Despite the great strides made both socially and legally in regards to how the LGBT community is accepted and treated, homophobia is still a problem all over the world. While we'd like to think that it's only in nations like Russia, where being gay is a crime, or Iran, where they "don't have any gays," as former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad infamously said, the truth of the matter is that homophobia is everywhere, and tragically, it's not dissipating as soon as it should.
With anti-gay sentiment being a very real and inescapable part of our society, especially in some corners of the world more so than others, it should come as no surprise that its negative effects, both emotionally and physically, on its victims is a fact. There's only so much hate one can take, before they suffer in ways that are so horrifying, it's heartbreaking because it CAN be prevented.
As human beings we're capable of extraordinary things. I like to believe that even those whose hearts are corroded with hate, a hate the stems from their own fear of what they don't understand, are capable of change. No one should have to suffer at the hands of someone else's intolerance.
A new study, the first of its kind, took a look at exactly how homophobia influences death rates. The results are not only upsetting, but it really shakes you to the core because it doesn't have to be this way; this shouldn't have to happen. Like the power of love, hate can also transform us emotinally and physically.
Here are 7 facts you should know about the effects homophobia has on LGBT individuals.
1. Shorter life expectancy.
Those gay and bisexual people living within communities where anti-gay sentiments are not only common, but also accepted, have, on average, a shorter life expectancy in comparison to their peers who are fortunate enough to live in more open-minded communities.
Over a series of time, researchers took a look at mortality rates of gays in both anti-gay communities and communities where being gay was not an issue: "By the end of the study, 92 percent of LGB respondents living in low-prejudice communities were still alive. But only 78 per cent of the LGB respondents living in high-prejudice communities were still alive." That difference in percentage is astounding.
2. More likely to be the victims of violence.
With the rampant hate crimes against gays, some of which are legal in some parts of the world, the LGBT community is more likely to be the victims of a violent crime.
A painful reminder of just how violent a crime we're talking about is the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998, who was tortured, beaten, bound, tied to a fence, and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. His murderers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, weren't even charged with a hate crime because Wyoming didn't have that as a possible charge at the time.
3. Higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
When we say that homophobia affects the heart, we're not just talking about the proverbial one, but the physical one, too. In those high-prejudice communities, gays and lesbians have a 25 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who live in gay acceptance areas.
4. Higher suicide rates.
Suicide rates amongst gay youths are devastating. With suicide becoming a fair too common way "out" of unbearable homophobic condition, Dan Savage created the "It Gets Better Project" in 2010 as a means to communicate to the younger LGBT generations that with age, it will get easier, and to hold out for those days ahead.
Numerous studies have been done to try to pinpoint exactly how many suicides have been the result of homophobia. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent of LGBT youth have attempted suicide. And those living in homophobic communities, on average, died of suicide at the age of 37.5, compared to the age of 55.7 for those who didn't have to deal with such hate. KEEP READING ...
5. More likely to suffer from mental illness.
In comparison to their straight peers, members of the LGBT community, especially young adults, are far more likely to suffer from some form of mental illness because of homophobia. The two big ones, according to Michael Benibgui at Concordia's Department of Psychology and Centre for Research in Human Development, are depression and anxiety.
6. More likely to abuse substances.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that those who are constantly at battle with ignorance and homophobia are 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, as a means to escape the daily pain of their environment.
7. The inability to establish long-term relationships.
Not only did the CDC find that homophobia has a direct effect on sexual practices, with victims being 3.4 times more like to engage in risky sexual behavior, but it also takes its toll on personal relationships. Although true for both gay men and lesbians, it's more common with gay men where homophobia affects the ability for them to form meaningful, long-term, same-sex relationships.
And these are just the effects we know about now; there's no telling what research down the road will bring. As allies of the LGBT community, we need to stand up for what is right. We need to be vocal in our allegiance, love, and respect.
No matter your sexuality, you can't sit around and be a bystander of homophobic action and/or words, without making your voice heard. This article shouldn't even have to exist, because homophobia shouldn't exist. We need to do what we can to protect our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community, and try our damnedest to put an end to all of this.
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