The one thing that’s never in short supply in America are scapegoats. There’s always somebody who’s not part of the club, isn’t considered one of the cool kids, doesn’t fit in and is barely tolerated as long as they don’t make too much of a nuisance of themselves.
Gay teenagers have always been high on the list of “at risk” groups to be targeted for bullying, harassment, intimidation and worse, but last week was particularly bad. At least five of them ended their own lives.
Tyler Clementi,18: The Rutgers University freshman jumps to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Allegedly his roommate and another classmate used a webcam to secretly record Clementi having sex with another man.
Billy Lucas, 15: the student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, Indiana was found dead in a barn iat his grandmother’s home. He had hanged himself. Friends say Lucas had been tormented for years as a result of his perceived sexual orientation.
Seth Walsh, 13: Walsh, a resident of Tehachapi, CA, was out with his orientation and had been transferred from a middle school to an independent study program because he had been teased and tormented about being gay. He was found unconscious at the base of a tree in his family’s backyard. He apparently had attempted to hang himself. After ten days, his parents took him off of life support.
Asher Brown, 13: Brown came home from school last Thursday while his parents were at work and shot himself in the head with his stepfather’s 9mm Beretta. Brown’s parents, David and Amy Truong said Asher had endured constant bullying from other students at Hamilton Middle School. They said they had complained to school officials during the past 18 months, but say they were ignored.
“Our son is just the extreme case of what happens when (someone is) just relentless,” Amy Troung said.
Directing her words to Asher’s tormentors she said, “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done. I hope you got what you wanted and you’re just real satisfied with yourself.”
Raymond Chase, 19: The sophomore, a culinary arts student at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, committed suicide by hanging himself in his campus dorm room. The circumstances of his death have not been disclosed.
This is a subject I covered back in April with the suicide of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover but I knew I’d be revisiting it again.
It’s still acceptable to go after gays and lesbians. We’ve made it o.k. to make fun of them, pick on them, hassle them and rough them up on occasion. After all, they’re DIFFERENT. They’re STRANGE. They’re CREEPY.
Actually, they’re just human beings trying to get through this mean and cold world just like everybody else. Some folks just refuse to see it that way.
If Clementi loved another man, so what? It doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t hurt or offend the world at large if two people of the same gender love each other. But apparently it bothers many weak-minded, hate-filled homophobic idiots one hell of a lot.
What happened to Clementi is more than a tragic overreaction. It’s a hate crime in every sense of the phrase.
I am a little less interested about high-profile closet cases and possible same-sex predators like Bishop Eddie Long sniffing around the male members of his flock than I am about these kids and teens who are literally being bullied and harassed to death. This is a scream for help and I don’t think the straight community is paying much attention yet. We’re still far more interested in the sleaze and scandal of creeps and hypocrites like Long, Ted Haggard, or Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig trolling men’s rooms that we are about the anonymous, the unknown, the faceless and the powerless for whom every day at school is like vacationing at Abu Gharib.
This kind of small-scale terrorism goes beyond the “gimme your lunch money” type of crap. This is persecuting teenagers for something they can’t help, change or hide. It’s disgusting, its appalling and we need to take it seriously to put an end to it.
Ellen DeGeneres is not my idea of a radical lesbian activist, but when she’s moved to use the platform of her talk show to cry, “We can’t let intolerance and ignorance take another kid’s life,” that’s a certain sign gay teen suicide is a crisis and a matter of concern for more than the family and friends of these lost souls.
There are a lot of straight kids who catch hell in school because they’re too ugly, too uncool, too nerdy, too fat, too unpopular for one reason or another. Kids have a terrible facility for being able to find the biggest weakness in their classmates and making them regret it. Middle and high school can be hard enough for the straight misfit. Add “gay” to the mix and it gets no easier.
The saying “Silence=Death” originally meant the silence about the toll AIDS was taking. Silence still equals death and when we are silent about young people destroying themselves than suffer one more day, our own silence represents the very worst sort of moral cowardice.
Instead of suggesting the gay community is being whiny and crying their being “picked on again by bad people” can we be honest for a minute here and admit a lot of those bad people are straight people and we need to check OURSELVES first because we perpetuate the problem when we don’t take the cries of oppressed groups we seriously when we’re not part of them.
Being young, gay and struggling with your sexuality is no reason to serve a death sentence. It’s time to teach tolerance. The gay kids have the right to live too.