Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Suicide Problems in South Africa?
To: Index Page for Bisexual, Gay, Queer Male Suicidality
Results from more than 30 gay / bisexual male youth suicidality Studies
To Search For Anything At This Site!
Site Index
Subject Index: GLBT Information in 21 Categories.
There are many ways to be helpful.
The Additional Problems of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth of Colour.
The Additional Problems of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth of Colour is a chapter from: The Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Factor in the Youth Suicide Problem. - A 1998 Addition: General White GLB racism in North America, Calgary racism issues. - Links to Internet Resources related to "Of Colour" Issue: North American and International. - A 1999 Addition: Internet Resources on racism in white-dominated GLB communities. - A 2000 Addition: Racism in Predominantly White Gay and Lesbian Communities.

Many professionals have noted that youth belonging to visible minorities need the support of their group to effectively cope with the negative effects of white racism in North America. It has also been recognized, however, that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour (like their white counterparts) often lack the support of their ethnic or racial groups, and even lack support in their families. For most gay, lesbian, and bisexual children/adolescents of all colours, growing up in their families can be likened to a Jewish youth being raised in a Nazi family, or to an African-American youth being raised by white supremacists. They may not survive the abuse and self-esteem devastation they would be subjected to.

In the last 10 years, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals of colour have been writing more about their adolescent experiences, the rejection they often experienced within their communities and families, or the fear of rejection they believe would be experienced if their homosexual identity was known. They have also reported on their negative experiences when they ventured into racist white dominated North American gay and lesbian communities. The situation has caused some gays of colour to express their feelings about the situation. The message received from their writings and from gay friends of colour has been:

In Calgary, for Gay Pride Week 1993, about 400 gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and their supporter gathered in front of City Hall where gay and lesbian community members addressed the crowd. Among the speakers were a gay and a lesbian member from the group of Colour who spoke - in angry terms - about the white racism existing in the gay and lesbian community. Their feelings were heart-felt and it was almost like white gays and lesbians were being told: "Why are you rejecting and abusing us, as you were also rejected and abused, just for being different? Haven't you learned anything from your experiences?"

I listened attentively, because I have been concerned about racism in the gay community. Furthermore, I was aware of having avoided issues related to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals of colour when I wrote Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth Need Our Help in 1991. The omission occurred because of time constraints, and because I did not have the information needed to address this issue. I am also white and felt I was not in a position to speak for gays and lesbians of colour, nor did I feel qualified to write about their experiences and feelings. Therefore, to assure accuracy, at least in terms of the basic information presented, this section was edited by gay individuals of color.

In Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth Need Our Help, and in another document titled The Homosexuality Factor in Social Violence, I had ventured into sensitive territory by arguing that the white juvenile delinquent problem has always been dominated by a "homosexuality factor." But I avoided expanding this concept into the even more sensitive world of male juvenile delinquents of colour. Fate being what it is, however, the first response to the document came from an individual who worked with male juvenile delinquents of colour. It was felt that the analysis made also applied to these youths, especially because their "bisexuality" had been suspected or recognized. More copies of the document were therefore requested, and I offered to write an additional section describing how "the homosexuality factor" would apply to delinquents of colour, as summarized below.

Historically, "the homosexuality factor" has been an attribute reported to exist for about 70 to 80 percent of the males headed for prisons (Appendix B.); but the 'experts' - traditionally infected with the stereotype that homosexual males must be "like females"(94) - have not been able to look at these ultra macho and sometimes very violent males, and see the obvious. That, as their often reported sexual activities reveal, they have been, are, and/or will be active seekers of sex with males - but only in the form of being sexually "dominant" with other males. In some cases, homosexual activity occurs only in the prisons these males are returning to regularly.

Fortunately, Kinsey was more objective in examining homosexuality. As a major criterion, he classified males on the basis of who they had sex with, how often, and for how many years. In this way, he avoided subjective interpretations of sexual orientation as well as tendencies to denial. On this basis, I would have therefore been classified to be homosexual by the age of 18 to 20, even though I would have totally denied this at the time. Numerous male prisoners, over-represented in Kinsey's sample of males, were also similarly classified, and the percentage deemed to be "homosexual" was so high that it resulted in a significant "homosexual" over-estimate error for the U.S. population (Appendix B).

