It was a pleasure to attend the student-led Middletown Mayoral Forum
Toward the end of the forum, the candidates were asked about discrimination, bullying, and growing rates of suicide among our youth. Republican candidate Seb Giuliano teared up in his response, stating that no one should be made to feel excluded or ostracized for their race, creed, socio-economic status, gender, or sexual orientation.
I was surprised this comment came from Mr. Giuliano and I had planned to respond during the audience question and answer portion of the forum, but there were too many questions and not enough time for the candidates to answer all of them.
Last June and nearly a year prior to announcing his candidacy for mayor, Mr. Giuliano in a public Facebook post commented that businesses should be allowed to deny service to the LGBTQ community on the basis of being LGBTQ. He cited cases in which florists and bakers denied service to gay couples for their weddings.
I would like to share a few data points with Mr. Giuliano—
- A 2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that in the US, 74% of LGBTQ youth report being verbally bullied based on their sexual orientation and 36% reported being victims of physical assault. This is compared to the national average of approximately 21% and 5% respectively (source).
- Another study in 2016 by the Center for Disease Control found that queer youth are three times as likely to contemplate suicide than heterosexual youth and five times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth (source).
- The National Center for Transgender Equality found that 40% of transgender adults report having made at least one suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having done so prior to age 25 (source).
- Queer youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to commit suicide compared to queer youth who reported no or low levels of family and community rejection (Pediatrics 123(1), 346-52, 2009).
- Each instance of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average (American Journal of Public Health 100(12), 2426-32, 2010)
When it comes down to it, these blind spots in legal protections are not an accident. They exist because yesterday’s bullies grow up to be today’s policymakers. It is disappointing to see Mr. Giuliano feign empathy for the victims of the same damaging policies for which he advocates.
Democratic candidate Ben Florsheim and independent candidate Valeka Clarke have been outspoken regarding their support of the LGBTQ community and their plans to include queer representation in their visions of the future of Middletown. I strongly urge Mr. Giuliano to find a reason why LGBTQ community members or their loved ones should trust him to represent their best interests.