Suicide, binge drinking and GLB intolerance in the Jewish community

Apr 25, 2011

Joe. My. God. recently wrote a short piece about new research, published in Pediatrics (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) –  showing that gay children are less prone to suicide and other harmful behaviour if they are brought up in an accepting environment.

A new study out of Oregon indicates that gay kids that grow up in a supportive environment are 20% less likely to attempt suicide. We knew this, of course, but now there’s some science behind it.

The results of this research advise:

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts, controlling for sociodemographic variables and multiple risk factors for suicide attempts, including depressive symptoms, binge drinking, peer victimization, and physical abuse by an adult (odds ratio: 0.97 [95% confidence interval: 0.96–0.99]).

In the Melbourne Jewish community there is a diversity of acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality ranging from complete acceptance to complete intolerance, with the visible balance leaning more toward the latter than the former.  Sadly the level of enlightenment in this community surrounding human sexuality has a long way to go before the reality and unconditional acceptance of it outweighs the fundamentalist beliefs in religious dogma opposing it.

As I have recently written, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is giving high visibility to its Youth Alcohol Program (YAP).  Yet it has given nothing but lip service to the issue of the welfare of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in the Jewish community.  Further, the JCCV has made it evident that it is backing the intolerant Orthodox Jewish perspective on homosexuality, whilst being silent on the commendable attitude the Progressive Jewish movement has adopted.

I implore the officer of the JCCV YAP Debbie Zauder to read this research.  It’s likely that a contributing factor to the issue of binge drinking in the Jewish community, the main issue that her project is charged to address, is the intolerance of homosexuality that her employer believes is acceptable and justifiable.  It may not be a large factor but it is likely to be a relevant factor.

A holistic approach to welfare of the community’s youth needs to be adopted, rather than one that targets individual behaviours.  It is likely to be a futile effort to stop binge drinking in isolation when it could well be a symptom of a far deeper and more insidious problem or set of problems.

The community, its leaders, parents and young people need to understand that homosexuality and bisexuality is normal and healthy.  Intolerance of homosexuality and bisexuality is abnormal and unhealthy as the research proves.

It is imperative that the vocal leaders, claiming to be the voice of the community, and applying for government funding to look after the welfare of the members of the community (and perhaps their own political careers), put aside their egos and arrogance and adopt some humility and humanity.  Until that time they will continue to need a YAP and they can continue to enjoy alarming rates of suicide and harmful behaviour in the community’s vulnerable youth.

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JCCV trots out research when it suits and rabbis when it doesn’t

Apr 7, 2011

It’s apparent that the Jewish Community Council of Victoria is pandering to the sensitivities of its Orthodox constituents when it comes to tackling the uncomfortable issue of homosexuality.

Compare the radically different approaches it has adopted regarding youth alcohol abuse and the extremely vague problem of “issues affecting GLBT people”.

With the former, it has obtained government funding, trotted out respected academic research and is dealing with it like it is the most pressing issue on the planet.  Refer to the latest JCCV media release “YAP begins a new DAY”:

Current research shows that the rate of drinking at harmful levels by 12-17 year olds has doubled in the past decade. Research undertaken by the Victorian Drug and Alcohol Prevention Council has found that 90% of young people have tried alcohol by age 15.

And, there’s not a single rabbi in sight, despite much of this alcohol abuse occurring due to exuberant religious celebration.

Compare this with the uncomfortable problem of “issues affecting GLBT people”.  The JCCV has trotted out an Orthodox rabbi, apparently an authority on all matters homosexual, whose most useful piece of advice is that GLBT organisations cannot be members of the JCCV as they will fracture the community.

The JCCV has been briefed by Associate Professor Anne Mitchell, a respected Australian academic on relevant issues of human sexuality, yet the JCCV have not published a single reference to an iota of credible research on the matter.  Examples of the research they have not yet quoted include:

Studies conducted over the last decade reveal that GLB individuals attempt suicide at rates between 3.5 and 14 times those of their heterosexual peers

and

Those belonging to religious faiths that promulgate negative discourses about homosexuality are particularly vulnerable to suicide and self-harm. Conflicts between spiritual or religious beliefs and sexuality can result in significant psychological dissonance as well as division and exclusion from family, friends and community.

Why is it necessary for the JCCV to engage an Orthodox rabbi in order to address serious issues like homophobic bullying in schools, mental health issues, self-esteem and suicide, but not for the issue of youth alcohol abuse?  Is there no cause for concern that the exuberant religious celebrations might be the catalyst for the binge drinking?  Perhaps it’s necessary to bring in the rabbis and suggest they should sermonise on the community tempering celebrations a little if they are going to result in youth alcohol abuse.

So far the only thing the JCCV has achieved in dealing with “the issues that affect GLBT people” by bringing in an Orthodox rabbi is to demonstrate blatant homophobia and further exacerbate the problems they are reluctant to identify and address.

If the JCCV is at all serious about tackling the issues that are affecting GLBT people, such as bullying, marginalisation, invisibility, homophobia, intolerance, mental health issues and suicide, then they must understand the academic research, refer to the academic research and avoid Orthodox rabbis.  The Orthodox dogma is the cause of many of the problems, and will never be helpful in finding a solution to these problems.


Victorian Rhapsody: A post-Purim tale of Jewish Community Council arrogance as told by a bohemian queen

Mar 23, 2011

[SOURCE]

JCCV Contributes to Government Crackdown on Homophobic Intolerance
22 March 2011

JCCV president John Searle today applauded the Victorian Government for its intended introduction of legislation this week, providing for $7,000 fines for adults who misinform children that homosexuality is wrong.

Searle had met with new Attorney-General Robert Clark soon after Clark’s appointment and had proposed this very innovation. He noted that he was extremely gratified with the hearing he had received and delighted that the Government was on the same page and that prompt action has been taken.

According to Searle, the significance of this legislation is that it will educate the community about appropriate behaviour and encourage adults to consider their actions and their duty of care to others.

Searle stated, “It is well established that homophobic intolerance can cause serious harm to developing brains. It is incumbent on older people, particularly those in roles of responsibility, to educate children about human sexuality and also to act as role models in regard to their own behaviour.  If we expect young people to change their attitudes, we really need to focus on adults.”

“According to Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA)[1], gay, lesbian and bisexual people attempt suicide at rates of up to 14 times those of their heterosexual peers,” Searle added.  “This groundbreaking research announced in 2009 sets a benchmark for understanding the extent of this grave problem, all too prevalent in our community, perpetuated by too many adults.”

“SPA cautions that those belonging to religious faiths that promulgate negative discourses about homosexuality are particularly vulnerable to suicide and self-harm.  They also warn that conflicts between spiritual or religious beliefs and sexuality can result in significant psychological dissonance as well as division and exclusion from family, friends and community.”

The JCCV established a GLBT Reference Group some two years ago that has focused on revealing the issues affecting GLBT people in the Jewish community in response to pressure that the JCCV was directly contributing to this problem. This Reference Group has been seen as a whitewash and smokescreen to date but if taken seriously by the JCCV has the potential to actually achieve some useful outcomes.

For further information, contact John Searle, JCCV President, on 0412251344.

1 SPA: Suicide and self-harm among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Communities


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