The belief that "a homosexual" is only the passive male in homosexual sex is endemic to many cultures, and we also have a history of harboring the same belief (94) - which has continued to be the ruling ideology in our prison systems where homosexual activity has traditionally been rampant (Appendix B). Hence, the often reported need for condoms in our prisons where many juvenile delinquents of all colours are heading to join the ones who had most likely been juvenile delinquents. Unfortunately, few professionals if any have understood these males, mostly because their well known homosexual activities have not been considered "significant" (in a society where all desires by males to have sex with males has been very significant). Therefore, these males have been having a discourse with society and it may be rendered as follows:

The Rage of many white male juvenile delinquents in this category, however, would be much less than the Rage created in the minds of juvenile delinquents of colour in the same category. Both experience self-hatred for being homosexual, and both feel rejected and hated by society, but the latter will be experiencing a different situation. The rejection by their own minority group will be more devastating because the ones who hate and reject them are having this spoken/unspoken dialogue with these youngsters: Often, the delinquent tendency for minority youth is attributed to the racism of the dominant culture, which has also created a self-hatred problem for these youth. A Metis counselor I know has explained that this yields two categories of youth: those who manifest "out-rage" to those manifesting "in-rage." The former express their rage with abusive acts directed outward, mostly at their own [hated] people, while the latter direct their learned self-hatred inward and have high suicide rates. Although both groups represent the flip side of the same coin, they are both at risk for engaging in some self -destructive behaviours such as abusing drug and alcohol.

White delinquents, however, also commit most of their crimes against their own people, and such behavior cannot be explained by invoking a racial factor. So what has caused these males to wage a war against society? Fortunately, for these males, or the male group we could call "the prison crowd" described in Appendix B, we know that most have been homo-sexually active, to the point that many of them engaged in more homo-sex than average self-identified gay males did. For the latter, their quest for homo-sex is related to homosexual desires (associated with an acknowledged homosexual identity); but what about the former who, in significant numbers, have also been active seekers of homo-sex?

Recognizing that their sought and enjoyed homo-sex experiences cannot be the result of disliking homo-sex, nor being indifferent to it, we must conclude that the word "homosexual" or "bisexual" best describes these males. This conclusion then permits us to see that the two groups of white males who are having the most homo-sex in our society have formed a classical representation of the in-rage/out-rage model. White self-identified gay males manifest their learned homohatred by having a serious attempted suicide problem, while white (homo-sexually active) delinquent males strike out at the world which hates them.

According to this interpretation, we would therefore expect "out-rage" minority youth to strike out against the ones who hate them - white people, but this is not the case. Instead, they usually strike out against their own people. Why? Is it because, as the counselor stated, their socially induced (race-related) self-hatred is simply being projected outward - onto others like themselves? Or, is the most significant cause of their aggression (against their own people) the same as the one postulated for many white delinquents? Could it be that they are striking out against the ones who have told them they are hated (for being homosexual)?

A number of gay and bisexual male youth of colour do acknowledge their homosexual orientation, which requires having to deal with socially induced self-hatred problems. Requiring a supportive environment, they may then venture into white gay and lesbian communities, seeking unconditional acceptance and love not experienced in their own communities. Unfortunately, most (all?) human communities have operated according to the "conditional" principle, as I realized, with dismay, when I ventured into the two largest gay communities in Alberta. The situation has also been much worse for gays and lesbians of colour who did the same, because white gays and lesbians are the product of their racist cultures and, all too often, they act accordingly.

Racism, sexism, and other factors have caused some fragmentation to occur in gay and lesbian communities, Some lesbians have opted for a "separatist" world which - as much as possible - doesn't involve having males in their lives, including gay males (27). Some gays, lesbians, and bisexuals of colour have also become separatists, mostly because they have grown tired of the rejection, abuses, and hurt feelings resulting from the white racism existing in North American gay and lesbian communities. Basically, all of this has been a response to people who don't treat others as equals which is, ironically, what caused white gay and lesbian communities to evolve.

Most people learn little from having been abused, and from having been hated just for being different. Evidently, many white gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have been inflicting stress on gays, lesbians, and bisexuals of colour, thus causing some of them to lose hope, to withdraw, and to even become "separatists" so that the abuses and the resulting pain is avoided. Others, however, may have fully withdrawn through suicide, or by engaging in other self-destructive activities. Juvenile delinquents, on the other hand, respond differently. They strike out against the ones who have said: "WE HATE YOU! WE WILL NEVER ACCEPT YOU!" Nonetheless, delinquents are separatists, and they sometimes form separatist groups called "youth gangs" which demand strict conformity from members.

