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social sciences

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Lesbian adults are also more likely to report a history of suicidal ideation. For example, Matthews and colleagues (2002) found that 52% of lesbians compared to 38% of heterosexual women in their sample had seriously considered suicide in the past. The National Lesbian Health Care Survey also found that lesbians were at an increased risk of suicide. Over half of the women in this study reported having thought about committing suicide, and 18% had attempted suicide. African-American and Latino women were more likely to have attempted suicide than White women.


Trangender individuals have also been found to have high rates of suicidal ideation. In a study by Mathy (2002), transgender men and women were actually more likely to have suicidal thoughts and make suicide attempts than non-transgender heterosexual women and both non-transgender heterosexual and gay men. These findings held true for all transgender participants regardless of their sexual orientation.

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Risk Factors

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and people face many additional risk factors for suicide besides those that are typically cited for suicide in the general population, such as depression and substance abuse. Social inequality is a source of stress for many glbtq people, who are not afforded the same rights and protections as heterosexuals.

Not only are discriminatory practices against glbtq people routine both institutionally and individually, but glbtq people also frequently experience verbal and physical harassment. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in particular often face victimization at school and at home for their sexual orientation and/or gender expression. Glbtq people of color may be at greater risk than others, as they have a "double" or "triple-minority" status for their race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and, for some, gender.

In addition, "coming out" at an earlier age can put glbtq youth at increased risk for suicide, as they are more likely to be rejected by friends at an age where their support is especially valued. Internalized is another possible risk factor, as many glbtq people internalize the negative messages that they get from society and come to hate themselves.

When glbtq youth do not have support, they are at an elevated risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Access to support groups can help youth decrease the isolation that they may feel and can give them alternative ways to deal with stressors. Support from peers and family members can also be very helpful.

Obviously, not all glbtq individuals are suicidal. Quite the opposite is true. Most glbtq people find the strength to cope with the additional stressors in their lives and lead successful lives despite the discrimination that they face from society.

Interestingly, however, a study by Jesdale and Zierler (2002) actually found that in states that enacted gay rights laws, there was a decrease in adolescent suicide for Caucasian males. While a definitive causational link cannot be made, this study offers hope that by creating a more accepting climate for glbtq people, we can decrease the rate of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among this population.

Nadine M. Jernewall

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social sciences >> Overview:  Adolescence

The ordinary sexual uncertainty and confusion confronted by all adolescents is compounded in glbtq adolescents by fears of being stigmatized and often by internalized homophobia.

social sciences >> Overview:  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

The socially and politically conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been antagonistic to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Homophobia

Homophobia was originally defined as a "dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals," but it is now sometimes used to describe any form of anti-gay bias.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sex Education

Sex education programs are vulnerable to the attempts of religious radicals to hijack the sex education movement as a means of disseminating their own repressive blend of intolerance and fear.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sociology

As an academic field, sociology has only recently begun to examine sexuality, and members of the profession are divided over glbtq concerns.

social sciences >> Overview:  Stigma

Stigmas--physical or personal attributes and behaviors that discredit the individuals and groups who possess them--affect all glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

arts >> Cooper, Anderson

Award-winning television journalist Anderson Cooper, famous for his reporting from war zones and scenes of natural and man-made disasters, ended years of speculation by confirming his homosexuality in 2012.

social sciences >> The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project, a Los Angeles-based educational organization, operates the only national 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hot line in the U.S. aimed at glbtq youth.


Bagley, Christopher, and Pierre Tremblay. "Elevated Rates of Suicidal Behavior in Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth." Crisis 21 (2000): 111-17.

Bradford, Judith, Caitlin Ryan, and Esther D. Rothblum. "National Lesbian Health Care Survey: Implications for Mental Health Care." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62 (1994): 228-42.

Faulkner, Anne, and Kevin Craston. "Correlates of Same-sex Sexual Behavior in a Random Sample of Massachusetts High School Students." American Journal of Public Health 88 (1998): 262-66.

Garofalo, Robert, R. Cameron Wolf, Shari Kessel, Judith Palfrey, and Robert H. DuRant. "The Association between Health Risk Behaviors and Sexual Orientation among a School-based Sample of Adolescents." Pediatrics 101 (1998): 895-902.

Herrell, Richard, Jack Goldberg, William R. True, Visvanathan Ramakrishnan, Michael Lyons, Seth Eisen, and Ming T. Tsuang. "Sexual Orientation and Suicidality: A Co-twin Control Study of Adult Men." Archives of General Psychiatry 56 (1999): 867-74.

Jesdale, Bill M., and Sally Zierler. "Original Research: Enactment of Gay Rights Laws in U. S. States and Trends in Adolescent Suicide: An Investigation of Non-Hispanic White Boys." Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association 6 (2002): 61-69.

Kulkin, Heidi S., Elizabeth A. Chauvin, and Gretchen A. Percle. "Suicide among Gay and Lesbian Adolescents and Young Adults: A Review of the Literature." Journal of Homosexuality 40 (2000): 1-29.

Mathy, Robin M. "Transgender Identity and Suicidality in a Nonclinical Sample: Sexual Orientation, Psychiatric History, and Compulsive Behaviors." Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality 14 (2002): 47-65.

Matthews, Alicia K., Tonda L. Hughes, Timothy Johnson, Lisa A. Razzano, and Roberta Cassidy. "Prediction of Depressive Distress in a Community Sample of Women: The Role of Sexual Orientation." American Journal of Public Health 92 (2002):1131-39.

McBee, Sandra M., and James R. Rogers. "Identifying Risk Factors for Gay and Lesbian Suicidal Behavior: Implications for Mental Health Counselors." Journal of Mental Health Counseling 19 (1997): 143-55.

Morrison, Linda L., and Jeff L'Heureux. "Suicide and Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Youth: Implications for Clinicians." Journal of Adolescence 24(2001): 39-49.

Remafedi, Gary, Simone French, Mary Story, Michael D. Resnick, and Robert Blum. "The Relationship between Suicide Risk and Sexual Orientation: Results of a Population-based Study." American Journal of Public Health 88 (1998): 57-60.

Russell, Stephen T., and Kara Joyner. "Adolescent Sexual Orientation and Suicide Risk: Evidence from a National Study." American Journal of Public Health 91 (2001): 1276-81.

Shaffer, David, Prudence Fisher, Roger H. Hicks, Michael Parides, and Madelyn Gould. "Sexual Orientation in Adolescents Who Commit Suicide." Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 25 (1995): 64-71.


    Citation Information
    Author: Jernewall, Nadine M.  
    Entry Title: Suicide  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated February 5, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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