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Teens Who Hide Their Sexuality Have Higher Suicide Risk, Study Finds
The study is significant as suicides have been increasing
QUEER VOICES 03/21/2018 11:02 am ET
Carolyn Crist
©2018 Oath Inc. All rights reserved. HuffPost MultiCultural/HPMG News
Source; excerpts follow. (My bold emphasis added.):


(Reuters Health) - Teens who hide their true sexual orientation are at higher risk for suicidal behaviors, a new study suggests.

The study focused on teens who either identified as gay or lesbian but had sexual contact with only the opposite sex or with both sexes, or who identified as heterosexual but had sexual contact with only the same sex or with both sexes.

These teens – who are experiencing what researchers call sexual orientation discordance - have a significantly elevated risk for suicide, investigators warn in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine…

These findings among U.S. teens are similar to previous studies in adults, which also found links between sexual identity discordance, depression, drug and alcohol use, and suicidal ideation, the study authors wrote…

Full article; study abstract.

I had to read that second paragraph a couple of times to make sure I understood it. Then I poked around to see if I could find a definition of "sexual orientation discordance". I found a clue in this abstract (not the same study):


During the course of sexual development, many people experience dissonance between dimensions of sexual orientation, including attraction, behavior, and identity…

Attraction, behavior, and identity are the three major components of sexual orientation. It has long been known that these aspects do not always perfectly align; this is why the Kinsey Scale is a range instead of two or three discreet categories. It's not uncommon for folks' sexual behaviors to differ from their romantic attractions and/or sexual identity. For example:

  • Consensual sex in prison, in the military, or in other contexts where the objects of one's affections are not available.
  • Straight-identified folks performing in gay pornography.
  • Sex workers fulfilling a client's requests.
  • Experimentation, dares, etc.

I think all of these would qualify as "sexual orientation discordance"; yet, I don't think that's what the researchers mean. They're not talking about "gay for pay" or "queen for a day" here. Their focus is on individuals who HIDE their sexual identity (and/or attractions?) and deliberately behave in manners that are inconsistent with such; presumably as part of that concealment.

Reflecting on my own experience, I wonder if this study captures the possibility of cognitive dissonance; the "I'm not gay" denial and self-delusion. I'm fortunate that I've never felt suicidal but I can attest to the long-term stress of refusing to admit the obvious; and, after devastating self-realization, hiding it from everybody close to me.


About 4 percent of the teens had experienced sexual orientation discordance, responses showed. This was true for 32 percent of gay and lesbian students, compared to 3 percent of heterosexual students…

Nearly half of the kids who had experienced sexual orientation discordance – 46 percent – reported suicidal thoughts or behaviors, compared to 22 percent of students who didn't feel a mismatch between their sexual identities and actions.

Nonfatal suicidal behaviors were also more common in females, those who were bullied on school property, those who drank alcohol or used marijuana, and those who had been physically forced to have sexual intercourse…

"Discrimination, stigma, prejudice, rejection, and societal norms may put pressure on sexual minorities to present a sexual identity inconsistent with their true sexual identity or to act in a manner inconsistent with their sexual identity," [the authors] said…

The abstract notes:


… In adjusted models, discordant students were 70% more likely to have had suicidal ideation/suicide attempts compared with concordant students (adjusted prevalence ratio=1.7, 95% CI=1.4, 2.0).

Suicidality amongst teens is very serious; it's disturbing to see that about 1-in-5 non-discordant teens in this study report such ideation and behaviors. Yet discordant teens (and LGBT teens in general) are2-3+ times more likely to experience this. So, what do we do? Do we address non-LGBT teens because of greater absolute numbers; or address LGBT teens because of greater probability?

I don't know the answer to this but want to send an "it gets better" message to all of them. Your life CAN and probably WILL get better if you stick it out.

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