By the time gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour venture into white gay and lesbian communities, they have often experienced much more rejection and hatred than their white counterparts. Unfortunately, they will then be subjected to the racism of white gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and they will not experience the unconditional acceptance and love they anticipated on the basis of shared homosexual identity. The end result of this experience may be a major state of depression characterized by feelings of hopelessness very much associated with suicide (28). Gibson(1989), the author of Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide, described the situation existing for "ethnic minority gay youth:"

The situation is aggravated because "ethnic minority youth additionally face racial discrimination from white homosexuals that is a reflection of their treatment by the majority culture" (43 : 123); thus leading to the speculation that these youth would be at very high risk for suicide, compared to their heterosexual counterparts in their culture, and compared to white gay youth. In 1989, little research data was available to support this hypothesis, except in Bell and Weinberg's 1978 study: This data only reflects the African-American situation existing from the 1930s to the 1960s, and changes have occurred since then. For example, there has been "a dramatic increase in suicides among young [American] blacks over the past two decades that has brought their suicide rate nearly equal to that of white youths" (43: 122) . Unfortunately, research is almost non-existent on the role "homosexuality" may have played in this development, and the same generally applies for the suicide problem in other minority groups. Nonetheless, professionals working with white and minority gay and lesbian youth have been seeing so many tragedies that they have been reporting on the phenomenon: Addressing this problem, however, has been negatively affected by the fact that little is known about these youth because "little has been written about Third World sexual minorities" (43: 123). Fortunately, the situation has improved in the last five years, but research work specifically addressing the suicide problem of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour has not been done. This is not surprising given the traditional neglect of the white gay youth suicide problem, and a continued almost total neglect of white lesbian youth problems.

Since 1987, studies reporting attempted suicide rates for gay youth have been based on samples dominated by white gay males, but some samples contained significant numbers of minority youth. The resulting data has revealed that their attempted suicide rate, and their rate for being suicidal, are higher than the rates reported for their white counterparts.

In the 1989 Schneider et al. study of 108 gay male youths ranging in age from 16 to 24, 50% (38/76) of the white youths were classified to have been "suicidal," while 67% (21/32) in the "Minority: Black, Pacific/Asian, Latino, Multiple/Other' category were similarly classified. The Latinos dominated this group (16/32); and 69 percent of them (11/16) had been in the "suicidal" category. The same applied for 4 of the 5 "Pacific/Asians" in the sample. Concerning the Latino males, the authors wrote:

In the 1991 Remafedi et al. study of 137 gay male youths ranging in age from 14 to 21, 113 of them were white, and 24 were "Black, Hispanic, [and] Asian." Twenty-seven percent (31/113) of white gay males had attempted suicide, while 42% (10/24) of minority gay males had done the same. Unfortunately, the authors of the paper did not address the issue of colour related to reported higher attempted suicide rate (113: 870; 29). The only study encountered on gay and lesbian youth of colour is unpublished and was summarized by Savin-Williams (1994): Studies specifically targeting lesbian youth of color have not been done, but the Bell and Weinberg(1978) study reveals that, at least from the 1930s to the 1960s, the white lesbian youth attempted suicide rate (17.7%) and the black lesbian rate (13.8%) - to the age of 25 - was similar; as was the white gay male rate (14.2%) compared to the black gay male rate (16.8%). But changes have been occurring, now yielding much higher suicide rates for gay males of colour as noted above, and the same has been happening for lesbians of colour. A 1984 sample of 1,925 lesbians revealed that Black and Latina lesbians had an attempted suicide rate of 27% and 28%, respectively, compared to an average rate of 16% for white lesbians in the sample (16; 30).

From the above research results, and also from 'transposition' thinking - as in white gays and lesbians asking themselves: "How would I have felt if all these additional stressors applied?" And others thinking: "If this suicide disaster applies for white gay and lesbian youth, what could we expect gay and lesbian youth of colour to experience given these stressors? - we would suspect that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour are generally at a higher risk for suicide (with exceptions to be anticipated), and that these youth must have special needs.

In the 1992 Advocate article addressing youth and AIDS this issue was addressed in a section titled: "Differing Needs." An 18-year old African American gay youth with AIDS is quoted:

Gabe Kruks described the situation for African-American gay youth: Another professional noted: Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth who are Latino, Latina, Black, Asian, Native American, etc., have similar and different problems, which means they will have "special needs," and individual needs as their white counterparts do. Within one group, whether they be Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, East Indian, Inuit Iranian, Lebanese, etc., subgroups will also exist, thus creating unique problems for some adolescents which are not being experienced by others in the same general group.

