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Basementdweller

So a scout tells you......

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I am heartened by the compassionate replies. It is well for us to keep in mind that suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers.

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I agree with Trevorum. I can't say how I would approach this until it happens and then it will depend entirely on the boy and the circumstances.

I do have a question for Trevorum, how do those statistics break out for males vs females? Is there a difference?

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Trevorum -

 

I'm in no way disputing the importance of this issue, but I'm just wondering where you got your info about suicide being the leading cause of death among teenagers.

 

The CDC says it's accidents (unintentional injuries, 48 percent), homicide (13 percent) and then suicide (11 percent). Cancer is 6 percent and heart disease 3 percent.

 

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db37.htm

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I had a brother who killed himself at 19. Never fit in, could not connect, very unhappy. Now I think he had Asbergers but I do not think they knew what do with him then.

 

Try to be compassionate with the boys; even the ones I dislike.

 

I saw the church youth (middle and high school boys and girls) write down their fears. So many sad over divorce, death, isolation. Feeling pressured, tempted, isolated. Boxed into a category before they have even figured out who they are. I forget how hard it can be. Good to be reminded.

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Shortridge, the suicide numbers are under-reported. For a variety of reasons, a coroner has informed me, the determination of suicide is sometimes set aside if they can find (rationalize) another cause of death. This is not to say that the prevalence of suicide is MUCH larger than the CDC figures, only that there are likely more of them than is reflected in those numbers.

A few examples: a boy is found hanging in a makeshift rope web. No suicide note, but a history of depression and self-threatening statements.

A boy is angry and distraught and jumps into his car and goes into a curve at about 110mph, no skidmarks.

Two boys, having just fought over a girl, driving separate vehicles, decide to play 'chicken' at high speed on a straight-away.

 

First case, accidental death.

Second case, accidental death.

Third case, two accidental deaths.

But none of them are clearly unintentional because in each case, the boy(s) made conscious decisions to place themselves at risk. I could go on about this with a much longer list. In retrospect, I see the concept of suicide in terms of a broad category...one which might include many more results of self-destructive behavior than the ones that are patently obvious to the coroner.

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First of all, I'm going to give praise to Basement Dweller for his actions.

 

Under-reacting, and informing the boy's mother were both good decisions. And I also welcome his raising of further questions -- what if it had been an older scout, or a young adult leader, who had presented him with the news?

 

And I concur that an 11-year-old may not know what he's feeling -- perhaps he saw an older boy in the showers and felt uncomfortable, didn't know what to do with those feelings, and concluded he was "gay." Or maybe he really is.

 

What would you do if it were an older scout? You would have a responsibility to keep them from trying to have sex with other scouts, certainly. I don't know how that would be achieved.

 

 

 

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My brother was classified as accidental but my mother and I (who were the ones close to him) knew dang well it wasn't.

 

 

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shortridge, you appear to be absolutely correct and I apologize for distributing bad information. Thank you for checking the source. Apparently, I mis-remembered "third leading" as "leading". It's still a heart-wrenching thing, no matter the statistics.

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Garrison Cap - I am genuinelly interested as to why you think you would need to do that? ie actively stop him from trying to have sex with other scouts. Or put another way, if you were involved in a co-ed youth group of some sort would you feel you had to actively stop heterosexual kids from having sex?

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I'm noticing that there still seems to be a measurable amount of underlying prejudice in many people's opinions here (not like that should be surprising in the context of the BSA, but none the less...) Some replies here sound like the way you would talk to a youth who thinks he may have a terminal illness, rather than one who has identified his sexual orientation.

 

Then I'd get a clear understanding of what he understands gay to mean, and also be sure that he really thinks he is.

 

I guess I'm wondering why you feel you need to know his understanding of what "gay" means, and why you have to be sure of what he says he is.

 

Not so much as being confused in what they think, but being confused in what they understand about what they feel.

