Service providers and advocates were shocked, saddened and angry due to the suicides that recently happened. Across the nation there was an outcry against harassment and teen bullying. Justin Aaberg, openly gay and just 15, committed suicide after being bullied in school. Billy Lucas, also 15, was not out, but was mercilessly bullied in school. Billy hanged himself. Asher Brown, 13, who told his parents he was gay the morning he shot himself in the head, was also bullied. And Seth Walsh, also just 13, hanged himself after suffering years of bullying.
The most recent death was a Johnson and Wales student, Raymond Chase, 19. Raymond, a sophomore reported as openly gay, apparently hanged himself in his dorm room. The circumstances surrounding his death are not yet known. Lastly, the most well-known suicide is Tyler Clementi. Tyler, an 18-year-old college student at Rutgers University, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly broadcast him having sex with a man over the internet.
Immediately, the community reacted on Facebook. There was so much activity, that one could barely keep up with the updates. We all had a reason to connect with one another: we are fed up with the hatred and intolerance that the LGBT community has had to endure for so long. We sought answers that no one seemed to have. Not one tragedy. Not two. Not three. There were six. Each event occurred right after the next all across the nation. All sharing one common thread: a sense of hopelessness. All must have felt there was no way out.
To address such a terrible wave of calamities, some began to think that we had to do something. Say something. Somehow send out a message to LGBT youth that they are not alone. That eventually “it gets better.” Via Facebook, group e-mail correspondence, candle-light vigils, to eventually wearing purple t-shirts, the whole country ran with it.
Good intentions are not good enough. Giving an entire generation a false sense of hope has a long-term effect. A certain someone promised “change,” and not a whole lot has really happened. An entire nation now suffers from mass disillusionment because all eggs were put in one basket. Campaigns tend to work up a crowd. Persuade individuals to agree collectively; often times making the unreachable all of a sudden feel tangible.
But when six youth take their lives because they feel like they are not worth loving or accepting, the LGBT community needs a plan – not a campaign. So as we seek try to figure what went wrong, who is to blame, and who is to hold accountable, we can begin with the usual suspects: the legislative arena and school campuses. The LGBT community is most certainly right that we need to push for tougher anti-bullying laws as well as their effective implementation. Elected Officials and school administrators must comply with their responsibility of safety for all youth, especially the vulnerable ones who cannot stand up for themselves, and those who in the end, perish trying.
Yet, there are two additional pivotal components of this paradigm: PARENTS and the INDIVIDUAL.
The other day I heard someone say, “Well, it’s just that some parents will never change, they’re the ones you fear the most if you come out.” And that is the core of the matter. The Six share a pattern; something was going on at home. The fact that they felt they could trust no one in the family paints an ugly picture. Just like the legislative and school arenas, parents need to be held accountable.
The external is accountable: the law, school principals, teachers, and families. But in the end, it comes down to us. As LGBT individuals who have fought for EQUALITY for decades, we are strong and resilient! The Six did not read this article. The Six did not read all the positive messages on Facebook.
legacy asks that you do not forget about The Six. There were many more before, but let’s make sure there isn’t a seven. legacy also asks that The Six do not become the hottest “topic” or the “latest trend.” Talk show hosts and celebrities have jumped on the band-wagon after the fact. But where were they before The Six? Accountability begins where you choose it should, but it must start somewhere…
Again, welcome to LGBT Crossroads, a new column of Adelante. Together we will walk the path toward a healthier LGBT Community. Please forward your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
legacy is a project to strengthen the lives of LGBT individuals. We are in the initial stages and your support is welcome. To find out about how you can get involved, please feel free to contact Joseph García at email@example.com or visit the new page on Facebook: Joseph Legacy to read the Spanish version of this article.
legacy – what’s yours…
By Joseph García