The mother and the boyfriend of 17-year-old Terrel Williams are pleading
for an end to bullying less than two weeks after the high-school
student hung and killed himself in his family’s vacation home. Advocate.com: Daily News
Corey Jackson, a 19-year-old student at Oakland University, in Rochester, Michigan, was found dead in a wooded area of campus on Tuesday, the Michigan Messenger reports:
Police and the medical examiner’s office tell the Oakland Press the young gay man hung himself.
The suicide happened Tuesday night, as activists across the nation were preparing for a Facebook driven day of activism to counter a wave of suicides of young gay people across the country that have been tied to bullying. Wednesday was dubbed Spirit Day by the Facebook plans, and was designed to draw attention to the suicides by encouraging people to wear purple.
Police say there is no indication bullying was a factor in Jackson’s suicide.
And while bullying may not be a factor, Melissa Pope, director of the university’s Gender and Sexuality Center said the issue points to larger, hidden epidemic of suicides among LGBT youth: "We must look beyond the term 'bullying' to the overall treatment of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community to begin to grasp the long-standing epidemic of suicide among our LGBT youth.While the national press has picked up this issue over the last two months, we have been losing high numbers of LGBT youth to suicide for decades…"
Sadly, yet another gay teen has taken his life, this time in Oklahoma. According to the Dallas Voice, 19-year-old Zach Harrington "endured years of struggles due to his sexual orientation in high school" and took his life a week after he attended a "hate-filled recent City Council meeting" in his conservative small town of Norman.
Nikki Harrington, Zach’s older sister, said her brother likely took all of the negative things said about members of the GLBT community straight to heart.
“When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalizing everything and analyzing everything … that’s the kind of person he was,” she said. “I’m sure he took it personally. Everything that was said.”
Harrington’s father, Van, said he wasn’t sure why his son went to the meeting, especially after his experiences in Norman once he revealed that he was gay as a teenager. He said he feels his son may have glimpsed a hard reality at the Sept. 28 council meeting, a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.
“I don’t think it was a place where he would hear something to make him feel more accepted by the community,” he said. “For somebody like Zach, it (the meeting) was probably very hard to sit through.”
“He feared for his safety on many occasions at (Norman North), and other people like him,” Van said. “Even though he was 6-4, he was passive and I’m sure being gay in that environment didn’t help.”
During rush hour on Friday, a flash mob consisting of hundreds of people staged a "Homophobia Kills" die-in inside of New York's Grand Central Station to call further attention to the recent national discussion on gay teen suicide. Watch a video of the demonstration, AFTER THE JUMP.
Yesterday, the LA Timespublished a piece on Seth Walsh, the 13-year-old from Tehachapi, California who hung himself last month after being harrassed by several bullies, and his mother Wendy. The heart-breaking article details the events that led up to Seth's suicide as he walked home from a local K-mart.
Accounts vary as to what happened next. There was a confrontation, according to the police. Four or five teens started to follow Seth, and he called his mother asking her to pick him up. She later told Jim and Judy that he sounded scared. But Wendy was studying at the time. She had been taking classes in Bakersfield, hoping one day to be a paralegal. She had grown accustomed to hearing fear in his voice and told him to walk home. It was less than a mile.
Not long after, he called again, and she agreed to meet him. When she arrived, she saw a group of teens, some of whom started to walk away. According to his grandparents, he was especially hurt that one of his friends who was there did nothing to help him. Once home, Wendy went back to her studies. Seth took a shower and later asked his mother for a pen. His younger brother, Shawn, was playing on the computer.
At some point, Seth had gone to the backyard. When Wendy took a break for a cigarette, she saw that he had hanged himself from a tree.
Has there been a sudden outbreak in suicide among gay teenagers or is the media finally paying attention to the massive problem? I spoke to Dave Reynolds, a Sr. Public Policy and Research Manager at The Trevor Project, who had this to say: "From what we know and can tell, there has not been an increase in suicide completions among lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth over the past few weeks. Sadly, there are likely this many deaths every week, but the media and the general populace are just starting to realize the depth of this public health and social justice issue."
Reynolds also revealed that 2/3 of all callers that come into the Trevor Project's suicide prevention line are from non-urban areas in the United States, a vast majority from southern and midwest states. He also confirmed that one of the most common issues from callers to the line is the bullying they regularly encounter. "The research available clearly shows a link between being the victim of anti-LGBTQ bullying and making a suicide attempt—our stories from the Lifeline and other services sadly reinforce this tragic link. Also, youth who are transgender, gender non-conforming or gender variant face a particularly tough time at school," he told me.
