Asher Brown, 13, Cypress, Texas
Seth Walsh, 13, Tehachapi, California
Justin Aaberg, 15, Anoka, Minnesota
Billy Lucas, 15, Greensburg, Indiana
Tyler Clementi, 18, Ridgewood, New Jersey
Raymond Chase, 19, Monticello, New York
In the past couple of weeks these five young gay men each committed suicide because they didn’t see a way to go on living. The hate speech, the bullying, the treatment at home, the invasion privacy had gotten to be too much.
Justin Aaberg hung himself on July 9 after bullying incidents and breaking up with his boyfriend. Asher Brown shot himself on September 23 after, according to reports, enduring more than a year of bullying. Seth Walsh hung himself, again because of bullying, on September 19 and died in the hospital on September 27. That same day, Raymond Chase hung himself in his dorm room at Johnson and Wales for reasons that are not fully known at this point. News was released on September 29 that Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his Rutgers roommate and another student harassed him and invaded his privacy by broadcasting scenes from their dorm room.
These are five LGBT suicides that we know of, all happening within weeks of each other. You can easily assume that there were others that happened that didn’t make the national news.
The major question here is what can we do to make this stop?
It’s not easy to be LGBT in this country. We’re constantly told we’re second class citizens. The Right is loud in their opposition at every turn, often using that opposition to rally support in elections. Many of our elected leaders do little to make us feel like important people as they ignore legislation to protect us or improve our lives because it’s too much of a political hot potato. Then of course there’s the ongoing debate over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell continues to sling mud at LGBT people and how we’re not fit to serve this country.
For a child or teen who is coming to terms with their sexuality to have to hear these messages certainly doesn’t add to their self esteem. Add in the hostility they can face at school, and maybe even at home, and you can end up with a deadly combination.
Certainly bullying has been around forever. But it seems to be running at a fevered pitch in recent years. Something has happened to our society where it’s more fashionable to tear people down rather than lift them up. There’s the sub-genre of reality television that shows people basically being mean to each other and it’s gobbled up week after week. Yes, I get the first amendment allows people to say basically anything they want. Just because you can, however, doesn’t mean that it’s correct to do so.
As adults we all have a responsibility to protect children. I’m appalled to read in some of the reports around these suicides that in some cases teachers do nothing because they are told to remain neutral in issues around sexuality.
If you’re a child or teen and you need help, call the Trevor Project Lifeline at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386). They will listen and they will help you. Also, please know that things do get better. Check out these amazing videos from Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
If you’re an adult who works with kids or is around kids, watch their interactions. Make sure your kids know that bullying is not okay in any context. Let the kids you interact with know that they can reach out to you if they need to.
Lastly, everyone needs to ban together to counter the hateful, destructive rhetoric that is out there about the LGBT community. We all have voices and they need to be heard. If you hear something hateful, counter it. If one of your elected officials comes out against gay issues, write to them and tell them you won’t support them because of that. If you’re considering voting for someone who uses LGBT citizens as political pawns, take a moment and make it clear to them you won’t vote for them. The national conversation must change for the sake of everyone.