prevention workshop barred from using word gay
mental health professionals are enraged because the
organizers of a gay suicide prevention program were asked by
the U.S. government to delete references to gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the
event's title. The workshop's title is now "Suicide
Prevention in Vulnerable Populations" instead of "Suicide
Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals."
Organizers say they were asked to remove the
words by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, an agency within the
Department of Health and Human Services, which is funding
the February 28 workshop in Portland. The controversy
has promoted a flood of e-mails to the office of
Charles Curie, the administrator of the federal agency.
"Charlie is getting e-mails calling him a Nazi," said Mark
Weber, the agency's communications director. "It is
disgraceful the hate that these people have sent to him."
Weber explained that an agency project manager
had suggested that the phrase sexual
orientation would be more inclusive than the words
gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.
They passed on that suggestion to the Newton,
Mass.-based Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which
contracts with the agency to stage conferences. Soon
after, the Portland workshop presenters said they were
asked by the resource center to remove the offending
words. But they decided the words sexual
orientation weren't specific enough, so they reluctantly
went with vulnerable populations. "This has become a
political football," said Reid Vanderburgh of Portland, one
of the workshop presenters and a psychologist who
treats transgender men and women.
Ron Bloodworth, a former coordinator of youth
suicide prevention for Oregon and one of three
specialists leading the session, was not happy about
the change. "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." (From Advocate.com wire