Last night, hundreds of people gathered in the Castro to call attention to the problem. Watch a news clip of the "Stand Up To Youth Suicide" event, AFTER THE JUMP.
We have a couple of diaries up taking a whack at Bam Bam Barber (“an open letter to matt barber,” and “Bam Bam Barber to bash Bowling Green!!”), but I thought I’d put up his latest filth so you can see how twisted and sick the man is to blame the LGBT community for daring to call out homophobia as a contributing factor in the suicides of young people who face bullying and harassment.
“Gay” Lobby Shamelessly Exploits Teen Suicides
Lynchburg, VA – Matt Barber, Director of Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel, released the following statement today on the series of recent highly publicized suicides committed by allegedly “gay” identified teenagers:
“Anyone with a heart grieves deeply over these needless suicides. Taking one’s own life is never the right choice. There are thousands of teen suicides each year. Some kids just don’t seem to understand the permanence of it, or how it destroys the lives of those they leave behind.
“We all agree: harassment and bullying of children should always be dealt with immediately and firmly. And if laws are broken, offenders should be prosecuted – period. This is true whether kids are targeted because they’re perceived to be homosexual, conservative, Christian or for any other reason.
“Unfortunately – though not surprisingly – extremist ‘gay’ pressure groups, like the incongruously named ‘Human Rights Campaign,’ Ellen DeGeneres and other liberal activists are shamelessly exploiting these tragedies as a means to achieve their own selfish political ends.
The garbage escalates below the fold.
“In a recent statement, Ms. DeGeneres said: ‘There are messages everywhere that validate this sort of bullying and taunting and we need to make it stop. We can’t let intolerance and ignorance take another kids life.’
“Indeed, actual bullying and taunting must not be tolerated. But what ‘messages’ is Ms. DeGeneres referring to, and how do ‘we…make [them] stop?’ I’ll translate from liberalese to plain English. What Ellen meant was this: ‘Public defense of God’s express, self-evident and unequivocal design for human sexuality must be stopped under force of law. Proponents of the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic are murdering ‘gay’ kids with their words.’
“Not only is this propagandist line of reasoning disingenuous, offensive and Orwellian, it’s utter nonsense.
“Joe Solmonese, president of HRC, took it a step further, directly blaming for these suicides Christians and the Mormon Church. To him, opposition to so-called ‘same-sex marriage,’ and defense of biblical sexual morality are the culprits: ‘Words have consequences,’ said Solmonese, ‘particularly when they come from a faith leader. This is exactly the kind of statement that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide.’
“As Rahm Emanuel famously said: ‘You never let a serious crisis go to waste. [I]t’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.’ It makes me physically ill to watch as the HRC and other ‘gay’ militants lick their chops and rub their hands together over the tragic suicides of these troubled, sexually confused young men,” continued Barber. “Before they were even laid to rest, the radical homosexual lobby pounced leveraging these suicides to demand that government codify each of their extremist, social engineering demands. This is political exploitation at its slimiest and it pours salt on the wounds of loved ones.
“God’s message to young people struggling with same sex temptation or to those who feel the shame that naturally accompanies sexual sin is that suicide is never the way out. But there is a way out. It comes first through belief in Jesus Christ, and then through confession of sin; finally, repentance. As Jesus said to the repentant sexual sinner at the well, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’
“The families of these precious young people should know that Christians around the country are praying for them and will continue to pray for them in their time of loss. Scripture says ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’
“But Christians are also praying that these wicked and callous political vultures who seek to exploit these suicides become confounded and fail fantastically. Their mission is not one of ‘tolerance’ or ‘diversity.’ Quite the opposite: Their goal is to fan flames of anti-Christian bigotry and discrimination, evangelizing on behalf of their own perverted god: moral relativism. We simply won’t let them get away with it,” concluded Barber.
As we all know, discussion about gay teen suicide has swelled over the last week. Why the sudden increase? Who is to blame? What needs to be done about the problem? Read on for reactions and opinions on the subject from members of the gay community, journalists and others.
Dan Savage points the finger at who is partly to blame for the recent suicides of gay teens like Tyler Clementi: "Tyler's roommate did not act alone. There are accomplices out there: uncaring teachers, criminally negligent school administrators, classmates who bullied and harassed Tyler, "Christian" churches and hate groups that warp some young minds and torment others, politicians on the right and left who exploit and perpetuate anti-gay prejudice, perhaps even Tyler's own family. We need to learn more. And more charges need to be brought. Not just criminal charges against a couple of stupid teenagers who should've known better but didn't. But ethical charges need to leveled against adults and institutions that knew better but didn't care."