For example, in Native American cultures, depending on how their Nation or Tribe perceives homosexuality - and the level of acceptance varies (20) - problems experienced by Two-Spirited Native youth will vary. Some gay Natives have had positive experiences when their homosexual nature became known; while others have had negative experiences. Such a situation, although not completely negative, was described in a 1991 paper titled: Care of HIV Infected Native American Substance Abusers. From the experiences of professionals working at The Friendship House Association of American Indians, a residential drug and alcohol treatment program in San Francisco, the Native "homosexuality" situation is described:

Some Native gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, as the situation exists in white societies, are openly expressing their sexuality, while others remain closeted. The situation was described by M. Owlfeather (1988), a Shoshone - Metis/Cree author and poet living in Wyoming: The above was written after Owlfeather had described another problem negatively affecting American gay Indians, including Indian youth. As a rule, Native youth have been denied knowledge of Native history, and they have especially been denied information about their forefather's positive responses to "Two-Spirited People," or what white people have called "the berdache." (The Andrea Maldonado paper located on the Internet at contains excellent information on the Native American Berdache, and some important "interpretation" warnings are given.) The practice of denying gays and lesbians their history is the rule in Alberta, and Native people often do the same to their children probably because they want to be like white people. There are, however, some exceptions. A Native gay male I met was brought up by his grandmother who told him his history at the age of 12 - when she saw he was different. She explained that, not long ago, before the missionaries came, his people did not hate kids like him. That, if he had lived then, he would have been perceived to be special, and very important (32), instead of being hated. But the missionaries had taught many Natives to hate their gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, and children, just like white people did (33).

The Native youth was about 19, had walked away from his northern Alberta Cree people who would not accept him, and he had been working the streets as a prostitute in Calgary for a few years. He was also a "protector" of other hustlers like him, and would confront and even physically assault anyone who threatened them. His feelings, however, were kept hidden, but they were accessed when he recognized that I also knew what his grandmother had told him. To this day, I have not seen anyone so emotionally devastated, and it became apparent that his survival was very much the result of his grandmother's early support.

He had been told his history and he knew that there was a time when his people did not hate Two-Spirited individuals. He had realized that the hatred he had experienced, and was still experiencing, was learned. That it was also possible for his people to someday return to the old ways. Even if such hope is fragile, it gave him the strength he needed to cope with cultural alienation, and the hatred white people had for him because he was both Native and gay. He also often experienced the hatred of white gays for Natives, plus their common disdain for male prostitutes.

Since I lost touch with him, I have often wondered if he had maybe ended his life in a quiet way, to end the pain he almost always kept locked within. This thought still troubles me for a number of reasons. No one would have learned anything from his death because gay and lesbian youth fatalities have little effect on our society, and even less effect if the youth is Native and gay.

It has nonetheless been encouraging to see that more essays and papers are now addressing the special concerns of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals of colour. For example, in one part of the 1992 book POSITIVELY GAY titled The Brave New World of Gay and Lesbian South, a section is titled: CULTURAL CONCERNS. Within, Latino and African-American gay and lesbian youth realities are presented:

This disownership has also existed in East Indian communities, as noted by a Canadian artist, Sunil Gupta(1989), while living in England. With respect to "Indiangays'(sic), he reported that the disowner ship in England had gone as far as his people being given 'air-time on television" to "denounc[e] these white homosexuals who are teaching their children how to be gay (55: 177). The denial that Indians could be gay has been painful for Indiangays because, as noted by Gupta, the ones "who came out in the 1970s were virtually shut out of [their Indian] community and went into a white-identified gay lifestyle." This happened not so much because it was desired, but because support was lacking in East Indian communities.

In Canada, little has been written about the concerns of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour. There is, however, a highly informative 1989 paper titled Growing up Gay or Lesbian in a Multicultural Context authored by Bob Tremble from the Sexual orientation and Youth Program in Toronto, Dr. Margaret Schneider from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and Carol Appathurai from Central Toronto Youth Services. Some problems experienced by gay and lesbian youth of colour - among many - were presented:

Another common problem was noted: The existence of lesbians of colour, as was often the case for white lesbians in the past, is often denied. In many cultures, it is 'accepted' or 'known' that men can be homosexual - which is commonly interpreted as "being like a woman" - but the idea that lesbians exist is unthinkable for a number of reasons. One of these would be the strong opposition to ever permitting a female to adopt the male role, which would mean granting her "equal to male" status, and also giving her the great privileges men have traditionally granted only to their own kind. For many males, such an idea is rejected, as would be the possibility that a female could be homosexual. In their minds, this would mean that a female is 'male' - which is impossible! They have few problems, however, with the idea that a male could be "like a female" mostly because, as it has been the rule in our culture, "being female" is perceived to be an inferior-to-male status. The result of this sexist culturally learned ideology was rendered with: In addition to the great problems experienced in their ethnic and racial groups, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour will experience problems related to the aforementioned racism existing in North American gay and lesbian communities:
An unspoken myth exists that the homosexual community, as a culture of people who know oppression, is tolerant and accepting of differences.
Racism exists in gay and lesbian communities and a gay Chinese adolescent from Hong Kong described the problem:
Caucasian gays don't like gay Chinese, and the Chinese don't like the gays (150: 263).
A Chinese friend advised me that such responses vary in Chinese communities, depending on a family's country of origin, the number of generations a family has been in Canada, and on the information known and given to youth about the history of homosexuality in their culture (34).

