A few years ago, while at University, I was quite active in gay politics – I was publicity officer at Bristol’s Lesbian and Gay Society for several years. I made some nice posters, and stood in the foyer of student buildings asking people to sign petitions for an equal age of consent. An equal age of consent that still doesn’t exist, I might add. I’d get people not looking me in the eye, and saying that they “just didn’t agree with that kind of thing”.
Every so often I’d be forced to listen to people tell me that “being gay is a choice and an immoral one at that”. But I’d be meeting young gay people who were too scared to come out the closet or who had been thrown out of their homes (and once stabbed) by members of their own families.
But it was always the statistics that made it clear to me why I was involved in the politics of it all. Gay teenagers were two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than straight teenagers. They were two to three times more likely to succeed as well. They were considerably more likely to be living on the streets, to suffer from depression or to be driven to cut themselves due to low self-esteem. When I was in journalism school I wrote a piece on a child who had been systematically taunted for being gay at school. He committed suicide as a result. Ironically, even after death, no one knew for certain whether he was actually gay or not.
All this came back to me today because of this article about San Francisco’s preparation for the holiday season. While I know that the vast majority of you are pretty gay-friendly (you wouldn’t be reading this otherwise), I’d be really grateful if you’d read this and give a thought to how you’d react if your son or daughter, or your best friend, or even if your mother or father after many years finally worked up the courage to tell you they were gay. And perhaps you could even think how you might make it easier for them to tell you if they were.