Suicide rates among LGBTQ community decrease since legalization of gay marriage

As children, we grow up watching Disney movies and, as we get older, romantic comedies and dramas. We grow up believing that, one day, we too will fall in love, get married and be with that person forever. But, for my friend Zac Gallant, he never believed that would happen for him. 

Zac is gay. He came out to his parents when he was 15 – about a decade before gay marriage was legalized nationally.

“It was difficult for (my family) to reconcile their faith with this new realization. A lot of hurtful things were said on both sides, and it was made very clear to me that gay people didn't get love. They didn't get the happy ending. I absolutely never thought that gay marriage was a possibility, let alone getting married myself,” he said.

“The world feels dark and lonely without the hope of finding someone to love and to love you in return.”

Zac didn’t come out to his friends (at least not to me) until after high school. Attending a Catholic School, it was pretty common for my classmates to hide their sexual orientation until after graduation.

I did always have a feeling about Zac though. He’s the only guy who could ever tell me I had a nice butt, and it didn’t feel sexual or creepy. Instead, it felt like he was genuinely complimenting me.  As a self-conscious teen, Zac was actually the first boy who ever made me feel good about myself. I never told him that before. I just wish I could have been there for him like he was for me – but I had no idea what he was going though.

“As a gay teenager, you're constantly barraged by a self-realization that something isn't the same between you and your classmates, and many of those classmates are only too willing to point that out, too. School can be a cruel place for gay teens,” Zac said.

“Heterosexuality is, let's face it, recognized as the sociological ‘norm’ and has been for a very long time. There's an inherent societal acceptance, even among unpopular heterosexual teens. At the very least, they could be viewed as a ‘normal, straight teen.’”

One of my favorite books, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, poses the question: Why is straight the default?  “Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn't be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I'm just saying,” she writes.

It’s no wonder that this constant feeling of not being accepted and being different causes LGBTQ youth to be more susceptible to depression. In fact, somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of LGBTQ individuals have experienced depression or anxiety at some point in their lives, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That’s 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than their straight counterparts! And, even more staggering of a statistic — gay youth are FIVE TIMES more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers!

"I'll be honest, I was one of those kids. I tried to take my own life back in 2008," Zac said. (God, hearing this broke my heart! I'm so glad you're still here, Zac! I'm so glad it didn't work!)

BUT, there is some good news. In the last five years since gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states, there's been a dramatic drop in LGBTQ suicide rates. A study showed that suicide attempt rates dropped 14 percent among gay youth since the legalization of same-sex marriage. Researchers believe there is a correlation and that the law made youth feel more hopeful for the future.

Zac can attest to this. “Legalization of gay marriage gave me hope. Legalization of gay marriage made me feel like more of a person and less of some kind of ostracized biological anomaly,” he said.

When it was announced that Zac now had the right to do something that so many of us take for
granted, he said,  "I cried like a baby. It meant so much to know that if my partner was sick, I would finally be guaranteed the ability to see him in the hospital. Our love would legally be recognized for the huge commitment it truly is.”

And, on Oct. 12, 2019, a dream he once thought was impossible came true. Zac got married to the love of his life, Tim Gallant.

“I am just about the happiest married man you'll find in this wide world,” he said. “The biggest thing, for me, was seeing my family there, after everything we had been through, supporting the biggest decision of my life.”

Zac gives this advice to any LGBTQ youth who's depressed or contemplating suicide, as he once was:

“Listen up, queen, because here's the deal: You are a unique and special individual, and you are a valuable member of this world," he said.

"I'm not going to feed you a line about it magically getting better. Sometimes, the world is going to throw you curveball after curveball and follow it up by spitting in your eye. What I WILL tell you is that the best revenge you can get on this sometimes hate-filled, cruel world is to be happy. Hold out for your happy ending. Don't. Let. This. World. Win.”

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