YOUNG LESBIANS AND ATTEMPTED SUICIDE -
A HIDDEN PROBLEM

Male Bias in Mainstream Suicide Research

Recent trends suggest that suicide completion among young men is increasing whilst it is decreasing among young women (the ratio is now 3:1). Because of this, greater emphasis is being placed on young men. This is dangerous for several reasons.

Suicide statistics are distorted: Approximately 80% of open verdicts are suicides, therefore the actual rates of suicide are much higher than official figures suggest.

Suicide completions by men are more likely to be recorded as suicide because the methods men tend to use are less open to other verdicts, e.g. car fumes, hanging, firearms. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to use methods, e.g. drug overdose, that can be interpreted in other ways such as accidental death. The choice of method does not necessarily represent the degree of a wish to die but accessibility of methods (Worden, 1989) and/or what the different sexes do about feeling suicidal (Shaffer & Bacon, 1989). Contrary to the general trend, recent U.S. research suggests that lesbians use similar methods to men (Boxer, 1994).

Philips (1994) found that suicide rates for blacks and women in the U.S.A. were probably higher than official records suggest. He conducted a study based on a theory that people are more likely to kill themselves around birthdays which mark decades of life, such as their 30th or 40th (people evaluate their lives at these landmark birthdays and may become depressed over feelings of failure). He found, according to official suicide statistics, a pattern of suicide peaks at those ages. He also found a similar pattern of peaks for accidental poisoning and drug overdose, single-car crashes and pedestrian deaths. These peaks were especially high for blacks and women. He found no similar pattern for death by natural causes and multiple-car crashes.

Given that depression is a risk factor for suicide and that women are far more likely to be depressed than men, that a previous suicide attempt is a risk factor for suicide completion (it is estimated that 20-65% of those who attempt suicide will eventually succeed, Saunders & Valente, 1987), that there are approximately 20 times as many attempted suicides as completions and that women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men, this suggests that there are likely to be more female than male completions.

Heterosexual Bias in Mainstream Suicide Research

Sexual orientation - like suicide - is usually kept a secret by families; there is no way of telling exactly how many lesbians and gays kill themselves. Therefore we have to examine suicide attempts.

Small scale research projects, mainly in the U.S., suggest lesbian and gay youth are a high risk group for suicide (see Table 1). Harry (1989) argues lesbian and gay youth are between 2 to 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than other youth whilst Gibson (1989) estimates they may comprise up to 30% of completed youth suicides.

Whilst there has not been the same level of research in Britain, Table 2 suggests the problem is similar here.

Sexual orientation, however, is usually ignored by mainstream suicide researchers (Kersten, 1991). For example, Hawton (1986), one of Britain's leading experts, only referred to homosexuality once in his book on adolescent suicide:

None of the adolescents in the Oxford series expressed anxieties concerning homosexuality. Presumably such fears occasionally lead to suicide attempts, especially among boys, although increasingly permissive attitudes toward homosexuality may have made this less likely.

More recently, in their paper on "Suicide and deliberate self-harm in young people" Kerfoot and Huxley (1995) ignore lesbian and gay youth whilst a survey on homeless young people and attempted suicide (Armstrong, 1996) also omitted the sexual orientation of the participants (it is estimated that in the U.S.A. between a third and a half of homeless youth are lesbian and gay, Durby, 1994; the situation is likely to be similar, if not worse, in Britain).

At the same time, there is some limited recognition that lesbian and gay youth are a high risk group for suicide (Hill, 1995; Sayce, 1995; The Samaritans, 1993). The Government's Health of the Nation booklet "Sometimes I think I can't go on any more..." (1993), states:

Suicide is very rare under the age of 14. Some adolescents are more at risk than others. These include those who are depressed, who misuse alcohol or other substances, who are in trouble with the law, and whose sexual orientation brings them into conflict with their family or others. Suicide is three times as common in men as in women - young men are particularly at risk.

