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Bush admin wants to scrub LGBT from suicide prevention talk, add faith-based crap

Bush appointed queasy-with-the-queer-words Charles G. Curie as head of SAMHSA in 2001. Mental health experts have filled his email inbox with complaints the agency is marginalizing a population greatly impacted by suicide.

But they have no problem with a rent boy sitting in the press room.There is no other reason except bigotry to remove references to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the Department of Health and Human Services’ suicide prevention program talk. But that’s what the government agency — yes, our tax-payer run agency — wants to do.

The goal is especially clear if the talk, to be held in Portland, OR on Feb 28, was originally called “Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals.” LGBT people are at a much higher suicide risk, 2-3 times according to the below article. With that kind of disparity from the general population, one would think the pressures that drive a particular demographic toward suicide would merit mention. (WaPo):

A federal agency’s efforts to remove the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” from the program of a federally funded conference on suicide prevention have inspired scores of experts in mental health to flood the agency with angry e-mails.

“It is incredible, the venom from these people,” said Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that is funding the conference and told presenters they should remove the words from the title of a talk. “My boss is being called a Nazi,” Weber said, referring to SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, whom President Bush appointed in 2001 to run the $3.2 billion agency.

At issue is a conference on suicide prevention to be held Feb. 28 in Portland, Ore., and organized by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center of Newton, Mass., a SAMHSA contractor. On the program is a talk that, until recently, was titled “Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals.”

…So it came as a surprise to Ron Bloodworth — a former coordinator of youth suicide prevention for Oregon and one of three specialists leading the session — when word came down from SAMHSA project manager Brenda Bruun that they should omit the four words that described, precisely, what the session was about. Bloodworth was told it would be acceptable to use the term “sexual orientation.” But that did not make sense to him. “Everyone has a sexual orientation,” he said in an interview yesterday. “But this was about gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.” Moreover, he noted, transgender people differ from others in terms of sexual identity, not sexual orientation “Unless you use an accurate term, the people you are trying to reach don’t recognize themselves and don’t attend,” he said, adding that the agency told him he should not use “gender identity.”

…The title rewrite was one of several requested changes. Another was to add a session on faith-based suicide prevention, said Weber, who said he believes the brouhaha is all a misunderstanding.

SAMHSA prefers the term “sexual orientation” simply because it is more “inclusive,” he said. And besides, he added, it was only a suggestion. Asked how strong a suggestion, Weber replied: “Well, they do need to consider their funding source.”

Upon due consideration, Bloodworth renamed the session “Suicide Prevention in Vulnerable Populations.” But he is not happy. “We find this behavior on the part of our government intolerable,” he wrote in an e-mail to colleagues, in which he called upon the government to “end this shameful marginalization of an already marginalized at-risk population.”

An HHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to upstage SAMHSA, said there is not a department-wide policy against using terms relating to sexual identity or orientation at federally funded venues. The official suggested it would be overreaching to link this incident with one in the fall of 2003 when hundreds of grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health bearing words relating to sexual identity or orientation fell under federal scrutiny.

What we have hear is another example of the GOP/American Taliban administration wanting to publicly re-closet queer people by marginalizing the group. If we don’t “exist” as words, we do not have to be heard, we can be ignored. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are the new swear words of the Religious Right. The message is “don’t come out of the closet or we’ll have to actually deal with you in numbers so great or our message of intolerance will fall of its own weight.”

The worst and most dangerous part of it all, is that by recommending the faith-based suicide prevention program, Bush is encouraging the participation of discredited “ex-gay” movements to step in as a salve to suicidal, self-loathing gay people. More intolerance wrapped up in a pretty wrapper and a bow.

SAMHSA’s vision is a life in the community for everyone.”

The agency actually has a web page explaining its information policies (“Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated to the Public”) and provides a contact email for complaints:

Charles Curie, Administrator

Mark Weber, Director, Office of Communications
Phone 240-276-2128

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding