Commentary: We are losing the war against suicide by LGBTQ teenagers

Tim J.S. Heise

I am a high school teacher and I am writing about suicide prevention among LGBTQ students. I take In loco parentis very seriously. I care about my students as if they were my own children. It is not my job to judge my LGBTQ students, it is my job to teach them.

Your heterosexual teenager has a higher chance of committing suicide then dying in a car accident. LGBTQ students are already four times more likely than their straight counterparts to attempt suicide. Scientific research indicates that this is linked to homophobic attitudes and heterosexist discrimination.

Utah suicide rates are skyrocketing for everyone, especially LGBTQ students. It is getting worse and we are losing the war. Our legislature has done and is doing many great things for suicide prevention overall. My fear is that certain bills might actually increase the rate of suicide among our LGBTQ teens.

Enter Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, who is sponsoring House Bill 153, which lists definitions for “male” and “female,” and would not allow for birth certificates to be amended to reflect a gender change. In essence, this bill will discontinue the ability for transgender adults to change their gender on their birth certificates.

Transgender persons now can change their gender and there name. They do this through a court proceeding with a judge deciding the outcome. My question to Mr. Nelson is, why should the government be involved in this at all? Freedom for me and not for thee.

I am not insinuating that the government should not do certain things only to protect the “feelings” of others, however I am asking the Legislature to slow down for a second and think about why they do what they do and to be cognizant of the possibility a bill might be added to the list of reasons that a LGBTQ teen might kill themselves.

Some other current bills related to my LGBTQ students concern whether the government should add LGBTQ protections to hate crime legislation and if conversion therapy should be banned. Gay conversion therapy — in the past — has consisted of extreme measures such as institutionalization, castration and electroconvulsive shock therapy to try to stop people from being LGBTQ. Current practices are less shocking but are still equally devoid of scientific validity and pose serious dangers to my students.

I ask the Legislature, why do you feel that my LGBTQ students are “bad?” You must feel this way because of your inability to extend them equal protections. You must feel this way because of your past decisions to not help them because you feel that they are choosing this lifestyle. Why are you judging them?

Tim J.S. Heise is a teacher at Rockwell Charter High School, Eagle Mountain.