Background Information on Possible GLB Suicide Problems in Norway: 1995-1999.
A 1997 Conference Paper Addresses the Possibility of GLB Suicide Problems in Norway.
Arne Gronningseter Report on the Situation With Respect to Having GLB suicide problem Addressed in Norway.
Gronningseter Supplies an English Translation of the Data from the Hegna
et al. (1999) Study of Norwegian Gay and Lesbian Individuals.
Summary of the Hegna et al. (1999)
Study of 2,987 Norwegian GLB Individuals &
Male Youth Prostitution in Oslo: For every "1" adolescent girl selling sex, there are 3.5 adolescent boys selling sex.
The NOVA report on living conditions and life quality among lesbian women and gay men has three parts: a review of existing Scandinavian research in the field (Part I), a survey of attitudes toward gays/lesbians in the population (Part II), and an empirical study of living conditions and life quality among lesbians and gays (Part III) based on questionnaires (N=2987) and life history interviews (N=23). This summary is based on Parts II and III of the report.
In MMI’s opinion poll one out of
ten reply that they have a close friend whom they know is lesbian/gay,
whereas four out of ten have a lesbian/gay acquaintance. The poll shows
how important openness and integration is to promote the understanding
of the rights and living conditions of lesbians and gays. It is the men
and women who report that they have close lesbian/gay friends who have
the most favourable attitudes toward lesbians and gays. Negative attitudes
toward the rights of homosexuals are more frequent among men than women,
and more frequent among people aged 60 or above than in other age-groups.
Forty-nine per cent (49%) of the men and 41 per cent of the women are not regular participants in organised activities or societies for gays and lesbians. The sample consists mainly of persons who are either completely or partially open regarding their sexual orientation. Only 1 per cent of the women and 3 per cent of the men report that none among their heterosexual friends/colleagues know that they are lesbian/gay. With regard to general level of education, the sample average in the NOVA survey is substantially higher than the average in the population as a whole. The survey sample was obtained by distributing questionnaires via the monthly newspaper Blikk and the National Society for Lesbian and Gay Liberation (LLH), plus distribution through various private networks.
In spite of there being some discrepancies
between respondents and the population as a whole on such variables as
sex, age and regional distribution, it should be noted that the present
survey compares favourably with previous ones by including a more representative
sample of women, adolescents, older and elderly people, as well as people
living outside the central areas of South Eastern Norway and in rural areas.
There is a good breadth of respondents, and all important groups of lesbians/gays
The quantitative questionnaire survey shows that around one in three mothers and fathers had a predominantly negative reaction to being told that their daughter or son was lesbian/gay.
The questionnaire survey also shows
that lesbians and gays as a whole are more open towards their parents and
siblings today than they were 20 years ago. Men are slightly less open
than women. Lesbians and gays with a low level of self-acceptance, persons
aged less than 25, and persons aged over 50, stand out negatively with
respect to their degree of openness towards their parental family. The
interview survey indicates that openness may have been somewhat less important
for older than for younger lesbians and gays as regards their self-image
and life quality.
As regards social networks the picture is more complex. In comparison with the population as a whole, a substantially higher share of lesbians and gays live alone or have only sporadic contact with their neighbours. One important positive result is that lesbians and gays included in the NOVA survey have good networks of friends. They have more intimate friendships, and have more frequent contact with their friends, than men and women in the population as a whole. It is lesbians and gays who have a good relationship to their parental family who are most frequently in contact with their homosexual / heterosexual friends.
Eight in ten men and nine in ten
women reply that all/most of their heterosexual friends know that they
are lesbian or gay. It is the young, the old, and lesbians/gays who live
in small towns or rural areas who are least open toward their friends about
their sexual orientation. One in three have mainly homosexual friends,
one in three have mainly heterosexual friends, and one in three have roughly
the same number of each. The youngest and persons living in rural areas
most frequently report that they have more heterosexual than homosexual
friends. The share of lesbians/gays with one-sided social networks is considerably
lower than in the 1978 survey. Six in ten live what we call an integrating
form of life, meaning that they have frequent contact with both heterosexual
and gay/lesbian friends, and that they see their heterosexual and lesbian/gay
friends at the same time.
