality led to serious mental health problems that caused her to be hospitalized in 2016, Chen told The Denver Post last year. 
Chen eventually left the church, feeling it was impossible to reconcile her sexual orientation and her Catholicism. In early 2019, she went away to Prescott College, in Arizona, to be farther away from St. Thomas Aquinas.
She seemed to be doing better, but on Dec. 7, 2019, while on a visit home, Chen, 24, was declared missing. After a search, her body was found at Gross Reservoir in Boulder County on Dec. 9, 2019. The Boulder County Coroner's Office has ruled her death a suicide.
Chen's death has focused attention on how religious institutions handle the question of sexuality in their counseling, especially when the counselor's faith teaches that homosexuality is wrong or sinful. Last year, Colorado banned gay conversion therapy for minors. That ban, however, exempts religious counselors.
That's something Chen's mother and sister want to see changed. They believe the religious counseling Chen received contributed to her death.
Joyce Calvo-Chen, Alana's mother, said that Alana grew up as observant as any average Catholic kid; she went to Mass at her local church and stayed on the right side of the commandments. But after attending a Catholic summer camp when she was 12 or 13, Calvo-Chen said, Alana becomes more devout and got involved at St. Tom's, as she called it.
Alana started attending Mass at St. Tom's almost every day, according to her mother. Fr. David Nix, the parish priest at the time, asked Chen if he could be her spiritual director. Nix told her that he thought she could be a nun, Calvo-Chen said, and wanted to make her "perfect" in the eyes of God. It was during this time that Chen came out to him.
Eventually, Chen told her parents that she had been meeting with Nix. Calvo-Chen was upset that Nix had been meeting privately with her daughter without her knowledge and made an appointment to speak with him.
At the meeting, Calvo-Chen remembers Nix berating her for not being Catholic enough. He criticized her for allowing Chen's older sister to date at 16 and handed her a CD on chastity, Calvo-Chen said. 
"It was a crazy meeting," she said. "I remember being so disgusted."
The Archdiocese of Denver wouldn't comment on private discussions between the Chens and their priests and denied that Alana had met with Nix without her mother's knowledge.
Not long after the encounter, Nix was transferred to a new parish, and Fr. Peter Mussett became the new parish priest. Calvo-Chen took a liking to him. Known around Boulder as the "hipster priest," Mussett had long hair and an easygoing personality that endeared him to a town that, compared with the rest of Colorado, is considered more spiritual than religious. Calvo-Chen felt she could let down her guard around him, and the whole family started regularly attending St. Tom's.
It was then that Calvo-Chen said she noticed that her daughter was not going to the altar to receive Communion. When the mother asked about it, she said, Chen gave an evasive answer.
At that time, Chen expressed interest in attending a Catholic college in Wyoming, but her parents objected because it wasn't accredited, and she ended up going to the University of Colorado Boulder, a few blocks from St. Tom's. The church has a very active campus ministry there.
At the University of Colorado Boulder, Chen became involved in the youth ministry and spent time with the Sisters of Life, a religious order with a branch in Denver that ministers to college students.
One day, Chen's family said, Chen, told a friend from campus ministry that she was having thoughts of suicide. That friend told a clergy member, and the police were called. Chen was admitted to a local psychiatric hospital.
It was while she was in the hospital that Chen told her mother that Nix had told her to keep her sexuality a secret from her family, for fear they would approve. Calvo-Chen was furious. "I couldn't believe what they had done to her," she said. 
She told Chen that God loved her no matter what and found her a therapist. While Chen was at the hospital, her mother said, members of the Sisters of Life suggested the young woman receive formal counseling from Janelle Hallman, a Christian counselor in Denver. Hallman's website advertises her practice's "specialty in faith-based individuals with sexual and gender identity concerns." Calvo-Chen refused to let her daughter go.
A statement from the Sisters of Life said that they provided spiritual accompaniment to Chen for about a year and a half but denied that they ever encouraged conversion therapy for Chen.
Mark Haas, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Denver, declined to comment on the Sisters of Life statement but said of Hallman: "Her website makes it clear that her approach is client-centered. As with any credible counseling, the client sets the goals of what they want to achieve."
After her time in the hospital, Chen left the church. Her sister, Carissa, said their mother took Chen to a Catholic service at the Denver chapter of Dignity, an organization for LGBTQ Catholics. But Chen was put off by the service, she said. They worshipped in a basement, and they couldn't take Communion, because it wasn't led by a Catholic priest. She felt as if she was being segregated from the rest of the church.
"I love the true teachings of Jesus and Catholicism," Calvo-Chen said. She said Alana loved her faith as well.
"But she was told she could never have a relationship with a woman, and it was killing her," Calvo-Chen said.
Neither Mussett nor Nix directly returned requests for comment. The Denver Archdiocese provided written statements from Nix, the Sisters of Life and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center.
"Striving to be a community who welcomes anyone and everyone as Jesus did, we do not practice conversion therapy, and reject any other practices that are manipulative, forced, coercive or pseudo-scientific," said the statement from St. Thomas Aquinas.
Nix, too, said in the church's statement that he never engaged in conversion therapy with Chen or recommended it to her, and he said he was deeply saddened by her death. "In my 10 years of priesthood I have never told anyone that it was a sin to be attracted to anyone," he said in the statement.
Haas later made clear in a separate statement to RNS, "A person is always free to accept or reject what the Church teaches, but it is not 'conversion therapy' or 'religious abuse' to teach about the beauty of a life of chastity."
In the interview in The Denver Post, which took place several months before her death, Chen clearly indicated she believed the counseling she received amounted to conversion therapy. She told her sister she spoke to the paper to help others who had experienced conversion therapy and said she wanted to write a book when she was older.
Carissa Chen and a cousin have started the Alana Chen Foundation in her memory. They want to raise money to help people get access to mental health treatment.
Chen's death sent shock waves through the local LGBTQ community.
Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, Colorado's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, said it's important that people know that conversion therapy is still prevalent in Colorado.
One Colorado was a major supporter of the law to ban conversion therapy for minors, and the organization lobbied for it for several years before it passed.
A misconception about conversion therapy, Ramos said, is that it only describes extreme practices such as using electric shocks to try to change someone's sexual orientation. But any therapy that attempts to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity should be considered conversion therapy, he said and can have significant negative psychological effects.
The American Psychological Association discourages the practice, saying there is insufficient evidence that psychological efforts to change sexual orientation can be successful.