In a 1990 book documenting the history of male homosexual tradition in China (35), it is reported that the Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China have made a great effort to excise - from the official historical record - the once well known history of male homosexuality in China. The newly created myth is that homosexuality in the Chinese population "is a recent importation from the decadent West" (40: 165). Yet, the historical record reveals that homosexuality was once so widely accepted in China that the Chinese were severely condemned because of this by Europeans(61: 165; 36).

From the information available, there is little doubt that North American gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour are more likely to experience problems than are their white counterparts; and this is reflected in their reported higher attempted suicide rates. It may therefore be incorrect to assume that suicides involving youths of colour are mostly the result of living in a white racist society. Instead, the cause may be often related to homosexuality; but these youngsters would have suffered in silence, never having told anyone anything about the problems which ultimately killed them; the problems inflicted on them by the ignorance, intolerance, and viciousness of their own minority group.

For many groups of colour, their lack of acceptance of homosexuality is an unfortunate recent phenomenon resulting from the great educational efforts of anti-homosexual white cultures. White people have a well documented history of severely condemning all cultures which once considered homosexuality to be an acceptable fact of life, and even a positive outcome(20: 3); 61: 167-71). It is tragic that, in an effort to be more acceptable to white people, many non-white cultures became homophobic and thereby lessened the degree to which they were understanding, accepting, and/or tolerant of social members who were different on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

It therefore appears that the considerable damage done to gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour stems from the rejection they experience in their communities and families. These adolescents are made to feel like they are "the only one" with a homosexual orientation, that no one shares their problem(s), and that no one could therefore ever accept, understand, love, and help them. This situation can easily cause many of these adolescents to experience the hopelessness which can lead to suicide, thus causing these youngsters to become the non-existent beings they were expected to be.

In the final analysis, we are all responsible for these suicides and attempted suicides. This is why the greater society, and gay and lesbian communities, must be looked at more closely to better understand the causes of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth tragedy being described. It is also important to investigate why silence about the problems of all gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents has been the rule in our society.

Filling a sidebar at the bottom of the page:

"Much work must be done in gay/lesbian communities to address problems related to gay, lesbian and bisexual youth of colour. One Canadian milestone in this respect was reported on in the May 27, 1994 XTRA article, "History grant awarded: South Asian archiving project will document those who built up Toronto Community," by James Ip (p. 17). The grant from the Toronto Centre for Lesbian and Gay Studies will be used "to put together a radio programme illustrating the contributions of South Asian lesbian and gay men in the community. One of the three producers of the programmer, television producer Mark Haslam, is quoted: "People still tend to think of gays and lesbians as being white... They tend not to think about Asians or South Asians or a variety of other people. Gays and lesbians come from all cultures and have made contributions all over the world."


26. For the same event in 1994, only about 250 gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and their supporters participated. This low number expresses the "no hope" feelings I have seen many manifest as a response to the present anti-gay government in Alberta. Thousands of people, however, were reported to have participated in similar events in Toronto and Vancouver. A Toronto Star article, reprinted in the Calgary Herald, (Gays parade by the thousands through Toronto, July 4, 1994, p. A-2), reported that 50,000 had marched in the parade, and about 300,000 people lined the streets.

27. This has been the result of the rampant hurtful sexism still manifested by most males, and even by most gay males. Over the years, I have often encountered gay clubs which make it clear that lesbians are not welcome.

From my observations, it has been the most effeminate gay males who have voiced the strongest objections to having females in gay clubs. A University of Calgary gay academic, Eric Savory described some of these males: "I am amazed at how many really effeminate gay men I know who hate other effeminate gay men" (141: 8). I perceive such behavior to be (often denied) self-hatred projected onto those who are most like oneself, and especially onto those who are real women. This is also the expected product of growing up as a feminine male in a sexist society which still greatly devalues what is female, compared to what is male. Unfortunately, this socially induced self-hatred manifested by effeminate gay males has generally been neglected by suicidologists. Yet. it may be (to a significant degree) related to the report that effeminate gay male youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than are other more gender conformable gay males (113: 873).

28. The feeling of hopelessness, reported in terms of values on a "Hopelessness Scale," is an important factor in the study of suicide (113: 872).

