From left to right:Gay teens Asher Brown, 13, Seth Walsh, 13, Justin Aaberg 15, Billy Lucas 15, and Tyler Clenti 18 - all committed suicide in 2010 in the face of alleged anti-gay bullying.
I’m a huge admirer of Dan Savage. I think his It Gets Better Project is very important as a vehicle to drive the message home to those suffering from bullying and depression that there is light at the end of this tunnel - If only you can hold on.
On the project website and YouTube channel, there are many inspiring stories from people whose lives did change for the better once they moved away.
This video by Jim David for example, is one that I relate to (being of a certain age). While the message is just as profound, being a comedian, he makes his point with some humour. For many gays, humour is their weapon of defence. Just ask any drag queen.
During my grade school days, sissy was the bully bullet of choice. Those victims who could, butched it up pretty quickly; those that couldn’t, well, they were either lucky to have a protective older brother or flamed it up so much that being called a sissy lost any of it’s desired potency.
My heart breaks when I look at those faces above. Asher and Seth were only 13 years old; Justin,15. That to be targeted by bullies because they were or were perceived to be gay is horrendous. That this was enough to drive them to kill themselves speaks volumes about the culture they found themselves in.
Tyler Clenti, a gifted musician and student at Rutgers College, killed himself because he was secretly videotaped having sex with another man in his dorm room. He was humiliated to death. He managed to survive grade school and High School, but college unfortunately wasn’t a refuge from bullies or homophobes.
When you’re thirteen years old, High School graduation is a lifetime away. Imagining a world past that becomes a fantasy. And like most fantasies, it provide little comfort for someone being terrorized daily. When you’re already in High School, it becomes more conceivable that if you can just hang on a few more months then escape is possible.
What is it about our society, America’s in particular, that creates such a homophobic, intolerant and cruel environment that children must kill themselves to escape persecution?
That was a rhetorical question. America has become even more theocratic than ever. It is one of the most religious democracies in the world and unlike Spain or Italy who have a few pious people of their own, America is erasing the separation of church with right wing Christian fundamentalist ideology.
This is a country where a young gay person sees a country where he/she can’t give blood (male), can’t marry the person of his/her choice (in all but five States, one district and one Indian Tribe), can’t fight for his/her country and, if a LGBT couple, can’t adopt children.
Hopefully, it will get better. Hopefully, the US will come to its senses and return to the spirit of its constitutional that promises equality and the right to the pursuit of happiness.
But telling a young teenager to hold on is not enough. Parents of bullies, parents of victims, school officials, church and political leaders have to step up and do everything in their power to put a stop to this tragedy.
A very young person doesn’t have the option to run away, but adults who are supposed to care for his well being have the power to remove him/her from an environment that is dangerous. We do it all the time in the case of abusive families. What’s the difference here?
Advice from an old guy who survived.
Don’t wait until you’ve reached the end of your rope. If you’re not old enough to remove yourself from the danger; find someone who can help. Call the Trevor Project line: 866-488-7386,
If you are able to - run away to somewhere where you can be surrounded by a support system. This could be a friend, a family member or a bigger city where there might be a gay area.
This won’t be the answer to all of your problems, but it will give you a safer place to work things out while finding the meaning of life.