More than half the women and a third of the men in the survey live with a partner of the same sex. Women in a stable relationship are more likely to live with their partner than men. 12 per cent of the men and women in the survey have entered a Registered Partnership. Registered partners are not at variance with the sample as a whole with respect to their level of income or education, but appear to be more open about their sexual identity than the other participants in the survey.
To be in a stable relationship with a person of the same sex is important for the quality of life among lesbian women and gay men. Those among the respondents who are in a stable relationship are happier with their sexual life, have more frequent sex, and are more satisfied with life in general than persons who are not in a stable relationship. This difference is a feature of all the age-groups.
Thriteen per cent (13%) of the women
and 8 per cent of the men in the NOVA survey have their own children. The
majority of people with children report that the child originates from
an earlier heterosexual partnership. One in ten women and one in a hundred
men in the age-group 25-44 live with their own children. About one in three
women and men in the age-group 16-34 who do not have their own children
want to have children. Virtually all lesbian/gay respondents say that lesbians/gays
should have the right to be foster parents and to adopt children. Almost
three quarters of the respondents reply that they would wish to make use
of their right to become foster parents if they were to be granted this
right. Around half could imagine themselves making use of the right to
Around one in five women and one
in four men have experienced some form of discrimination in their place
of work/study. Among the kinds of discrimination which occur in places
of work/study, the biggest problems are posed by less tangible forms of
intimidation and exclusion the existence of which is hard to prove. Reports
of such discrimination is especially common among young lesbians and gays.
As regards violent threats, however, there is a large discrepancy between our figures and the figures of the 1995 survey. Compared with the population as a whole, the share of people having been exposed to (at least one) violent threat during 1997 is over twice as high among lesbian women and four times as high among gay men. Especially the young in our survey stand out in a negative way: about five times as many gays/lesbians have been exposed to violent threats during the last year as compared to young women and men in the population as a whole.
Three quarters of the men and nearly two thirds of the women who experienced violent threats during 1997 say that (at least one of) the episodes of violence or threats were related to their sexual orientation. 20 per cent of lesbian women and 38 per cent of gay men report that they have been exposed to either violence or threats as a result of their sexual orientation at least once in their life.
Compared with the population as a
whole (Statistics Norway’s 1995 survey), gay men are substantially more
concerned about being exposed to violence or threats when going out alone.
Gay men are more concerned about going out alone than are lesbian women.
This fact contrasts sharply with the distribution between the sexes in
the population as a whole, where women are far more concerned about this
As regards thoughts of suicide and
suicide attempts lesbian women and gay men are more exposed than the population
as a whole. The share of people who have been plagued by thoughts of suicide
during the last 14 days is 6-7 times higher among the women and men in
the NOVA survey than among the population as a whole. 16 per cent of the
men and 20 per cent of the women in the survey report that they have attempted
to commit suicide at least once in their life. It is alarming that one
in four men or women under the age of 25 in our survey report that they
have made at least one attempt to commit suicide. A feeling of isolation
and loneliness, a wish to escape from an intolerable situation, a feeling
of powerlessness regarding the future, and a problem with accepting oneself
as lesbian or gay were the four most common reasons given for attempted
The consumption of alcohol among lesbians and gays has two aspects. On the one hand, ordinary low frequency consumption appears tied to social fellowship, good networks and high quality of live. On the other hand, the people exhibiting a high intoxication frequency form an exposed group with a low quality of life. Similar patterns have been observed in several surveys of the general population in recent years.
Among the lesbian women in the NOVA survey there is a larger share of smokers than in the population as a whole. Among gay men there are no significant deviations from the population as a whole as regards smoking habits.
The use of illegal narcotic substances
is clearly greater among lesbians and gays than among the rest of the population.