Moreover, in his plenary speech at the MIND Lesbians, Gays and Mental Health conference in 1995, John Bowis, Junior Health Minister, also acknowledged the vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth

Given research suggests that young lesbians seem likely to attempt suicide in greater numbers than young gay men, one would expect to find research which specifically addresses this issue, in particular within feminist and gay research. With the exception of one study in Sydney, Australia (Barbeler, 1991/2), and a small, qualitative, study (Bridget, 1995), there does not appear to be any research which concentrates on young lesbians and mental health/suicide, although some is currently being conducted in Britain (Geraghty). The remainder of this paper, therefore, examine feminist and gay research and concludes that, because of bias against non feminist-lesbians within feminist research and male bias within gay research, this highly vulnerable group are ignored.

Bias in Feminist Research

Before examining feminist bias in research about lesbianism, a brief historical overview of feminist-lesbianism is necessary.

Lesbians are not all white, middle class, young, non-disabled and live in London. Lesbians exist in all races, ethnicities, classes and ages; there are lesbians with and without disabilitites, there are lesbians who live in the country, in small towns as well as in cities. Lesbians can, however, be divided into two broad groups: those who believe that they were born lesbian (who tend to identify as gay) and those who believe that they choose their lesbianism (who tend to identify as feminist); or, as Ponse (1978) put it: primary and elective lesbians. Elective, or feminist-lesbians, grew out of the political movements of that era.

The late 1960's early 1970's saw the development of the gay liberation movement and women's liberation movement. The gay liberation movement was dominated by white, middle class, men and developed an understanding of the oppression of homosexuals based on the experiences of white, middle class, male homosexuals. The women's liberation movement, dominated by white, middle class, heterosexual women, developed an understanding of the oppression of women based on the experiences of white, middle class heterosexual women.

Lesbians within the gay liberation movement had to accept the dominance and sexism of the gay men or leave; many moved over into the women's liberation movement (Jeffreys, 1993), a move which meant accepting the oppression of 'women' at the top of a hierarchy of oppressions; playing down the lesbian part of her identity whilst emphasising her womanhood; and replacing lesbian issues with women's issues.

Weitz (1984) records this shift in emphasis by examining the first major U.S. lesbian periodical, "The Ladder," which existed from the mid 1950's to the early 1970's:

The focus of The Ladder shifted from homophile to women's liberation, as womanhood became a more salient identity than homosexuality. Numerous features appeared during this period that described the oppressed position of women in society and did not discuss lesbians at all - implicitly stressing solidarity among women regardless of sexual preference. Issues published during The Ladder's last year contained more feminist, nonlesbian news items than lesbian, nonfeminist items.

At the same time, feminist-lesbians, who were mainly white, middle class and ex-heterosexual (Stein, 1992) emerged from the more radical sections of the women's liberation movement and, basing their theory on their own experiences as white, middle class, ex-heterosexual women, decided to takeover and redefine lesbianism as a political weapon. Jeffreys (1993) explains:

...we re-labelled lesbianism as a healthy choice for women based upon self-love, the love of other women and the rejection of male oppression. Any woman could be a lesbian. It was a revolutionary political choice which, if adopted by millions of women, would lead to the destabilisation of male supremacy as men lost the foundation of their power...It was to be the base from which we could reach out to dismantle men's power.

Degradation of primary lesbians is inherent in all feminist redefinitions of lesbianism, although some are more arrogant than others. For example, Stein (1992) says that feminists

...attempted to broaden the definition of lesbianism, to transform it from a medical condition, or at best, a sexual 'preference,' into a collective identity which transcended rampant individualism and its excesses as well as compulsory gender and sex roles.

Faderman (1984) describes the difference another way:

While lesbian-feminism is not always dissociated from homosexual genital activity, it is seen as having an altruistic social purpose that transcends the personal and sexual ...Lesbian-feminists strategically reject the notion that they are part of a homosexual minority...Therefore, within the context of the [feminist] movement, homosexuality is not the lonely or selfish path it is for those who have internalized the social attitudes about illicit sexuality. Rather it is the only noble and decent choice a woman concerned with the social position of women could make.

