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Gay Teen Commits Suicide on Michigan Campus

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:

Jackson 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..."

Watch a report from MyFox Detroit, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. @ TJ


    Posted by: Brian | Oct 20, 2010 11:57:24 PM

  2. To those who label suicide a"selfish" (and therefore despicable) act: have you ever sat with and listened to the indescribable pain of someone seriously contemplating suicide? If you had, you might have some perspective on how forgetting that others exist because of that pain is understandable. Again, let's blame the victim.

    POSTED BY: TJ | OCT 20, 2010 11:53:30 PM


    --You're right, it's the darkest pit of despair, emptiness, and acute aloneness. I know what it's like.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 21, 2010 12:01:02 AM

  3. @rat bastard if you know this personally, then I congratulate you for crawling out of the pit, and am glad you are here to spar with me. For those who aren't as strong, I hope we can use our fingers as part of a sure and therefore reassuring hand up rather than pointing down.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 21, 2010 12:12:04 AM

  4. @TJ: I believe we are coming at this situation from two very different ways yet arriving at the same conclusion. What is important, regardless of situation, is a support structure of some sort to allow bullied kids and young adults to turn the pain into strength. I believe that in our community, this support structure is seriously lacking. Part of this is society, but a decent chunk is that our community is rife with infighting. That needs to end so that these troubled people can turn to the community without fear of rejection, humiliation, objectification, or betrayal.

    As for the bulling issue... We have very different ideas of bullying. The moment those people decided to hold you down and violate you they became rapists. Knocking people down in a school hallway, calling them names, wedgies, fist fights, posting stuff on the internet (within reason, anything that was done in public is fair game), etc. are bullying. Attacking someone with a weapon, following them and continuing the harassment at their home, and rape, just to name a few, are not.

    Maybe that's why I'm having a hard time feeling sympathy for the young adults committing suicide over "bullying." It just doesn't have that negative a connotation to me. Since most of these accounts don't give details on what type of bullying, I can't make a determination of what I would call their experiences.

    Posted by: Steve | Oct 21, 2010 12:16:48 AM

  5. No one is blaming anyone. You can glorify and romanticize suicide all you want, but the fact remains that it's a terribly hurtful weapon.

    One can 'understand' and sympathize with those struggling with thoughts of suicide. Many of us have thought about it at some point, even if not seriously.

    Let's not pretend that suicide is anything other than a emotional and personal 'weapon of mass destruction'... it inflicts harm on those all around that person. Not to mention the life it cuts down.

    Suicide is never the solution. There are other options. Even when full of irrational despair and lonlieness and depression.

    (PS: God forbid anyone be considered selfish - I know it's not PC, but good people can be selfish people. We are colorful human beings with flaws and warts and beauty. Why can't one be a person worthy of continued life AND be selfish enough to end their life?)

    Posted by: JM | Oct 21, 2010 12:19:12 AM

  6. @steve what you see as categories I would argue are degrees on a spectrum. I assure you, the bullies that assaulted me would be more likely to accept that label than the one of rapist. And would minimize the importance because they were just bullies, just as you seem to be doing here (and feel free to correct me if you disagree). To some, getting angry and throwing an object is just blowing off steam. To others, the message received is that they might be next. Intimidation is not always overt. And I would argue that it is ultimately degrees and levels of bullying.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 21, 2010 12:38:26 AM

  7. I always take phrases like "he wasn't bullied" with a grain of salt.
    Every gay person in the United States at the very least has to live with second-class citizen status and the majority of gay teens hear ugly anti-gay messages at school on a daily basis and in society (and some in church and even at home).
    "Persecution" vs. "bullying" = Tomayto, tomahto.
    I've had acquaintances or friends of friends who were gay and committed suicide when I was in school.
    In one case when a kid killed himself just before Christmas, the media refered to it as a freak accident and said that he was a well-adjusted boy who had no major problems (he wasn't known by the media to be gay either, so, like many other cases, it gets counted not only among the "non-suicides" but among the "not gay" numbers.

    Those of us who knew were aware that he was gay and had nowhere to go for Christmas because his parents had told him he wasn't welcome with the family anymore. His friend had just told me about his situation one night, said he was "freaking out" and we even heard the door slam. We didn't realize how much he was "freaking out" until the police showed up the next day.

    I could recount several other cases too, just as tragic, but I think everyone already gets my point.

    There is bullying toward individuals that news reporters and often even families don't know about, there is widespread prejudice in society experienced by all gay teens which hurts even when it is directed at the group instead of the individual (and tends to hurt most when it comes from within the family). And when a "non-gay" story comes up saying that "s/he had everything to live for and nobody knows why s/he did it," we can't just assume he/she wasn't gay.