The share of lesbians and gays (aged 18-24) in Oslo who have used cannabis
during the last 12 months is twice as high as the comparative share of
a representative sample of Oslo youth. 45 per cent of the lesbian women
in this age-group had used hashish or other cannabis substances.
published in 2003: "Children and adolescents who sell sex: a community
study" by Willy Pedersen & Kristinn Hegna. Social Science and Medicine,
56: 135-147 (PubMed
Abstract). The "1.4%" of adolescents who sell sex consisted of 0.6%
girls and 2.1% boys, meaning that for every "1" girl selling sex in
Oslo, there are "3.5" boys selling sex. - Pro-sentret:
is run by the Municipality of Oslo. It is a service catering for women
and men who have experiences in sex trade.Pro-sentret is a national centre
of excellence on the topic of prostitution.
A Possible Cause for GLBT Suicidality Proposed by Tone Hellesund.
Related Paper: Hellesund, Tone (2007). Deadly identities? : Homosexuality, adolescence and parasuicide. Ethnologia scandinavica, 37: 35-46. Reference. - Related News Article: Warns against 'queer looks’ and suicide statistics (2007): The shocking suicide figures among homosexuals are often used in the fight for equal treatment, but warnings are now being sounded about giving too much support to such a depressing depiction of the situation. At the same time, a new study shows that is it often the cumulative effect of the small everyday episodes that make the feeling of being different too hard to bear... In Ms Hellesund’s opinion, emphasising homosexuality as an orientation one is born with and cannot do anything about contributes to producing and reproducing homosexuality as a negative deviation. It becomes a special identity to be either ashamed or proud of. “I believe that slogans such as “Gay and proud of it” also show that shame is lurking just beneath the surface. Identity politics can be an effective way of achieving rights, but they derive their power from a collective pain. If one chose the opposite path and played down the categories, this could reduce many gay people’s feeling of not belonging,” says Ms Hellesund, who also believes that sexuality should not be regarded primarily as fixed categories, but rather as culturally changeable and unstable.
Also See: "Møtet med ”den andre” – unge homofile og selvmord" & "En kommentar til forskning om selvmord og homofili", Suicidologi, 11(2): 20-22 & 23. PDF Download. No Google Translation. Full Text. Translation.
Related Book: Hellesund, Tone (2009). Identitet på liv og død: marginalitet, homoseksualitet og selvmord av. Reference. Translation.
Concept Summary From an Interview With Tone Hellesund (Full Text):
In the project I have been doing on homosexuality and suicide narratives, I have interviewed young people who have tried to commit suicide because of their homosexuality, and they tell stories about being marginalized. From a very young age they recognized that homosexuality was seen as something, not only different from the lives their parents, families, friends and communities lived, but as something fundamentally different; something that really belonged to a different reality or universe; something that went on in a different place, between different people, and definitely not here in our family, at our school or in our village.
The stories I have heard are told by young people between the ages of 14 and 18 that live in very heterosexual environments, where they hear very few positive stories about homosexuality, yet they constantly hear that “the good life” is supposed to be heterosexual. These stories also speak of how if they were to become homosexuals, they would have to leave aside the life they had lived until then and become different persons in the eyes of their families, friends and maybe even in their own eyes.
Homosexuality is still seen as the truth about a human being. In Norwegian, we use the word legning; we speak of homofil legning, a homosexual inclination, which I see as a very essentialist framing of sexuality. That is a term that is very much used in the public debate and in every day conversations amongst general people. It is assumed that if you are a homosexual, you have this inborn inclination; your core is that you were born a homosexual, and there is nothing you can do about it. This is a very strong story in the Norwegian context...
The suicide narrative is strong in Norway and when that is the narrative about homosexuality that young people hear, they can also put their own suffering, and their own struggle into it, and connect to it in a way that could be potentially dangerous. All the people I have interviewed want to be normal, and want to have normal lives, and for them homosexuality was not something that could be integrated or combined with a normal life. The feeling of having to be someone different, of living a different life and being someone extraordinary, when all they want to be is ordinary people, is really strong in the stories I heard. I am sure that there are a lot of other stories about homosexuality and suicide too, but the ones I heard were the classic homosexual script, which is very easy to combine with the suicide script.
Concept Explored: Røthinga Å, Svendsenb SHB (2010). Homotolerance and Heterosexuality as Norwegian Values. Journal of LGBT Youth, 7(2): 147-166. Abstract. Full Text.