As a result of feminism, two 'classes' of lesbian evolved: feminist-lesbians, who are primarily white, middle class, ex-heterosexual and live in feminist-communities with access to feminist-lesbian or womens' activities and support, who mainly believe that they chose to become lesbian and non-feminist lesbians, who are primarily multi-oppressed, who experience isolation from society in general as well as from feminist-lesbian communities (Rothblum, 1990; Stein, 1992) and who mainly believe that they were born lesbian.

Feminist-lesbians have little interest or understanding of the experiences of non-feminist lesbians; they do not identify with them. They have no respect for lesbians who are not feminist and consider non-feminist lesbians 'non-political' and second-class, using phrases like 'straight lesbians' or 'bar dykes' or 'gay-women' to put them down. Auchmuty, Jeffreys and Miller (1992) state: "As feminists, we find it astonishing that anyone can seriously entertain the notion that sexual preference is inborn." The drunken lesbian who gets into fights or who tries to kill herself is an embarrassment to feminist-lesbians and runs contrary to their idealised re-definition of lesbianism.

Feminist-lesbians rarely, nowadays, make a distinction between feminist and non-feminist lesbians; when they use the word lesbian they are usually talking about feminist-lesbians. The effects of this are that non-feminist lesbians are made invisible and lesbians appear to be a highly privileged group.

Rothblum (1990) compares the mental health needs of lesbians with heterosexual women. She is clearly using a privileged group of white, middle-class, feminist-lesbians for the comparison because she says that all lesbians choose the lesbian lifestyle (p71); that a large percentage of lesbians are employed full-time (p.72); that being a member of the "women's community" combats isolation (p.75); and later that "... lesbians who are non-white, older, adolescents, or working class may feel isolated in the lesbian community." (p79).

Discussing research methodology, in relation to the mental health needs of lesbians and gay men, Rothblum (1994) asks: "Do researchers view sexual orientation as a choice (sexual preference) or as beginning at birth or in early childhood (essentialism)?" She then responds, "In general, lesbians tend to view sexual orientation as a political choice, whereas gay men are more likely to have an essentialist perspective." Rothblum then refers to a study (Chapman & Braddock, 1987) which found that 63% of the lesbians surveyed said they had chosen to be lesbian whilst 28% said they had no choice and a further 11% said they did not know why they were lesbian. Rothblum warns researchers "to take care in the wording of questionnaires and interview items to avoid alienating research participants." Rothblum is clearly concerned about alienating feminist-lesbians and not non-feminist lesbians; any such research would, therefore, be biased towards feminist-lesbians as there is no similar warning about feminist-bias.

It is interesting to compare the findings of Chapman & Braddock with those of Hite (1987) who found that 46% of the lesbian respondents said that lesbianism was a choice whilst 54% said "being gay for them is biological, that they 'always knew.'" It is worth noting that Hite's survey included 4,500 women, 11% of whom identified as lesbian (a further 7% as bisexual). Because of the size, methodology and purpose of Hite's survey it is likely that she had better access to isolated lesbians and is, therefore, likely to be a more representative sample of the lesbian population in general.

Feminist Bias

It is mainly feminist-lesbians who conduct research about lesbianism and who choose which aspects of lesbianism to examine, which to ignore, what to ask, who to ask and how to ask it. Because of their political framework and personal experience feminist-lesbians are likely to degradate, ignore or play down the experiences of non-feminist lesbians or conflate the issues facing both groups creating confusion.