web RNS-Alana-Chen1-012920.jpg

Alana Chen died in December 2019 in Colorado, at the age of 24. (Photo courtesy of the Chen family) 
On Twitter, Fr. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit priest, and writer, expressed sadness at the news of Chen's passing.
"Any death, especially suicide, is a tragedy," Martin told Religion News Service in an interview Jan. 23. "That Alana Chen said that she was forced to undergo conversion therapy makes it all the more tragic and heartbreaking."
He called on the church to discontinue practices that attempt to change people's sexual orientation.
In January, the Episcopal priests in Boulder County published an opinion letter in the Boulder Daily Camera rejecting conversion therapy and expressing sorrow at Chen's death.
"One of the texts we use in the Episcopal Church on Ash Wednesday is a prayer that begins 'Almighty God, you hate nothing you have made.' We believe that in its fullness — that no person in their gender identity is hated by God," the letter read.
Since her passing, Chen's family said, nobody from the Denver Archdiocese has reached out directly to them. (Haas said this is because it did not believe that contact would be welcome.) Her funeral was held at a local Episcopal parish.
"People will say different things about her suicide and how that came to be," Carissa Chen said. "I think the church played a huge role in the years of trauma and treatment that she went through and ultimately her suicide, and they're just going to have to live with that. We all will now."

February 11, 2020

Rates Take a Dip But Still High on LGBT Teens Plagued by Suicidal Thoughts in U.S.