 

This always seems to be people's first reaction to this type of issue when working with youth. I wonder why our first reaction is to assume that the kid is confused, or just plain "wrong." I'm not sure if any such research has been done, but I'd be interested to see whether there's any correlation between what a person "believes" there sexuality to be as a teenager, versus what they "believe" it to be at an older age.

 

Would you have these same feelings and precautions if the kid told you (for whatever reason) that he was straight? Maybe you say you would - but is that because you truly feel that it's necessary, or because you're trying to handle gay/straight discussions equally?

 

(Scoutfish - I realize I quoted you twice - not trying to single you out, especially since I think your post was particularly thoughtful and well-written - you just happened to say a couple things more clearly than others.)

 

And it seems like every discussion on this topic eventually leads to a mention of the risk of suicide - as if being gay is some how linked to an increased risk of mental illness?

 

And at least one poster mentioned being glad (surprised?) to see the generally compassionate attitude on the issue - as if a true Scouter ever has an option of being anything other than friendly, courteous and kind?

 

Just something to think about - maybe simple bullying is not the sole contributor to the anxiety and depression that some teens experience as they identify their sexual orientation. Maybe another contributing factor is the underlying prejudice of adult role models, which they (maybe subconsciously) try to hide with over-exaggerated compassion, special treatment, and an attitude that the youth is somehow "wrong" about how he or she feels.

 

 

 

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Tampa Turtle - agreed, if there is an underage physical relationship happening then at the very least seeking to discourage it is entirely appropriate. However the implication from Garrison Cap (and do forgive me if I have misunderstood) is that the very fact that a scout in the troop is gay means that you have to be more proactive. I just don't see that that is the case.

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> However the implication from Garrison Cap (and do forgive me if I have misunderstood) is that the very fact that a scout in the troop is gay means that you have to be more proactive. I just don't see that that is the case.

 

Well, I think you do; just as if you had had boys and girls of different ages (11-17) mixing together on a campout. It's no different.

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>This always seems to be people's first reaction to this type of issue when working with youth. I wonder why our first reaction is to assume that the kid is confused, or just plain "wrong." I'm not sure if any such research has been done, but I'd be interested to see whether there's any correlation between what a person "believes" there sexuality to be as a teenager, versus what they "believe" it to be at an older age.

 

I think I explained it well in my post above. The first set of pubescent genitals I ever saw was in the shower at scout camp. And they were male, and I was somewhat shocked and at the same time, curious. And I didn't know what to do those feelings, although I am became quite certain about my heterosexuality as time went by and my own development concluded.

 

It's possible not everyone is as sure of themselves at age 11 as you were, KC9DDI.

 

So the line of inquiry described by basement dweller is not invalid.

 

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Hi Garrison - I'm certainly not saying that all pre-teens are certain of their sexuality at a young age. What I am asking is why it's a very common reaction for adults to immediately assume that a youth who claims to be a homosexual is somehow confused, misguided, misinformed or flat-out wrong?

 

The way I see it, there's two basic possibilities - either 1) the youth is confused/misguided/misunderstanding/etc, or 2) he/she is in fact a homosexual. Why is it so important for us to assume the first possibility, instead of the second. I worry that what the youth will hear you say, should you assume the first possibility, is that he/she is somehow being dishonest, or is incapable of understanding something that you have zero first hand knowledge of - his/her own thoughts and feelings. That seems like quite the accusation to make of a youth without good reason.

 

And, why don't we automatically assume that a youth who claims to be straight is somehow confused or incorrect? Would you ask a Scout who told you that he was straight how he knows that?

 

And why do we as Scouters feel that it is necessary or appropriate to have these conversations?

 

Basement's line of questioning certainly is valid - but I'd like to think mine is as well - just trying to maybe get people to think about what might be some subconscious prejudices, or else be shown how I'm completely missing the point :-)

 

And, Garrison, can I also ask how you know of what my understanding of my sexuality was at age 11? :-)

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