For example, Anlin (1989) surveyed lesbians in a London hostel. The official purpose of the research was to "ascertain the housing needs of lesbians and how these could be tied in with Homeless Action's present and future housing provision." Anlin's personal objectives were that "the research would challenge the stereotyped lesbian image", which she described as "a woman who is lonely, isolated, 'sick' and desperately unhappy!" By including the lesbian workers (who would have been white, middle-class and, probably, feminist) alongside the lesbian residents (who would have been multi-oppressed and, probably, non-feminist) Anlin clouded the issues and a proper analysis of the situation facing homeless lesbians was made impossible. (Bridget & Lucille, 1992).

What little research that has been conducted by lesbians about lesbians has been conducted with mainly white, middle-class, young (not old or adolescent) well-educated lesbians, who live in cities with access to women's support networks (Bradford & Ryan, 1989; Rothblum, 1994) and who are likely to be feminist. The results of such research are, therefore, likely to be skewed, as Bradford & Ryan (1989) admit:

Those who participated in the National Lesbian Health Care Survey were almost all between the ages of 24 and 44, mostly well-educated and professionally employed. All but a few lived in metropolitan areas and had access to a variety of activities designed especially for gay people. The sample was thus a privileged group, in almost every sense other than its minority status, and may represent the 'best scenario' for Lesbians in the United States. ...

The authors also note: "Lesbians who were not represented in the sample are more likely to be cut off from a sympathetic community and therefore to be at even greater risk of distress and need for supportive help."

The method of contacting lesbians defines, to a great extent, who the participants are likely to be i.e. if contact is made via women's bookshops, conferences, women's organisations, colleges, the participants are likely to be white, middle class, feminist-lesbians; if contact is made via gay bars the participants are likely to be non-feminist, working class, lesbians.

The 'snowball' technique of contacting lesbians can also be used (see, for example, Kitzinger 1988). This method, of building up links with lesbians from original contacts, is dependent on the original group of lesbians contacted. There is little cross-over between feminist-lesbians - who mainly have a network of feminist-lesbian friends - and non feminist-lesbians. Kitzinger, who classes herself as a 'radical feminist,' admitted: "Despite my efforts to obtain a diverse group of participants, there is a strong white, middle class bias ... My own whiteness and middle-classness ... severely limited the extent to which I could be perceived as an 'insider' by some women." Being a feminist-lesbian makes Kitzinger an insider with regard to feminist-lesbians but an outsider in relation to non-feminist lesbians.

The method used to acquire data will similarly affect who takes part. Working class and adolescent lesbians are less likely to complete a questionnaire. Any research which relies on questionnaires alone (or even in the first instance before possible follow-up interviews) is likely to be skewed towards privileged lesbians.

Effects of Feminist Bias

The result of feminist bias, along with the greater emphasis by feminists on 'womens' issues', is that the real effects of homophobia on lesbians - in particular non-feminist lesbians - are ignored.

For example, alcohol misuse is a major problem among lesbians which, until recently (Bloor, 1995; Bridget, 1994; Creith, 1993), has been ignored in this country. Papers at the 1986 conference 'Women's Problems with Alcohol and Other Drugs' included minority women but there were none on lesbians (Waterson et al, 1986). More recently, at a women and alcohol conference in Manchester in 1993 the keynote speaker told the mainly female audience to shake the hand of the woman on her right because women do not have a drink problem apart from having to deal with the effects of their male partner's alcohol abuse. Lesbians, as well as working class women, were not mentioned and black women were only given a cursory sentence.

Battering within lesbian relationships is another example. In their booklet 'Confronting Lesbian Battering' (1993) the Research Committee and Staff of the London Battered Women's Advocacy Centre in Ontario state:

Often other feminists, including lesbians, are strongly motivated to minimize or dismiss lesbian abuse in order to maintain their focus on the issue of male violence against women, a serious and overwhelming problem...There is also a desire to maintain the image of a 'lesbian utopia'. This myth states that all women are naturally non-violent, and lesbian relationships are characterized by an equal sharing of power.

