My training was as a social worker and social justice was part of my training and is part of my being. As I have made the transition from being a social worker on the front lines to a psychotherapist talking to a person on the couch-this looks different. Politics is something that generally doesn’t get talked about in session. But gay marriage is an exception. Working with LGBT clients who have spent most of their lives being disenfranchised it is devastating when North Carolina passes a constitutional amendment to ban not only gay marriage but civil unions. This is in a state where gay marriage was already illegal but some felt it needed to be enshrined in the state constitution. Why is this relevant? Because a recent study showed that in Massachusetts after gay marriage was passed there were lower health care costs for gay men. This was a result across the board-whether the gay man was himself married or not. In particular, there was a reduction in mental health diagnoses for anxiety and depression.
While there is limited research thus far I will believe that the rate of suicide amongst LGBT teens is higher in states where gay marriage is illegal. We already know that gay teens have a five times higher rate for suicide and to live in an environment where a very basic right is denied gives a strong message that being gay is not acceptable. In fact, what research there is actually says that in environments where being gay is not accepting the overall youth suicide is higher. There was a devastating Rolling Stone expose on about the war on gay teens in Michelle Bachman’s home state. To see people so focused on their narrow, and in my opinion, hateful agenda to the point that children are dying is incomprehensible.
I sense we have hit a tipping point with gay marriage in this country. The tide has turned significantly in the last 20 years. It is just a matter of time until it is legal in the US. I can be patient. However, I worry about the young people that are trapped in states where the word gay cannot be uttered in the schools-I fear that they cannot be patient and their lives are at stake.