29. The same and worse, occurred in the 1993 D'Augelli and Hershberger study(32) of gay/bisexual male youth (142/194) and lesbian (bisexual female) youth. For the sample of 194 youth, 66% were white, 14% African American, 6% Hispanic 5% Asian American, and 4% Native American, leaving 5% of the sample possibly being in other non-white Categories. Therefore there was a reasonably significant 34% representation (66/194) of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour in the sample, but the authors stated: ' Due to the predominance of white respondents in the sample, racial/ethnic comparisons [and data] are not reported." (32: 427) l disagree with this because significant differences in attempted suicide rates for youth of colour, if they exist, will affect the average attempted suicide rate, especially with the 34% representation of these youth in the sample. This omission of data (related to the largest gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour sample taken to date) does not permit students of the gay and lesbian youth suicide problem to identify the differences, if any, and to draw their own conclusions. From this study, it can only be concluded, with some reservation that the attempted suicide rates for the 66 gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth of colour was close to the average of 42% for the sample. The true figure, however, could be 55%, or 30%, which l would consider worth reporting.

30. Problems related to this study are addressed in Appendix C. If proposed corrections apply, the attempted suicide rate for lesbians of colour may be as high as 40%.

31. Closeted Native males are usually the ones who don't act in stereotyped ways - as in being "like a female." This phenomenon, common in white cultures, was reported on by a closeted 16-year-old gay Blackfoot male I interviewed in August, 1994. He talked about two very masculine males in his Community who were gay but closeted, as opposed to the more feminine gay males who are not (could not be) closeted, and paid the price in terms of having drug and/or alcohol abuse problems. The Native boy expressed a great sadness (almost anger) for not having positive and masculine openly gay Native role models, which would make it possible for him to come out and not be classified feminine. He noted that his Native peers are worse than white males in terms of being macho, having anti-homosexual attitudes, and also believing that gay males are all like females. He has a great fear of his people discovering he is gay.

32. The role and status of homosexual males varied in Native tribes. Often enough, shamans or "medicine men" were in this category. Concerning this Havelock Ellis summarized the writings of ethnologists. For the Innuit Eskimo tribe: "...for time immemorial there has been a connection between the invert [the homosexual] and the priest" as "illustrated by the ' Eskimo schupans... Horneffer discusses the feminine traits of priest and shows that, among the most various peoples persons of sexually abnormal and especially of homosexual temperament have assumed the functions of the priesthood" (32: 28). It is also now recognized that 40 to 60 percent of Roman Catholic priest are homosexual, but studies have never been done to understand why this association exists, even in white cultures. In my culture some boys were, from a very early age, strongly encouraged to become priests, as it happened to me. This selection was not based on being effeminate, but on having something like "The best little boy in the world" attributes. Boy who were empathic, loving affectionate - or gender nonconformable to a certain degree, which is an attribute of many pre-self-identified gay males were steered toward the priesthood. Natives have often correctly assumed that males who have two spirits, as in being both male and female were the ones most capable of understanding all of humanity. Typically, in white cultures, men say they don't understand women; and women don't understand men Understanding all humanity is therefore an elevated status, especially if "being spiritual" is not perceived to be rooted in one's ignorance of the other gender, and of homosexuals of both genders.

33. There is also a history of suicide, as it relates to homosexuality and being Native, which remains to be studied. Walter L. Williams summarized the data presented in his 1986 book The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture (Boston, Beacon Press, pp 178-183): "Homosexuality was a particular object of wrath from both government agents and Christian missionaries, being referred to as 'the most repugnant of all practices.' and 'a shameful custom' Many homosexually inclined Indians committed suicide as a result." {Being Gay and Doing Research on Homosexuality in Non-Western Cultures (l60: 116).} According to the Calgary Herald article, Native youth suicide twice the national rate, (March 14, 1994, p. B-3) Native youth in Manitoba were determined to be "10 times more likely to commit suicide than non-native youth," the national rate being about 5 times more likely; and Native youth living in cities were the most at risk for suicide. In my opinion, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Native male youth are often reported to be over-represented in male prostitution, I would suspect that "the homosexuality factor" is one of the most significant factors in Native male (and possibly female) youth suicide. Native gay male youth would be, for reasons similar to white gay males, also about 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than are heterosexual Native males and, when combined with other factors, they may be about 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than are white heterosexual males. A Metis Counselor reported that, for the many Native male youth she had seen over the years, the ones with the most serious suicidal problem (often including suicide attempts), and drug and alcohol abuse problems, were often males who had experienced child sexual abuse. Their major often unspoken problem, however, was the memory that they had enjoyed these sexual experiences; that they had enjoyed having sex with one or more males, and older males no less. These memories therefore had homosexual implications, and it was their learned homophobia which was a major cause of their problems, in addition to having been used sexually as children by older males. (The shortcomings of many,  possibly most professionals who counsel problem youth of all colours with similar histories, is briefly addressed in the Addendum.)

