What’s Brewing: Obama may nominate 1st openly gay cabinet member; Lady Gaga censored

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Two openly gay men have emerged as potential nominees for U.S. commerce secretary. It would mark the first time a gay person has been nominated for a position in the president’s cabinet. Among the other potential nominees is former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who’s currently a U.S. trade representative.

2. A Seton Hall University junior is suing the school after he was allegedly kicked out of his dorm room when his roommate complained that he’s gay. Jesse Cruz, 20, has since returned to his room but seeks compensation for being forced to sleep on a friend’s floor for more than two weeks, and for emotional and psychological trauma.

3. Malaysian radio stations are using indecipherable garble to replace pro-gay lyrics in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” due to government restrictions on “offensive content” in the Muslim-majority country. That’s too bad because it was already hard enough to distinguish the pro-gay lyrics from the rest of the indecipherable garble in the song. Sorry, I couldn’t resist, but here I’ll make up for it: If you didn’t get a chance to ask Lady Gaga a question while she was on the gay strip in Dallas this week, she’s taking them here. Watch the video above for an explanation. Happy now?

—  John Wright

Yet another gay teen takes his own life

Raymond Chase

Believe it or not, another openly gay teen has taken his own life, bringing the total to six in the month of September. The latest victim is Raymond Chase, a 19-year-old student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., who hung himself in his dorm room on Wednesday, Sept. 29. While it’s unclear whether bullying was a factor in Chase’s death, clearly at this point we are witnessing an extremely alarming trend. Chase’s death marks the sixth known suicide by a teenager who was gay or perceived to be gay in the month of September. All of the other five had been victims of anti-gay bullying. They are Asher Brown, 13, of Houston; Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, Calif.; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Ind.; Tyler Clementi of New Jersey; and Justin Aaberg, 15, of Minnesota.

What’s going on here, folks, and what are we gonna do about it? Here’s the full press release from Campus Pride on Chase’s death:

Campus Pride Demands National Action to address LGBT Youth Bullying, Harassment & Suicide

In the wake of two college suicides Tyler Clementi of Rutgers University & Raymond Chase of Johnson & Wales, Campus Pride reissues findings and recommendations from the “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People” released last week at a U.S. congressional briefing on Capitol Hill

(Providence, RI) Campus Pride, the nation’s leading non-profit organization working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and ally college and university students, offers its condolences and support to the family of Raymond Chase who reportedly hung himself in his residence hall room this past Wednesday, September 29, 2010 on the campus of Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI.

“The loss of Raymond this week is the second college LGBT-related suicide in a week and the fifth teenage LGBT suicide in three weeks. The suicide of this openly gay young man is for reasons currently unknown; however, the recent pattern of LGBT youth suicides is cause for grave concern,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride. “Campus Pride demands national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country. We must not let these tragic deaths go unnoticed.  Together we must act decisively to curb anti-LGBT bias incidents, harassment and acts of violence.”

Through its Q Research Institute for Higher Education, Campus Pride released last week its “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.” The in-depth research study is the most comprehensive national LGBT higher education study of its kind. Campus Pride surveyed more than 5,000 LGBT students, faculty and staff for the report. Findings demonstrate that these recent suicides and incidents of harassment are neither rare nor fleeting– they are REAL.

Among the findings in the report:

-One quarter (23%) of LGBQ staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment (defined as any conduct that has interfered with your ability to work or learn). Almost all identified sexual identity as the basis of the harassment (83%). An even greater percentage of transgender students, faculty, & staff reported experiencing harassment (39%) with 87% identifying their gender identity/expression as the basis for the harassment. The form of the harassment experiences by transgender people was more overt and blatant.

-One-third of LGBQ (33%) and transgender (38%) students, faculty, and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.

-More than half of all faculty, students, & staff hide their sexual identity (43%) or gender identity (63%) to avoid intimidation.

-More than a third of all transgender students, faculty, & staff(43%) and13% of LGBQ respondents feared for their physical safety.This finding was more salient for LGBQ students and for LGBQ and/or Transgender People of Color.

For more information about Campus Pride’s “2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People” report, visit www.campuspride.org/research.

—  John Wright

Judy Shepard statement on gay-bullying suicides

There’s a national conference call under way as we write this to coordinate vigils in honor of the four gay-bullying suicides of the last three weeks. Since we’re not taking part in the call, we figured we’d share this statement that just came across from Judy Shepard. We’ll update you on any plans for local vigils as soon as they’re announced. Shepard is, of course, the mother of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998. Here’s her statement:

Judy Shepard: We Must All Protect Youth from Suicide

Our family, and the staff and board at the Matthew Shepard Foundation, are all deeply saddened by the devastating report of at least the fourth gay or gay-perceived teen to commit suicide in this country in the last month.

Reports say that Tyler Clementi, 18, leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge near his New Jersey college campus after a roommate allegedly broadcast him in a same-sex encounter behind closed doors in his dorm room, and apparently invited others, via Twitter, to view it online. Regardless of his roommate’s alleged tweet, Tyler had apparently made no statement about his own sexual orientation. I’m sure we will all learn more about this terrible tragedy as legal proceedings unfold, but the contempt and disregard behind such an invasion of privacy seems clear. In the meantime, we send our thoughts and prayers to Tyler’s family as they mourn their loss.

In the last month there has been a shocking series of teen suicides linked to bullying, taunting, and general disrespect regarding sexual orientation, in every corner of America. Just a few days ago, Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old in Tehachapi, Calif., passed away after 10 days on life support after he hanged himself. Police say he had been mercilessly taunted by fellow students over his perceived sexual orientation.

Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself a few weeks ago at his Indiana home after years of reported harassment by students who judged him to be gay. Asher Brown, a 13-year-old in Harris, TX, who had recently come out, took his life with a gun after, his parents say, their efforts to alert school officials to ongoing bullying were not acted upon.

Many Americans also learned this week about Tyler Wilson, an 11-year-old boy in Ohio who decided to join a cheerleading squad that had been all-female. As a gymnast, he was interested in the athletic elements of cheering. He was taunted with homophobic remarks and had his arm broken by two schoolmates who apparently assumed him to be gay. He told “Good Morning America” that since returning to school, he’s been threatened with having his other arm broken, too.

Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect.

Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.

Suicide is a complicated problem and it is too easy to casually blame it on a single factor in a young person’s life, but it is clear that mistreatment by others has a tremendously negative effect on a young person’s sense of self worth and colors how he or she sees the world around them. Parents, educators and peers in the community need to be vigilant to the warning signs of suicide and other self-destructive behaviors in the young people in their lives, and help them find resources to be healthy and productive. We urge any LGBT youth contemplating suicide to immediately reach out to The Trevor Project, day or night, at (866) 4-U-TREVOR [866-488-7386].

Judy Shepard
President, Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors
September 29, 2010

—  John Wright