'Equality Matters' lecture highlights benefits of LGBTQ acceptance

Greater acceptance of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens can also help heterosexual teens, research shows.

According to studies led by Mark Hatzenbuehler, a researcher at Columbia University, communities that had highly supportive anti-bullying laws and policies had a 28 percent lower rate of suicide attempts among lesbian, gay and bisexual teens.

These communities also had a 14 percent decrease in the number of suicide attempts by heterosexual teens, he said.

Hatzenbuehler spoke Thursday at an “Equality Matters” lecture hosted by UNC’s Sexuality Studies program.

He emphasized the importance of structural stigmas such as state laws and policies.

“When we create these really unequal environments, then they’re harming not only the victims of the environment but the perpetrators as well,” he said.

Hatzenbuehler said this also applies to Amendment One, the proposed N.C. constitutional amendment that would define marriage between a man and a woman.

“Speaking as a social scientist, it has negative mental health consequences,” he said.

Justin Smith, a Ph.D student and teaching assistant who has been teaching Hatzenbuehler’s studies in his class, said he was excited to hear Hatzenbuehler speak.

“This is definitely cutting-edge research in our field.”

Smith said this research is the first to support with statistics the idea that social stigmas negatively affect the LGBTQ community.

Joey Parker, a senior health policy and management major, said he thought there were only a few professors focusing on this topic in the University.

“In our class, we don’t learn a lot about health disparities in the LGBTQ community,” he said.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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