  (HealthDay News) -- Suicidal behavior is declining among U.S. teenagers who identify as LGBT, but the problem remains pervasive.
That's the conclusion of two new studies that tracked trends among U.S. teenagers over the past couple of decades. Over the years, more kids have been identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) -- and their likelihood of reporting suicidal thoughts and behavior has gone down.
The bad news is they remain at much higher risk of suicide than their heterosexual peers, the researchers said.
In one study, LGBT teenagers were over three times more likely than heterosexual teens to report a suicide attempt. The other study charted a similar pattern, with LGBT kids still reporting a high prevalence of suicidal thoughts in 2017 -- and roughly a quarter saying they'd attempted suicide in the past year.
The studies, published online Feb. 10 in Pediatrics, could not dig into the reasons.
But past research has suggested that bullying plays a role, according to Brian Mustanski, director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University in Chicago.
LGBT students are more likely to be targeted by bullies than their heterosexual peers are. But in school districts with strong anti-bullying policies, Mustanski said, LGBT students typically report less suicidal behavior.
So efforts to combat bullying could be part of the solution, according to Mustanski.
"But," he said, "I don't think that would be enough to eliminate the disparities in suicidal ideation and behavior."
School suicide-prevention programs may also need to address the specific issues that LGBT kids face, Mustanski said.
For one of the new studies, researchers looked at data on high school students in seven states who were part of a periodic government health survey. Between 2009 and 2017, the percentage who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure doubled, from just over 7% to over 14%.
Suicide attempts among those kids declined over time: In 2017, 20% said they'd attempted suicide in the past year, versus almost 27% in 2009.
But those percentages are high, and more than triple the risk among heterosexual students in 2017, the study authors noted.
Julia Raifman, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health, led the study.
One of the key findings, she said, is that a substantial number of teens now identify as LGBT, which may mean kids are becoming more comfortable with it.
Despite that, though, they are still much more likely than their peers to contemplate or attempt suicide. In the other study, which tracked Massachusetts teens over two decades, almost 36% of LGBT teens in 2017 said they'd thought about suicide in the past year. While that was down from the 1990s, it was still more than double the rate among heterosexual students.
Based on past research, Raifman said, stigma from families, peers or society at large seems to fuel suicidal behavior among young LGBTs.
But there are also factors that buffer them, including a supportive family, she added.
Raifman pointed to a previous finding that gay, lesbian and bisexual young adults were much more likely to have attempted suicide if their families rejected them when they came out as teens.
Mustanski agreed that families are critical. 
"Parents' support is so important," he said. "Imagine you're a teenager who is worried about coming out, and maybe also dealing with suicidal thoughts. Kids need to know that you're there for them, and open to having discussions about these things."
But while it's important for parents -- and everyone -- to be aware of these risks, Mustanski said, they should not assume that a teen who identifies as LGBT is suffering from mental health issues.
"This doesn't mean all sexual-minority youth are at increased risk," he said. "In fact, most of them do well and thrive."
More information
The American Academy of Pediatrics has advice for parents on supporting LGBT teenagers.
SOURCES: Julia Raifman, Sc.D., assistant professor, health law, policy and management, Boston University School of Public Health; Brian Mustanski, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; Feb. 10, 2020,  Pediatrics, online

January 15, 2020

This College Student Lead a Protest Against Drag Queens, Then Committed Suicide


With his thumbs in his pockets, Wilson Gavin stood at the front of the crowd, leading a videotaped chant that would quickly go viral: “Drag queens are not for kids." 
As the president of a conservative group at his Australian university, the 21-year-old had steered protesters into a public library in Brisbane, where they barged into a room full of families attending “Drag Queen Story Time.” Inside, the group faced off with a sequined, costumed performer who had been reading from a children’s book.

Kids in the audience asked what was happening. Parents called the police, and a handful filmed the confrontation. As their videos spread across social media, politicians chimed in — most of them condemning the protest as a hateful act.
The next day, Gavin, who was openly gay, took his own life.
That rapid succession of events has turned a young man’s death into an emotional and political controversy in Australia’s third-largest city and across the country: Some have pointed to an overwhelming “social media mob” that came after Gavin. Others have talked about disproportionately high rates of suicide among LGBTQ youth, or a culture they say lacks acceptance. 
Others still have insisted that it is inappropriate to make any kind of political statements at all.
“To me, this incident transcends politics. It is about humanity, and about recognizing that everybody has it,” Johnny Valkyrie, one of the drag queens at the library event, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I only wish I could tell him I love and support him.” 
In recent years, Gavin had emerged as a young voice for conservatism in Australian politics. Despite his sexual orientation, he opposed same-sex marriage and actively campaigned against the issue in 2017, when it went up for a national referendum.
In 2018, he defended the role of the British monarchy on “Outsiders,” a political talk show whose hosts have described themselves as “Trump’s Aussie mates." 
“I’m a lover of all things traditional. I’m a lover of all things beautiful,” he said on the show. “And there’s nothing more traditional in this country than the monarchy.”  
Satyajeet Marrar, a fellow member of the Australian Monarchist League, said Gavin was an “outspoken young man with a good heart.” 
“Despite holding opinions that some people disagree with strongly, he would defend them with conviction,” Marrar wrote on Facebook. “Brave and admirable traits while most of us in this generation spend years obsessing over what others think of us.” 
At the University of Queensland, Gavin became president of the school’s Liberal National Club, which branded itself as the local chapter of Australia’s right-wing political party. Although the national organization disaffiliated itself from the university club in December, members maintained ties with at least one member of Parliament and sought out opportunities for political action.
On Sunday, their venue was the local public library, and their target was a drag queen reading a children’s book. Much like in the United States, the queens’ family-friendly recitations — meant to foster free expression and tolerance toward LGBTQ people — have emerged as a cultural point of tension. 
In Brisbane, however, the city council had voted to sponsor a drag queen story time. So Gavin and the UQ Liberal National Club organized a protest to “defend LNP values against a corrosive gender ideology,” the club wrote on its Facebook page, according to ABC Australia.
“This event is designed to indoctrinate and sexualise young children. Our kids deserve better than this! Why is this moral filth being paid for by the taxpayer?” the post stated. (As of early Tuesday, the group’s page appeared to have been deleted, and the club did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.)
One mother at the event, Jenny Griffin, said one of her children, who are 6 and 8, started to cry out of fear and confusion in response to the “harassing and kind of threatening” protesters, she told ABC. 
Many elected officials and commentators seemed to agree with her. As videos of the confrontation spread across social media, politicians on the left and right criticized the fiery protest, calling the students “bigots,” “homophobes” and “bullies.” Trevor Evans, an openly gay lawmaker from Brisbane, condemned them as “ratbags.” 
Online, Gavin defended himself and the action, saying it was part of the LNP’s fight against “politically correct rubbish.” But even LNP politicians distanced themselves from the demonstration.
On Monday, less than a day later, police told Australian media that Gavin had taken his own life.
Various corners of Australian society, which had already fiercely debated the protest, interpreted his death as radically different kinds of tragedies.
George Christensen, a conservative member of Parliament, used it as an opportunity to attack “broken” social media networks and announce he would be deleting his Twitter account. He said “Twitter keyboard warriors [had piled] on an individual for a political protest."  
Mark Robinson, another right-wing politician and the sponsor of the UQ club, said Gavin was “treated terribly for “taking a principled stand to protect children from inappropriate sexualisation.” 

As current State patron of the UQ LN Club, I’m deeply saddened to hear of the death of Wilson Gavin. Wilson & his friends took a principled stand to protect children from inappropriate sexualisation & gender fluid ideology. For that he was treated terribly. Wilson, RIP!

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For other Australians, however, Gavin’s death was instead a sign of the mental health issues affecting LGBTQ youth — and the homophobia some of them said was instilled and spread by those on the Australian right.
Drew Pavlou, a friend of Gavin’s at UQ, remembered him as a “very decent and kind person” who may have also been coping with such issues.
“He had his struggles and made mistakes, and it is a tragedy for us all that he ultimately succumbed to his suffering and pain,” Pavlou wrote on Twitter. “Today is a reminder of all we must do to affirm to young marginalized Australians the intrinsic worth and value of their lives.”  

I was friends with Wilson. Away from the social media storms and headlines, he was at his core a very decent and kind person that cared for others. I had the great privilege of seeing that side of him in life. He was hilarious, a complete riot to be around

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Valkyrie, the 23-year-old drag queen, told The Post that while Gavin’s death should transcend politics, the influence of certain political views — namely, those like Christensen’s — had left a noticeable mark on the situation. The drag queen and activist said he himself had attempted suicide 13 times during his adolescence while coming out and coming to terms with his identity: He is both transgender and gay, he said.
“Wilson may have contributed to the incident, which harmed myself and others, but I forgive him,” Valkyrie said, tearing up on the phone, “and I understand that he was troubled. … I only wish I could tell him I love and support him.” 
On social media, he offered him up a message anyway.
“What you did on Sunday was unacceptable,” Valkyrie wrote. “Who you were was not." 

CW: Suicide, Wilson Gavin

Wilson, I love you.

Wilson, I forgive you.

Wilson, I see you.

Wilson, I pray for you.

What you did on Sunday was unacceptable.

Who you were was not.

Wilson, I love you. πŸ•―


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