with learned behaviors rather than innate predisposition.rnIn schools, also, we have long had heated debates about programsrndesigned to give students a positive view of homosexuality,rnwhich incorporate from the earliest grades texts treating homosexualrnrelationships as just as worthy and healthy asrnheterosexual, and perhaps more so. These schemes are foundedrnon the assumption that many pupils (one in ten, maybe?)rnthemselves possess homosexual natures, that they are homosexual,rnand that they need this form of encouragement or approval.rnCritics object that teaching about homosexuality allrntoo easily becomes the teaching of homosexuality, and againrnthey are correct to the extent that creating a positive environmentrnprobably will encourage same-sex experimentation or behaviorrnamong individuals who would not otherwise be so inclined.rnIn recent years, the impact of the “one in ten” mythology hasrnbeen especially clear in the construction of a vast social problem,rnthe general acceptance of which has made it easier to promotern”gay rights” positions in education and other spheres.rnThe epidemic in question is “gay teen suicide,” meaning thernstatistics for suicide by young homosexuals. Suicide byrnteenagers and young adults has for some years been regarded asrna grave social pathology, to which any parent of teenagers couldrnimagine his or her child succumbing; but in the late 1980’s, gayrngroups began to draw attention to the overrepresentation ofrnyoung gay men and lesbians as victims of these tragic acts. Asrnhomosexuals were claimed to constitute at least a third of teenrnsuicides, the panicked response to this issue should have beenrnredirected to the threat to gay teens. To quote the gay newspaperrnThe Advocate, “Gay and lesbian teenagers are killing themselvesrnin staggering numbers. They are hanging themselves inrnhigh school classrooms, jumping from bridges, shooting themselvesrnon church altars, cutting themselves with razor blades,rnand downing lethal numbers of pills. A conservatively estimatedrn1,500 young gay and lesbian lives are terminated every yearrnbecause these troubled youths have nowhere to turn . . . becausernthey cannot continue to live in a world that hates gays.”rnIt is a “hidden holocaust,” a theme familiar from the AIDSrncontroversy.rnGay activists now use the teen suicide issue as one of theirrnmost effective rhetorical weapons, chiefly because of its appealrnto audiences who might not normally be sympathetic. It is sornattractive to the media because the theme easily lends itself tornmoving illustration in stories of young people who had killedrnthemselves, the presumption being that homosexuality hadrnbeen a determining factor in their decisions. The political consequencesrnare far-reaching: if young gay lives are to be saved,rnthen the schools and churches must reconsider their attitudesrnand priorities, eliminating antigay prejudices; “gay-positive”rnmaterials must be introduced into school curricula, and gayrnstudents “mainstreamed.” In Massachusetts, especially, thernurgency of the apparent crisis has led Republican GovernorrnWeld to establish a special commission on gay and lesbianrnyouth, in order to recommend sweeping reforms throughoutrnthe state’s educational system: after all, are not lives at stake?rnGay teen suicide promises to be the trump card in local schoolrnboard battles over the treatment of homosexuality in education.rnThe construction of the “epidemic” is a damning indictmentrnof the use of social science in political debate, and thernuncritical way in which tendentious statistics are accepted asrnfact. Briefly, gay teen suicide is an outright myth. Of course,rnsome homosexual teenagers kill themselves, possibly in somerncases as a result of insult, prejudice, or bullying, but there arernno vaguely credible statistics about the scale of the issue.rnThe manufacture of the “1,500 victims” is an example ofrnchutzpah. In the late I980’s, the federal Department of Healthrnand Human Services mounted an inquiry into the problem ofrnteen suicide, defined as suicide by individuals aged 15 thoughrn24. It commissioned dozens of papers, which were presented atrnvarious conferences around the country in 1986-87, and two ofrnthese studies involved sexual identity. One was a restrainedrnand scholarly piece, which noted the scholarly consensus thatrnhomosexuals were two or three times more likely to kill themselvesrnthan heterosexuals, a well-substantiated finding. Thernother paper, however, was a polemical piece by San Franciscornsocial worker Paul Gibson, and this is the sole source for currentrnestimates of the numbers of gay teen suicides. This should bernstressed: the figure derives not from an academic or a scholarlyrnresearcher, and the study was never subjected to any form ofrnpeer review. The author in question presented his views, whichrnwere then included without comment in the final report, andrnthis was then cited in wildly misleading terms of “the federalrngovernment has conclusively shown that gay teen suicide is arnvast epidemic.” As David Shaffer has remarked, the problemrnwith “official statistics” is that they are often not official, andrnsometimes they are not even statistics.rnSo how did we get to the picturesque image of 1,500 peoplern”hanging themselves in high school classrooms, jumping fromrnbridges, shooting themselves on church altars” and so on?rnTelephone Psychicrnby William Baeirn”He’ll be quite kind and thoughtful and he’ll lovernthe movies!” Picking up her envelope,rnshe glanced across her long red nails, “I’d sayrnwithin the next few months.” She truly lovedrnthis job, always using her imagination.rnShe took her paycheck out and winked at Conniernin the corner cubicle. As long as “Jane” believesrnthat something will happen, then, probably, it will.rnOh sure, it’s all a “lie”—as mom so bluntlyrnputs it—yet it’s just a kind of “whitish” lie:rnputting her clients in a healthy frame of mind.rnLike when her dad would call to tell her thatrnhis tests were negative; or when her sonrnwould reassure her that he’d given up the drugs;rnor when, tonight, her husband called from Al’srnBlue Star Motel to say he’s working late.rnOCTOBER 1996/17rnrnrn