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An updated interim paper prepared in support of a Poster Presentation with the same name at the 2004 CASP (Canadian Association For Suicide Prevention) Conference held in Edmonton, Alberta. Original Paper. Authors: Pierre Tremblay & Richard Ramsay


Michel Dorais' 2000, 2004 study of young French Canadian gay males who attempted suicide highlighted two factors implicated in the emotional and social development of all young men with similar life experiences. Given the existing education about homosexuality, we cannot expect many young males to be happy when they are recognising their same-sex sexual desires. This has been called their "homosexual orientation" often said to a part of "sexual orientation" categories invented quite recently that essentially define some people as "normal," while others are blatantly to implicitly decreed to be "abnormal." The diversity of sexualities perspective (Dorais, 1999) is transformed to a perversity of some sexualities perspective. As a result of such indoctrination, some adolescent males who have recognised their homosexual desires have believed that death is better than being gay. Their feelings have also been exacerbated by their knowledge that many people, and especially their peers, respond very negatively to anyone known or suspected to be homosexual. Widespread anti-gay harassment and abuses of boys known or suspected to be gay have characterised public schools, and not only in the province of Quebec where, since 1977, the provincial charter of rights has prohibited discrimination on the basis of one's sexual orientation.

Homonegativity, or homophobia, has been the hegemonic rule throughout North America, even in jurisdictions with anti-discrimination laws, but most of these laws were enacted only in the past 10 years. Reports from many countries, including England, South Africa, Australia, and Japan indicate that the anti-gay abuses documented to be rampant in Quebec are also the rule in most countries. In fact, homosexuality continues to be criminalised in some countries, as it was the case in Canada and England until the 1960s. This fact therefore reflects the highly homonegative attitudes existing only a few decades ago in the western world, and most of these severe laws had been enacted at the end of the Nineteenth Century and during the Twentieth Century. Same-sex sexual acts were illegal in 16 American states until very recently, thus illustrating the degree to which homosexuality continues to be punished and stigmatised in society. The Quebec experience also indicates that anti-discrimination statutes may have little value in societies that continue to openly advocate, approve of, and reward homonegative attitudes, or when societies implicitly condone such attitudes and related behaviours. This is highlighted by Dorais’ 2000 research and by the fact that 36.1 percent of homosexually oriented males in the Montreal Omega Cohort reported having attempted suicide at least once in their lives, and 14.7 percent had attempted suicide more than once (Otis, 2000).

Homosexually oriented males are overrepresented in male youth suicide problems, and many factors place them at risk, including the common harassment and victimisation of adolescent males known or suspected to be homosexual most often because they are manifesting some degree of femininity. Interestingly, the North American male youth suicide rate began its three-fold increase in the 1950s, at about the same time when the social construction of male homosexuality was also significantly changing in the western world. Up to the 1950s, male homosexuality had been exceptionally common, but its manifestations declined rapidly as a result of collective anti-homosexuality education efforts directed at children and adolescents. The modern version of male homosexuality as an anomaly that may be related to some genetic defect is implicated in serious male youth problems. Increasing numbers of young males have been recognising their same-sex desires within the context of believing that similar males are rare, likely forming no more than one or two percent of the population, and that they must therefore be "freaks."

Fortunately, not everyone experienced male homosexuality as a rarity because some males grew up in social worlds - communities - where male same-sex sexual experiences were common. Widespread male homosexuality also continues to be a fact of life in some countries, but this knowledge is not widely known, mostly because it challenges the modern western beliefs about homosexuality and "sexual orientation." Some North American males, however, did grow up in environments where male same-sex sexual experiences were the rule, as opposed to the exception, and these relationships were non-exploitative given their general association with friendship bonds. These boys were also rediscovering what Ancient Greek males had fully recognised to be part of their enjoyment potential. Having such knowledge may therefore be important to better understand how the western social construction of male homosexuality and the concept of "sexual orientation" could/would be implicated in elevated male youth suicide problems, and especially in the five-fold increase in adolescent male suicide rates since the 1950s.

An increasing number of professionals have been questioning the recently invented concept of "sexual orientation" and its primary expressions in gay and lesbian identities. They are challenging the common belief those males acknowledging same-sex sexual desires are part of distinct entity. That, maybe, they form a species quite distinct from another specie: the males often believed to be have been genetically created into the 100% heterosexual males forming more than 95 percent of the population. Human sexuality, however, may be very different from what most people believe and act out, as it has been repeatedly experienced throughout human history with respect to many other realities. Learned hatreds for others have historically been associated with mostly false beliefs that were intimately linked to the social construction of people deemed to be "normal," while others were perceived to be "abnormal." Those in the latter category were often also perceived to be infidels, especially if they were thought to be motivated by a great evil such as Satan that some still believe to be associated with homosexuality (e.g., Often enough, the "others" belonged to human cultures different from our own, but they could also exist within one's more intimate social group, depending on the criteria used to define "the abnormal ones," who were believed to be evil. A little more than 100 years ago, the socially constructed birth of homosexuals as a species was occurring, and major social problem are associated with this ongoing event.

*The "voice" used in the paper is that of Pierre Tremblay because his adolescence and his later experiences in gay communities factor significantly into the challenging perceptions brought to bear on the problems being addressed. The paper was conceived as the result of many discussions between the authors and the original version was written following an invitation received by Pierre Tremblay to present a paper at The 11th Annual Sociological Symposium: "Deconstructing Youth Suicide" that was held at San Diego State University in March, 2000. This paper was revised and readers are invited to explore their perspectives on human sexualities and widen their interest in examining the impact of homosexuality factors on the suicidality of male youth. It is an interim paper prepared in association with a poster presentation at the October 2004 CASP (Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention) Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. All comments will be greatly appreciated.

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