According to the Trevor Project, one out of every six teenagers contemplates suicide each year. Lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are four times as likely to actually attempt suicide as hetereosexual students of the same age.
That’s depressing, and the fact that anyone contemplates or attempts suicide is a tragedy. But there is good news.
According to researchers at Harvard University and John Hopkins University, suicide attempts by queer youth have dropped by 7% since same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States.
Between 1999 and 2015, before gay marriage was legalized, 28% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students attempted suicide. In less than two years, that statistic has dropped to 21%. Twenty-one percent is still very high, but that’s a lot of progress for such a short amount of time. The researchers gathered information from nearly 800,000 students.
So why the direct correlation between marriage equality and lower suicide rates?
On one hand, it doesn’t make any sense. Teenagers are too young to get married, so the ruling does not directly impact their lives. Legislation about gender equality in bathrooms or anti-bullying would affect them more. So why do kids care that gay people can get married?
Before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, states that individually legalized gay marriage were found to have more supporters of LGBT rights. That means that the state as a whole felt more inclusive. And residents were more likely to (eventually) vote for legislation that further improved the quality of life for LGBT people.
Now that gay marriage is legalized throughout the United States, the same seems to be true: LGBT teenagers see that their way of life is legally accepted throughout the entire country, which makes them feel less like outcasts, which means that fewer attempt suicide.
Is gay marriage the magic band-aid for LGBT issues? Of course not. As we’ve seen by Trump’s treatment of transgender students, as well as the fact that gay people can still be fired for their sexuality in many states, the LGBT equality movement still has a long way to go.
But the dropping suicide rates are a beacon of hope. Maybe one day, instead of 21%, it will be zero.
Read the study here.