34. 1n February, 1994, a female member of a Chinese community service organization was asked about the "gay and lesbian" situation existing in Calgary's Chinese community. She explained the situation by Verbalizing related feelings existing for most Chinese people: if you're gay or lesbian, then you're not Chinese.' The fear of such disownership must be great in the minds of many gay and lesbian Chinese youth, and many negative consequences can be expected from this.

35. The title of this book, "Passion of the Cut Sleeve," is an old Chinese euphemism for homosexuality. It is related to an event which occurred between two males, with the total emphasis being on love, not sex. [Related Book Review at Yawning Bread.]

36. A May 27, 1994, XTRA article, "Amnesty International studies lesbian and gay men" (p. 19), reports on the first Amnesty International publication specifically addressing this subject: "Breaking The Silence" "Amnesty states there is ample evidence that governments in all regions of the world direct abuse specifically at homosexuals." this ranges from executions to imprisonment and harassment. In China, imprisonment occurs and "electric shocks and psychotropic drugs" are still used "on detainees to change their sexual orientation."

Additional information related to racism in North American GLB Communities:

In Calgary, white racism was addressed in the gay [white] media in 1993, with a number of resulting problems. The issue was also addressed during Gay Pride Week, but silence has existed since then. The author of the article which had troubled many white 'souls', Kevin DeSouza, left Calgary in disgust by 1995, along with Susanda Ya. By 1997, Paul Fernandez had done the same, after noting that white gay community leaders in Calgary have had a tendency to resent and punish people of colour who do not know their place, and especially if they ever begin to speak or write the truth. In one year since Outlooks has been publishing in Calgary, neither the serious problem of GB youth suicide nor racism have been investigated and reported on for reasons which should be explored.

On the Internet, racism issues are sometimes encountered, as highlighted in a "" article:

It is wrongly believed that the lesbian and gay community with its ongoing experience of stigma and discrimination is racially tolerant. The reality is that visible minorities experience discrimination in the gay and lesbian community.
An article listed on Blackstripe describes the situation for Black gay males:
They are rejected by many Blacks and sense that they are only barely tolerated by white gays.
Racism is reported in Australian GLB communities: Program to lift self-esteem of gay Asian men.

Racism issues are also encountered in dissertations, such as in the following two abstracts, but little (nothing?) is done to begin effectively addressing such abuses of others in GLB communities.

  Valadez, G. (1996) A discourse within: Multicultural inclusion in the lesbian and gay community. Ed.D. Thesis, University of San Francisco, DAI, VOL. 57-04A, P. 1854, 189 pages.

Abstract by author: This ethnographic research endeavored to ask the question, "How multiculturally inclusive is the lesbian and gay community?" Employing the participatory research methodology, the researcher engaged in dialogue with five lesbian and gay leaders from San Francisco's non-profit sector. Through the "dialogic" process advocated by Freire and Kieffer, the participants and researcher discuss numerous factors which have inhibited or increased the multicultural inclusivity of the lesbian and gay community within and beyond San Francisco. Generally, the participants concluded that the lesbian and gay community does not practice multicultural inclusion. The participants believe that patterns of racial and gender discrimination are as prevalent in the lesbian and gay community as they are in the larger heterosexual society. Six major generative themes were uncovered in the research. These are: inclusion - personal definitions and observations, the media's effect upon inclusion in the lesbian and gay community, leadership and organizations, the alignment of the lesbian and gay movement to other progressive social movements--dissolving the culture of privacy, the discourse within--a safe place, and the transcendent moment......

Merighi, JR. (1997) Coming out in black and white: an exploratory analysis of African-American and Caucasian gay male youth. PH.D. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, DAI, VOL. 57-08A, p. 3682, 242 pages.

Abstract by author: The lives of young gay males are shaped by a complex set of social and psychological factors that either facilitate or hamper the coming out process. While much of the literature on gay identity development has focused on retrospective accounts from lesbian and gay male adults, this study explored the intersection of race, sexuality, and coming out among African American and Caucasian gay male youth. Quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to examine the coming out process of 18 African American and 25 Caucasian gay males, ages 18 to 24.

