Newspaper promoting hurtful rhetoric is mistake

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Recently the Daily Inter Lake chose to publish a letter to the editor entitled “Promoting LGBTQ lifestyle is mistake.” In that letter, the LGBT community was told that their lifestyle amounts to an “affliction.” And it was alleged that a previous Daily Inter Lake’s article about a local LGBTQ support group was irresponsible and an example of “I don’t give a damn about the souls of children” on steroids.

The letter, which the Daily Inter Lake chose to give voice to, went on to accuse support groups of “grooming” children, and even referenced demon possession as one of the “many adverse effects” of homosexuality. It quoted Bible verses in an effort to show that the lifestyle of an LGBTQ person is “an evil worthy of hell.” It claims that LGBTQ are simply stricken by “temptations of the flesh” which “are not permanent and are short-lived for those that will resist them.” It ends with a claim that same-sex attraction is caused by a fear of opposite-sex rejection and its basic source lies in “poor child-parent relationships.”

I was astounded that the Daily Inter Lake chose to publish this message. Suicide rates in Montana are some of the highest in the nation, and the Montana Department of Health and Human Services recently published “Suicide in Montana Facts, Figures, and Formulas for Prevention,” an in-depth look at the causes of this systemic problem. In that study, it shows that our LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide. That number goes up to 8.4 times more likely when you look at highly rejecting families. Most importantly, it found that EACH episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

There can be no mistake. The content in that published letter constitutes a form of harassment. It attacks LGBTQ support groups as groomers of children. It attacks the parents for poor parenting. It attacks LGBTQ youths themselves as being misguided, weak, tempted by the devil, and possibly possessed by demons. Pretty much every multiplier for increasing the rate of suicide amongst LGBT youths was contained within this letter to the editor, and the paper opted to publish it.

I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and expression. The author of that letter has a right to his views, and no matter how much I may vehemently disagree with them, they are absolutely his to hold. Yet we have documented studies which show that his message has a very negative real world impact on others. I think it’s without question that amplifying his views and expanding its reach within our community only serves to statistically endanger and alienate people, especially the LGBT youth. By choosing to feature this man’s views to the community, the Daily Inter Lake opted to inflict hurt on some of the most vulnerable members of our community for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom.

Understandably, the Daily Inter Lake gets to publish letters to the editor at its own discretion, of which I highly doubt my letter here will make the cut because it is critical of the paper’s choice on this matter. After all, it’s easy to publish an opinion that attacks others, but much harder to publish one that attacks yourself. But I can’t help but ask myself why they made this choice in the first place? We know that this kind of rhetoric puts lives at risk, we know it is unhelpful. Sure it’s just one man’s opinion, but what value was seen in that opinion which elevated it above the many other letters undoubtedly received? What justification was there for taking this message and actively distributing it to those it stands to hurt?

I personally knew three LGBTQ kids right here in the Flathead Valley who sadly attempted to take their own lives. Even sadder still, two of those attempts were successful. They were all trying to escape the kind of hate-filled attacks and stigma perpetuated in that man’s published “opinion piece.” In the years since, I’ve often wondered if things would have been different for those kids if only they had greater support and understanding. If only they hadn’t been told their feelings were an inhuman affliction and made to feel like they were losing a battle with the devil for their souls. I will never get an answer to that question, and it pains me greatly to think that LGBTQ kids in this valley today can still pick up their local paper and read a piece claiming that the groups and individuals offering them support and acceptance are nothing but predators grooming them for sex, and how they themselves are just confused, weak against temptation, sinners, and possibly even possessed by demons.

Nelson is a resident of Kalispell.

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