Salon's take on Tyler Clementi's story: "I think the part of Clementi's story that most appeals to a larger sense of moral outrage is the availability of two easily identifiable villains: The teenagers who giggled at their prank, filming the gay roommate and showing the world his private moment. But is that, alone, really what drove Clementi off the edge? Most of the other kids identified above lived through years of merciless taunting, humiliation, terrorized because their honest, naked selves didn't fit in. Surely Clementi's roommate, whom he considered a decent roommate in a lot of ways, wasn't the first person to single him out for ridicule, though he may have been the first to live-stream it. But I don't think that one act drove him to suicide, except in combination with the homophobia that Clementi envisioned raining down on him, full blast, for the rest of his life. He felt it coming from all areas of the country, all eyes on him and not just seeing him but judging him, laughing at him, condemning him to hell."
Teaching Tolerance, a division of The Southern Poverty Law Center, will premiereBullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History in Washington, DC on Tuesday: "Bullied chronicles the powerful story of a student who stood up to his anti-gay tormentors and filed a federal lawsuit against his school district. The suit led to a landmark federal court decision holding that school officials could be held accountable for not stopping the harassment and abuse of gay students."
The New York Timeslists tools against homophobic bullying.
Tehachapi Unified School District announces that it will work with the city's police department "to hold an assembly on tolerance" (though I think it should actually be an assembly on acceptance) after 13-year-old Asher Brown's suicide.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued this statement: "This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear. This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it's students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop."
Just this summer GLSEN published a report on the bullying of gay teens: "The 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns."
Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Hayley Gorenberg believes in creating laws against bullying: "But sympathy is not enough–we all have a responsibility to take action, and to keep working until all young people are safe and respected, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity. We must push for laws on the federal level and in every state that prohibit bullying and discrimination. We must hold people accountable, and use the courts when necessary. And most importantly, we must love and teach all our children to be their best selves and to respect and support others to do the same."
Watch video of a tribute held for Clementi at Rutgers just yesterday, AFTER THE JUMP.
Have you read something that you think needs to be added to this roundup? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following come from Kim Westheimer, Director of HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program:
Today we learned of the suicide of 13-year-old Asher Brown in Houston. Asher took his own life after relentless harassment and bullying at school. Most of the bullying this young man endured was inflicted on him because he was gay. This isn’t the first suicide by a young gay student we’ve heard of – it happens far too often. No parent should have to go through the suffering that Asher’s parents are going through. Bullying takes its toll in many ways. In this past week, in addition to Asher Brown’s tragic death, there were news reports of a an 11-year-old boy who was mercilessly harassed for being a male cheerleader. He suffered a broken arm at the hand of bullies, some of whom have threatened to break his other arm because he spoke out against his tormentors.
These awful incidents are preventable. It is the responsibility of adults – school personnel and parents – to address the bias that is so often behind bullying and tragic cases of suicide. Too often bullying related to sexual orientation and gender does not get addressed. Perhaps it’s because adults harbor their own anti-gay prejudices, or maybe it’s because they are afraid to broach the subject of LGBT students and parents because it’s still viewed as a taboo. Whatever the case may be, something must be done. Students need to be taught to respect each other as early as elementary school. This is why I am proud of HRC’s resource, Welcoming Schools, a tool to help school end name-calling and bullying, avoid gender stereotyping and embrace family diversity. To read more about the links between Welcoming Schools and bullying prevention, go to the last week’s blog by Marlene Snyder, the Director of Development for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and a Welcoming Schools National Advisory Council Member. It’s time for all of us to make a difference, whether through work in our communities, conversations with the children in our lives, or advocacy to insure that school districts and state legislatures everywhere implement enumerated anti-bullying policies and laws that that protect all students.
Kelz Sutherland is the 19-year-old British teen who lurked on gay phone sex chat lines and blackmailed callers, threatening to release tapes to their families and police of them lusting after underage children. He pocketed at least 5,000 from 10 victims during his extortion scheme, which he operated from his mother's. Now he'll serve 45 months for the stunt. Sutherland's attorney tried arguing her client only did it because he was sexually abused as a child by an adult man. [Note: Sutherland is not pictured]
Richard Stephson, 55, is in jail and facing multiple charges after what investigators describe as years of abuse. Authorities said the incident started in the mid 80s when Stephson began sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was staying with him at his Springfield home. Soon, police learned that the teen was pregnant with his child.
Now, 10 years after his daughter was born, authorities said Stephson offered her money to have sex with him and molested her during family visits.
He has pleaded not guilty, but has confessed to committing the acts in an interview.
A junior at Mount Si High School was found not guilty of an assault charge stemming from a locker-room fight in November 2009. The incident, which involved antigay slurs, raised issues about bullying and gay students. Daily News