Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

DOE says school district was negligent in responding to bullying against Seth Walsh

Seth Walsh

The U.S. Department of Education today issued a ruling declaring that the Tehachapi School District in California was negligent in not adequately intervening in the harassment and bullying that 13-year-old Seth Walsh faced at school in the years leading up to Walsh’s suicide last fall.

Walsh’s suicide was one of several tied to anti-LGBT bullying that happened last fall and focused national attention on the issue, leading to the creation of the It Gets Better Project.

In its ruling, the DOE noted that Walsh had subjected to “persistent, pervasive and often severe sex-based harassment,” and that the school district had been notified of the bullying but had failed to do anything to stop it. The ruling notes that while the Tehachapi school district’s sexual harassment policy and regulations are in line with federal law, the district — in the case of Seth Walsh — failed to follow its own policies and procedures.

According to the accompanying resolution agreement, the district will be required to revise its policies, hire new personnel to oversee harassment intervention, implement trainings for faculty and staff about both observing and intervening in harassment, and then report on the success of intervention strategies.

To read the DOE’s complete letter detailing its ruling in the case, go here.

To read the complete resolution agreement, go here.

—  admin

WATCH: Youth First Texas’ ‘You’re Not Alone’ project, a peer-to-peer version of ‘It Gets Better’

When members of Youth First Texas went to Austin in March to lobby for anti-bullying legislation, they did a better job of explaining the importance of such laws than any of the adults who were there. They were able to look senators and representatives in the eye and tell them personal experiences about having been bullied. Some of the youth told lawmakers they had attempted suicide, something that wouldn’t have happened if schools took bullying more seriously.

Walking back from the Capitol to a local church that was hosting lunch, the YFT members had an idea to make videos about their experiences. First, they sent copies to State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who shared them with other members of the Education Committee. But the videos also had another purpose — saving lives. While the “It Gets Better” videos are mostly adults telling teens they’ll get through their bad experiences in high school, YFT’s “You’re Not Alone” videos contain messages from LGBT youth to LGBT youth.

Watch the first set of videos from YFT’s “You’re Not Alone” project after the jump.

—  David Taffet

Okla. lawmakers endorse bullying, suicide

We’re kidding, of course, but not completely.

The Oklahoma House voted Monday night to kill a bill that would have outlawed cyberbullying and required schools to enact anti-bullying policies.

The bill’s Republican author, Rep. Lee Denney, said the 52-44 vote “absolutely shocked me.” Denney authored the measure after an 11-year-old in her district who was bullied at school committed suicide.

Opponents of Denney’s bill called it “overkill” and said it would represent another mandate placed on schools by the Legislature.

The Equality Network, Oklahoma’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, released a statement saying the group is “deeply troubled” by the bill’s defeat. An earlier version of the bill passed the House 74-23 in March.

“This is really sad news for Oklahoma’s students,” said Kathy Williams, president of The Equality Network. “Each day, students are physically attacked and verbally terrorized in our schools. It is disgraceful that our legislators refused to pass even this watered-down bill to help administrators, teachers, parents, and students create safer schools. No one can learn in a climate of fear.”

TEN says a recent study found that only 20 out of 500 school districts in Oklahoma include sexual orientation in policies protecting students. Only two include gender identity. “These omissions leave LGBT students highly vulnerable in districts that do not explicitly protect them from harassment and intimidation,” the group said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Marsha Ambrosius’ ‘Far Away’ and the blogger who’s attacking its anti-bullying message

I have Tammye Nash to thank for reminding me about this video.

R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius takes on the subject of bullying and suicide in her video for “Far Away” from her album Late Nights & Early Mornings, which came out in March. The song is actually the second single from the album that debuted in late December. The video garnered much attention because even with the topic of suicide, the video depicts the issues affecting an African-American gay couple, an image hardly seen in music videos by non-gay artists. The video premiered back in January.

The video ends with a message by Ambrosius that relates her to the topic and strives for an end to bullying. But one person sees it differently. Blogger Sandra Rose figures that kids don’t commit suicide because they are bullied, but for deeper reasons.

Gay teens are not committing suicide because they are the targets of homophobic bullying; they are committing suicide due to their undiagnosed mental issues (depression being one of them).

If, as Marsha suggests, society succeeded in eliminating homophobic bullying, the suicide rate among gay teens would stay the same. That’s because the core issue (depression) is not being addressed properly.