Abstract: In recent years, equality between homosexual and heterosexual relationships has increasingly been presented as a marker for Norwegian values. Norwegian schooling encourages tolerance toward homosexuals, and the state shows active interest in counteracting bullying against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth by supporting research and prevention programs. Recent studies concerning LGBT youth in Norway do indicate, however, that young Norwegians in general find it difficult to imagine themselves living a nonheterosexual life. Suicide is still considered a “reasonable” reaction to having to face a future as a homosexual. How can this be understood? Our analyses of teaching and textbooks in Norwegian schools points to three approaches to understanding young peoples’ reluctance to imagining themselves as nonheterosexual: the double message of homotolerance, the self-evidence of heterosexuality, and the absence of nonheterosexual futurescapes.
Excerpt: Both teaching and textbooks in Norwegian schools reflect the assumption that all students are heterosexually oriented and will lead a heterosexual life, with the exception of homosexual students, who are addressed in special sections. Generally, heterosexuality appears to be self-evident and normative also in teaching that explicitly aims to create positive attitudes. This is reflected in statements like “We have to accept homosexuals and be kind to them. They are ordinary people with feelings, just like us,” and in this conclusion to a group discussion: “Our group agrees that we do not have anything against homosexuals.” Such an approach implies a privileged heterosexual “we” who have the opportunity to tolerate “the homosexuals” as “the others” and who can decide what is tolerated and what is not tolerated. This creates an image of “the others” as inherently “different.” In the action of tolerance the difference is also produced, as “the others” are placed elsewhere, outside the classroom (Røthing, 2008; see also Brown, 2006; Gressg°ard & Jacobsen, 2008). Speaking of tolerance in this way produces otherness and marginalization of all nonheterosexuals. At the same time, heterosexuality and the privileges that come with a heterosexual lifestyle are not brought up or problematized. Heterosexuality is not presented as a topic for discussion. That way, it is portrayed as self-evident in its invisibility and verbal nonexistence (Foucault, 1980/1995). Heterosexuality is thus (re)produced as normative and privileged...
Conclusion: As mentioned in the introduction, Tone Hellesund argues that identities, when they appear to be absolute, stable, and predetermined, can be dangerous, even lethal, and she shows how this particular concept of “identity” tends to produce an experience of fundamental difference. The combination of an absolute and immersive identity and images of the future where this particular identity does not fit in or is absent may create a feeling of total hopelessness that makes suicide seem like a reasonable solution. Our analyses of teaching and textbooks pointed at three approaches to understanding young peoples’ reluctance to and fear of imagining themselves as nonheterosexual: (a) the double message of homotolerance, (b) the self-evidence of heterosexuality, and (c) the absence of nonheterosexual futurescapes. This teaching rests on an understanding of sexuality as binary and fixed, similar to the one reflected in the narratives of Hellesund’s informants. This understanding of sexuality is continuously presented in Norwegian schooling on sexuality, in classrooms, and in textbooks. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are presented as two sexual orientations that are mutually exclusive. Sexuality is depicted as something that is stable and set, something a person has and is, and he or she is expected to be either heterosexual or homosexual. This binary approach to sexuality both reproduces heterosexuality as the most desirable sexual practice and future and homosexuality by implication acceptable but not really wanted or desirable (Røthing & Svendsen, 2008a). Our studies have not found any evidence of textbooks or education that tries to fundamentally challenge the privileged position of heterosexuality in Norwegian society. The changes that teachers and textbooks seem to promote are primarily in relation to the majority’s (presumed) negative ideas of and attitudes to nonheterosexuals as “the others” (Røthing, 2008; Røthing & Svendsen, 2009b).
A Similar Proposition was Advanced by Tremblay and Ramsay (2000, 2004). See: "The Changing Social Construction of Western Male Homosexuality: Associations With Worsening Youth Suicide Problems." Contents Page. Contents Page. The concept will become apparent after reading the first two short sections, i.e., reading to "Male Homosexuality: From Common to a Rarity."