Questionnaires were administered to collect demographic data and examine patterns of alcohol use. Psychological measures included the Gay Identity questionnaire to assess gay identity stage development, the Beck Depression Inventory to assess depression, and the Self-Esteem Rating Scale to assess self-esteem. Face-to-face, tape-recorded interviews were conducted to explore aspects of the coming out process in terms of race, alcohol use, and the importance of community programs, services, and role models. Both parametric and nonparametric statistical tests were used to compare group responses to study measures. Interview transcripts were coded thematically using grounded theory procedures in order to elucidate themes and theoretical categories.

Comparisons of African American and Caucasian gay male youth did not yield significant differences for self-report measures of gay identity, depression, self-esteem, and sexual orientation milestones. Further, no significant group differences resulted for frequency of alcohol use or heavy drinking during the past year or number of drinks per sitting. However, African Americans reported significantly fewer drinks to get drunk as compared to Caucasians. Analysis of transcript data resulted in "acceptance" as a primary theme in the coming out experiences of study respondents. Both study cohorts reported alcohol use as a means to gain acceptance in the gay community, but only African American gay males reported difficulties of acceptance in both the African American and Caucasian gay communities.

The findings of this exploratory study underscore the importance of examining gay issues from a cross-cultural perspective and have implications for social work practice with gay youth.


Bradford, J., and Ryan, C. (1988) The National Health Care Survey. National Lesbian and Gay Health Foundation, Washington, DC. (Shorter version of study later published as Bradford, J. et al. (1994) National Lesbian Health Care Survey: Implications for Mental Health Care. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology; Vol. 62(2), 228-42.)

Brownsworth, VA. (1992) America's worst kept secret: AIDS is devastating the nation's teenagers, and gay kids are dying by the thousands. The Advocate, March 24, 1992, 38-46.

Burns, R. (1988) Preface. IN: Roscoe, W. Ed. Living in the Spirit; A Gay American Anthology. St. Martin's Press, N.Y., pp. 1-5.

D'Auqelli. AR. et al. (1993) Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in community settings: personal challenges and mental health problems. American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 2184), 421-48.

DeCrescenzo, T. (1992) The brave new world of gay and lesbian youth. IN: Berzon, B. Positively Gay. Celestial Arts Publishing, Berleley, CA.

Ellis, H. (1905, 1948) Sexual Inversion. In: Ellis, H. Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume l. Random House, N.Y. First English Copyright: 1905. Originally published in Germany in teh late 1890s.

Gibson, P. (1989) Gay and lesbian youth suicide. IN: Feinlieb, MR. Ed. Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide, Volume 3. Department of Health and Human Services, pp. 109-142.

Gupta, S. (1989)Black, Brown, and White. IN: Shepherd, S., and Wallis, M. Eds. Coming on Strong: Gay Politics and Culture. Unwin Hyman, Inc., Winschester, Mass.

Hinsch, B.Passion of the Cut Sleave: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Owlfeather, M. (1988) Children of Grandmother Moon. IN: Roscoe, W. Spirit: A Gay American Anthology. St. Martin's Press, N.Y., pp. 95-105.

Remafedi, G. et al. (l991) Risk factors for attempted suicide in gay and bisexual youth. Pediatrics, Vol. 87(6), 869-75.

Rowell, RM., and Kusterer, H. (l991) Care of HIV infected native substance abusers. IN: Shernoff, M. Ed. Counseling Chemically Dependent People With HIV Illness. The Haworth Press, Binghamton, N.Y.

Rotheram-Borus, M., et al. (1992) suicidal behavior and gay-related stress among gay and bisexual adolescents. Unpublished manuscript, University of Columbia. Reported by: Savin-Williams, RC. (1994) verbal and physical abuse as stressors in the lives of lesbian, gay male, and bisexual youths: associations with school problems, running away, substance abuse, prostitution and suicide Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 62(2), p. 266.

Schneider, SG. (1989) Suicidal behavior in adolescent and young adult gay men. Suicide and Life-Treatening Behavior, Vol. 19(4), 381-94.

Stuart, M. (1993) Celebrating our differences: an interview with Eric Savoy.. The Lodgepole Pine, Vol. 3(2), 4-6.

Tremble, B., Schneider, M., and Appathurai, C. Growing up gay or lesbian in a multicultural context . In: Herdt, G. Ed. Gay and Lesbian Youth. Harrington Park Press, Binghamtom, N.Y. (Also published in The Journal of Homosexuality, 1989.)

Williams, WL. (1993) Being gay and doing research on homosexuality in non-western cultures. The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 30(2), 115-120.

INTERNET LINKS: GLB "Of Colour" Issues - North American & International.

Site Index
Subject Index: GLBT Information in 21 Categories.

More Information at: The Original Site on GB Male Suicide Problems