Mental ill-health is by far the most serious effect of homophobia on lesbians, especially in relation to young lesbians who are at risk for depression, suicide attempts and other self-harming behaviour (Bridget, 1995). Discussing 'lesbian community' (for which read feminist-lesbian community) and the effect of a lesbian committing suicide, Frye (1990) says:

Now, what about the suicide? It is terribly sad and awful, and I grieve for the life that might have been. It makes everyone wonder what we could or should have done to make living tolerable, not to mention joyful, for that woman. But one of my friends (with whom I disagree about some very important things) noted that in the almost fifteen years we've known this community of many hundreds of Lesbians, this is only the second suicide she knew of (only the first that I had known of). Before the current era of Lesbian feminist consciousness, suicide was epidemic among Lesbians, so my older friends have told me. But among us, suicide is not epidemic...

It is sadly ironic that, not long after Frye wrote this in "Lesbian Ethics," a working class lesbian called JMax also killed herself.

Kitzinger and Perkins (1993), both feminist-lesbians, challenge gay affirmative therapy for 'de-politicising' lesbians. When criticising words and concepts used in psychology, Perkins (1995) states:

The words we use to talk about our experience reflect and constitute our politics - reflect and define the way we think about our world. For example, to call us 'lesbians' or 'dykes' is to make one kind of political statement, to call us 'gay women' is to make a quite different statement.

Yet she later says:

Our communities must be able to include those of us who are currently marginalised - those whose behaviour is distressing and incomprehensible to us: lesbians who abuse drugs/alcohol, who cut themselves with knives, who are disruptive, or severely depressed and suicidal. Lesbians with problems such as these often find themselves excluded not only from our communities, but also from lesbian/feminist therapy.

It is mainly non-feminist lesbians (gay women) who abuse drugs/alcohol, who cut themselves with knives, who are disruptive, or severely depressed and suicidal. The communities Perkins talks about are feminist-lesbian communities who would not welcome non-feminist lesbians unless, that is, they agreed to take on feminist politics which are inherently anti-lesbian. The behaviour of these lesbians is only incomprehensible within a feminist framework, it is completely understandable within a multi-oppression framework, which examines the compounded effects of all oppressions and not just sexism.

The result of feminist bias is not merely the invisibility of non-feminist lesbians, the same method that society has historically used to oppress minority groups, but also the creation of a false picture of what it is like to be lesbian at this point in time. Worse still, however, it means that those lesbians who are most vulnerable to the effects of homophobia are ignored. Feminism is just as guilty as mainstream society for the oppression of non-feminist lesbians.

Gay Male Bias in Lesbian and Gay Research

Gay theory is based on male homosexuality and usually reduces the experiences of lesbians to the same as that of gay men (Bidwell, 1988; D'Augelli, 1989a; Ettore, 1980; Kitzinger, 1987; Savin-Williams, 1994; Steinhorn, 1979; Trenchard, 1984). This is also the case for research concerning lesbian and gay youth (Slater, 1988), which is usually conducted by gay men and the participants are either young gay men or, if mixed, young gay men dominate (often 70% male 30% female).

Kite (1984) has pointed out how the sex of a researcher can affect the results. She refers to the meta-analysis of Eagly and Carli (1978) on social influence; they found that researchers were more likely to report results that were socially desirable to members of their own sex. This can be found in most of the papers concerning lesbian and gay youth resulting in the conclusion that the effects of discrimination are worse on young gay men while the effects on young lesbians remain invisible.

Martin & Hetrick (1988) discuss the social isolation of lesbian and gay youth, with particular reference to gay youth, then move on to emotional isolation and discuss suicide. They report that Bell & Weinberg (1978) found 20% of their gay male respondents had attempted suicide before the age of 20 whilst Saghir & Robins (1973) found that 18% of their gay male participants had attempted suicide before the age of 20; they gave similar statistics in an earlier (1987) article, suggesting that isolation was probably the main cause. It is interesting to note Bell & Weinberg in total found that 42% of lesbians compared with 38% of gay men had attempted suicide while Saghir & Robins found that 12% of the lesbians compared to 7% of the gay men had attempted suicide.