Interesting point. What do you think?

As for the video below, just think of this more as an “in case you missed it” post.

—  Rich Lopez

Apple employees join It Gets Better effort

Ok. So the the “It Gets Better” videos aren’t new, and there are a ton of them out there.

But this one — from Apple and featuring Apple employees — is new to me, and it is, I think, one of the most touching I have seen.

—  admin

UPDATE: Police say man found shot to death in Oak Lawn may have committed suicide

Earlier we reported that 28-year-old Javier Ahumada was found shot to death at an apartment on Dickason Avenue in Oak Lawn on Monday night. Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said the actual address of the complex is 4120 Dickason Ave. He also provided the following update:

“We are still waiting for the M.E. [Medical Examiner's] report but are not ruling out anything at this point. He had mental issues and has tried to harm himself in the past. This may very well be a suicide but we will wait for the M.E. to rule on that. A weapon was found by his body.”

—  John Wright

Bullying victim’s family sues Joshua schools

Jon Carmichael

The family of 13-year-old Jon Carmichael filed suit yesterday in federal court against the Joshua Independent School District, claiming that school officials ignored and even covered up the months of cruel harassment and bullying that drive Jon to suicide in March of last year.

The lawsuit was filed Monday, March 28, in federal district court in Dallas, exactly one year after Jon hung himself in his family’s barn. Joshua is located just outside of Cleburne, south of Fort Worth in Johnson County.

Reports at the time of his death indicated that Jon was bullied because he was smaller than his classmates at Loflin Middle School.

A report in today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram says that among the bullying Jon endured was being thrown into a trash dumpster and having his head held down in a toilet while it was flushed. Just before Jon hanged himself, the lawsuit alleges, he was stripped naked and put in a trash can. This time the attack was videotaped and posted on YouTube. It was removed at the direction of a school staff member, but that staff member did not report the incident, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also claims that on the day Jon died, he told a girl he was going to commit suicide and she told him to go ahead because no one cared if he lived or died.

School superintendent Ray Dane said he has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

Jon’s mother and sister were among those who went to Austin on Tuesday, March 22, to testify in favor of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation being considered by Texas lawmakers.

—  admin

Puppy in need of adoption — save me from myself!

My name is Gulliver. Help me find a home.

Every week in the print edition, we profile the Pet of the Week; this is not that. This is an act of self-preservation.

Some very evil lesbians, who know what a soft touch I am with needy puppies, have tried to get me to adopt a fourth dog. I once had four dogs at once, but none were puppies and none over 30 lbs.; I currently have a 40+ lb. 9-month-old Lab named Gulliver who is as much work as two dogs alone. (Here’s more proof they are evil: They stole the name Gulliver for their new dog less than a month after I did.)

So why does all this matter? Because these women have another rescue they are taking care of named Buddy, and they can’t keep him. If they don’t adopt him out soon, they will trick me into taking him and we can’t have that. So one of you needs to step up.

Here’s the deal: Buddy is about 10 months old, probably a Chow- or hound-and-Shar Pei mix who was discovered in a neighbor’s front yard suffering from dehydration, starvation and injuries from a fight with a larger dog. He’s something of a miracle baby. His recovery is progressing: He’s already added 6 lbs. to his skinny frame. He’s probably as big as he’s gonna get. And by Monday, he’s have all his vaccinations and lose his testicles. In other words, the perfect boyfriend.

If you can adopt him — and please, somebody, do it! I can’t take another pet! My cat will commit suicide! — contact e-mail

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Leaders of gay student group at Baylor react to school’s decision to deny their charter

As we noted the other day, Baylor University has denied a charter for an LGBT student group called the Sexual Identity Forum. The university apparently doesn’t think college students are mature enough to talk about sexuality issues unless the discussion is “professionally facilitated,” whatever that means. Baylor has a policy prohibiting students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” The Sexual Identity Forum, which insists it isn’t an advocacy group, plans to appeal the denial of its charter and will continue to meet informally in the meantime — at least until the administration tries to shut it down completely. Openly gay and extremely brave Baylor senior Samantha Jones, the president of the Sexual Identity Forum, tells News Channel 25 that she decided to launch the group after the school’s administration failed to respond to the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, whose death was a wake-up call to gay students around the country: “We didn’t get an e-mail saying, ‘This is someone who you can approach if you’re struggling with this,’ …nothing,” Jones says.

—  John Wright