I’m a really tolerant person, but this has made me think hard. I don’t know how I feel about trying to raise a gay son. Will I be able to relate to him? Won’t his life be super hard? I know things are getting better for gay people, but it seems to me that being gay is really hard in the South, where we live. Gay people aren’t really accepted here like in other parts of the country yet.

This really started to weigh on my mind, so I did some research. Suicide attempts are significantly higher among gay teens—five times more likely. Gay kids are five times more likely than a heterosexual youth to end up hospitalized as a result. More than 70 percent of calls to Trevor Lifeline, a targeted suicide prevention hotline, come from the South and central regions of the country, right where I live.

Another study found that any kind of victimization at school leads to much higher risks of substance abuse. Studies in progressive states like Vermont and Massachusetts found that for gay and bisexual boys, rates of victimization were nearly five times that of straight kids. More disturbingly, that victimization coincides with a host of risky behaviors, from cigarette and alcohol abuse all the way up to hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Gay kids are way more likely to do all of these things than similarly persecuted straight kids.