Why did Hetrick & Martin not acknowledge that suicide attempts were higher among lesbians in the two studies? Saghir & Robins (1973) noted: "Suicide attempts among the homosexual women tended to be somewhat more serious than among homosexual men."

Hetrick & Martin also omit the findings of an earlier study by Saghir, Robins, Walbran & Gentry (1970) who found that 23% of the lesbian respondents compared to only 7% of the gay men had attempted suicide. Saghir et al (1970) conclude:

Homosexual females showed an overall prevalence of psychiatric disorders greater than homosexual males. Comparing homosexual women and men for individual disorders, the women showed a trend to higher prevalence, even for excessive drinking. They attempted suicide significantly more often than the men.

Recent research (Hunter, 1990) has again found that there were more young lesbians (41%) than young gay men (34%) who had attempted suicide whilst Herdt & Boxer (1993) discovered that 29% of their participants, who were lesbian and gay youth attending a lesbian and gay social service agency in Chicago, had attempted suicide at least once: more than half of the lesbian teenagers compared with 20% of the young gay men had attempted suicide. Only two studies have found the reverse: Jay & Young (1979) who found that 39% of the 962 lesbians and 40% of the 4,329 gay men had attempted or seriously contemplated suicide whilst Uribe & Harbeck (1991) found that 50% of 37 young gay men compared with 23% of 13 young lesbians had attempted suicide (a high proportion of the participants were black and minority ethnic youth). Hammelman (1993) discovered that more females (57%) than males (43%) seriously considered suicide whilst 50% of both sexes had attempted suicide. The combined evidence would suggest that there are more young lesbians who attempt suicide than young gay men yet there has only been research specifically about young gay men and suicide (Remafedi, 1994).

Gonsiorek (1988), discussing the importance of the coming out process and the possible accompaniment of high levels of emotional distress, suggests that it is "Adolescent males, in particular, [who] may display virtually any psychiatric symptom, especially if they are without support or without adequate information about sexuality." Gonsiorek goes on to suggest that lesbians have an easier time coming out because they are allowed a broader range of behavioral and emotional interactions with other women. Gonsiorek does not, however, discuss the greater pressure put on lesbians to change their sexual orientation (Muller, 1988; Trenchard & Warren, 1984; and more recently, Uribe & Harbeck, 1992) or the psychological effects of this.

Discussing the effects of re-orientation therapy Haldeman (1994) states: "...subjects who have undergone failed attempts at conversion therapy often report increased guilt, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Some flee into heterosexual marriages that are doomed to problems inevitably involving spouses, and often children as well." Haldeman later stresses the importance of the correlation between psychological adjustment among gay men and lesbians and the degree that they have accepted their sexual orientation (Weinberg & Williams, 1974; Schmitt & Kurdek, 1987).

Gibson (1988) acknowledges that the pressure to conform "is particularly strong for lesbians." He also notes: "Young lesbians are even more isolated than young gay males in their efforts to form intimate relationships. There are few meeting places for lesbians in our society and casual sexual contacts are a less frequent part of their development." But even Gibson does not expand on the likely effects of greater pressure to conform and greater isolation, except to briefly acknowledge that isolation is probably a major cause of the suicide attempts of young lesbians.

Effects of Gay Male Bias and Feminist Bias

The combined effect of male bias and feminist bias is that the needs and experiences of young lesbians, especially non-feminist young lesbians (and the majority of young lesbians will be non-feminist), remain invisible. This is illustrated well by Proctor & Groze (1994) who discuss the risk factors for suicide among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. On the one hand, the authors get the Bell & Weinberg (1978) statistics wrong and state that 25% of the gay men compared with 20% of the lesbian women made suicide attempts and only refer to gay men in the Saghir & Robins (1973) study. At the same time, they refer to the Schneider (1989) qualitative study of 25 young lesbians who live in Toronto. The participants were mainly middle-class and white and, according to Schneider, "grew up within a double sub-culture of lesbian and feminist thought: all the young lesbians had positive lesbian identities". Proctor and Groze conclude: "These findings indicate that lesbians tend to have good resources and external social supports that encourage a positive homosexual identity formation and, although not studied, perhaps a lower risk for suicide."

Table 1: Suicide Attempts among Lesbian and Gay Populations


Lesbians Gay men   Het. women Het. men   Source
______________________________________________________________________________________________

N % N % N % N %
______________________________________________________________________________________________

25* 28%             Kremer & Rifkin (1969)
______________________________________________________________________________________________
         
    ?(a) 27%         Carmen & Blaine (1970)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

100 23% 127 7%   5%   0% Saghir et al (1970)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

    12 50%     488 13% Woodruff, Clayton & Guze (1972)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

    60* 32%         Roesler & Deisher (1972)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

57 12% 89 7% 44 5% 40 0% Saghir & Robins (1973)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

293(b) 42% 686 38%   26%   5% Bell & Weinberg (1978)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

962 39% 4329 40%         Jay & Young (1979)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

1925(c) 18%             Bradford & Ryan (1988)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

    108* 20%         Schneider, Farberow, Kruks                   (1989)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

100* 41% 100* 34%         Hunter (1990)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

    137* 30%         Remafedi, Farrow & Deisher                   (1991)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

13* 23% 37* 50%         Uribe & Harbeck (1991
______________________________________________________________________________________________

    139* 39%         Rotheram-Borus et al (1992)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

200* 47.5%             Barbeler (1992)    
______________________________________________________________________________________________

? 29%* ? 29%*         Hammelman (1993)  
______________________________________________________________________________________________
     
? 41%* ? 41%*         D'Augelli & Hershberger (1993)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

55* 50% 147* 20%         Herdt & Boxer (1993)
______________________________________________________________________________________________

* youth

(a) 44 male attempters among all Harvard students during period 1963 to 1967 of whom 27% had engaged in homosexual activities.

(b) most attempts took place before 25 years; higher attempts among black gays and white lesbians.

(c) highest rates found among young lesbians, black and Latino lesbians.



Table 2: Lesbian and Gay Youth and Suicide in Britain


Lesbians   Gay men   Source
_____________________________________________________________________

N % N %
_____________________________________________________________________

136 19% 279 19% Trenchard & Warren (1984)(a)
_____________________________________________________________________

40 40% 55 40% Bye (cited in Plummer, 1989)(b)
_____________________________________________________________________

? 55% ? 55% Parents' Friend (cited in Plummer, 1989) (c)
_____________________________________________________________________

38 21%     Woods (1992) (d)
_____________________________________________________________________

16 43%     Bridget (1988) (e)
_____________________________________________________________________

20 70%     Bridget (1995) (f)
_____________________________________________________________________

? 26% ? 26% Y.G.L.I.B. (1994) (g)
_____________________________________________________________________

? 20% ? 20% McColl (1995) (h)
_____________________________________________________________________

? 46% ? 46% Rivers (1996) (i)
_____________________________________________________________________


(a) London-based survey.

(b) No distinction between gender given; letter survey of isolated lesbian and gay youth for an undergraduate study.

(c) No distiction between gender given; number of participants not given.

(d) Study also included older lesbians (34) of whom 7% had attempted suicide; study based in Manchester as part of a Diploma in Youth & Community Work.

(e) Part of a pilot study of Lesbians and Housing in Leicester; mixed ages.

(f) Depth semi-structured interviews with isolated lesbians, 17 aged 25 years and below and most multi-oppressed.

(g) 27 participants, no gender distinctions given.

(h) McColl conducted a survey with workers from 21 lesbian, gay and bisexual youth groups in Britian who estimated that one in five of their clients inflicted self-harm including serious suicide attempts.

(i) 85 lesbian, gay and bisexual people who had experienced bullying at school; no distinction between sexes.



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