    Posted by: GregV | Oct 21, 2010 12:39:14 AM

  8. @jm Having several problems with your latest post. "Glorify and romanticize" suicide - exactly how is this being done, and by whom? One can understand and empathize without advocating the act. It is, indeed, a weapon of mass destruction, but it is also (and more often) a deeply personal act in its intent. Copycats do exist, and it is a legitimate concern when suicides are publicized. But the reasons for committing suicide weigh more heavily on the side of the pain it will end rather than the pain it will cause. In other words, it's not about you. Some people stop themselves because they realize the pain they will cause others. Others literally cannot see that far beyond themselves. For some, never seeing beyond themselves might indicate a personality disorder. For others, it might be the result of a series of truly unfortunate events. I'd like to be an advocate for eliminating unfortunate events, like bullying. What would you like to do?

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 21, 2010 1:07:02 AM

  9. GERGV:

    Suicides in general for all people are very under reported. A mortician I'm acquainted with tells me suicides are much more common than reported and frequently covered up. No doubt police and insurance companies could back this up.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 21, 2010 1:10:51 AM

  10. You people are now doing the work of the oppressors by sniping at each other. The problem of suicide committed by young gay people is what we should all be working to end instead of rationalizing it away. Every young gay or lesbian will hurt in a way specific to them and we should try to offer them options to improve their outlook instead of ignoring them.

    Posted by: mad1026 | Oct 21, 2010 1:40:27 AM

  11. JM: "We need to make it clear, as a community, that suicide is not a noble act. We need to make it clear that giving up on yourself is giving up on your family and friends and community. It's unacceptable... we shouldn't glorify those who kill themselves simply because they were gay or had it rough."

    Yeah, all the major mental health organizations say we should make those considering suicide feel even worse about themselves!

    Seriously, dude, keep your "campaign against selfishness" to yourself until you find some evidence it would do anything but hurt people.

    Posted by: BobN | Oct 21, 2010 1:43:16 AM

  12. Are you a homosexual if you are gay and you have never had sex?

    Posted by: ila lwara | Oct 21, 2010 1:47:06 AM

  13. TJ - I think you're on the wrong post. There seems be nothing to indicate this 19 year-old young man was bullied to death. Unless you have information I'm not privy to.

    When we post notices of gay suicides - regardless of the facts or the circumstances and without context - amidst a series of bully-inspired deaths, we do a disservice to those who are harmed by anti-gay bigotry.

    When we jump and grab and martyr every gay suicide victim and try to fashion it to our cause - however noble - it's exploitive and could backfire. Not every gay man or women who commits suicide does so exclusively because he or she is gay or was bullied.

    For all we know, this young man could've been clinically depressed and upset about a breakup or pressures from school or just a gentle soul unable to cope.

    I want to make sure we don't project our own feelings and replace the message his death may truthfully send... it may have nothing to do with being gay or lesbian.

    Posted by: JM | Oct 21, 2010 1:58:11 AM

  14. @BOBN

    I agree with JM's point, I just don't agree with the light in which his argument is presented. I think that reminding yourself of your family/friends/other relationships is key in suicide prevention - who'll be impacted by your loss. As a former suicidal gay teenager, I can say that selfishness doesn't play a role as much as the tunnel vision of your own misery does. It gets better. Now I'm a college freshman with people who love and accept me for who I am and I couldn't be any happier. Far from the kid who thought his life was over just two years ago.

    I am a testament to the idea that hope has a remarkable intrinsic value in the life of an individual but especially those who have been persecuted/bullied because of their sexual orientation in an ultra-conservative portion of the Bible belt.

    My ultimate point being that there is hope and this string of unfortunate and regrettable and heartbreaking suicides needs to end as soon as is humanly possible.

    Posted by: Luke | Oct 21, 2010 2:01:31 AM

  15. Bobn,

    I didn't realize I was on a mental health forum or support group. I guess we all should only post comments that sugarcoat hard truths. We wouldn't want anyone to get the right idea about suicide.

    Posted by: JM | Oct 21, 2010 2:06:55 AM

  16. @JM some other comments reference evidence of possible bullying. I would argue that society acts as a bully in multiple way because of how gay people are intimidated into accepting heterosexuality as the only acceptable option. Whatever the reason, it is likely that factors outside of this poor guy affected his belief in his ability to cope. The research shows that being gay does not in itself equate with dysfunction. But stressors from outside because of this orientation can affect function. Please read the post about Maggie Gallagher of NOM and her use of statistics - she totally ignores the reasons for dysfunction, such as discrimination and prejudice, which are expressed in hate speech and actions (overt as well as covert), which is about intimidation, which is about bullying. People commit suicide for many reasons, and yes, automatically assuming one reason or another is wrong. But factors can compound. I am for eliminating, to whatever degree, factors outside of inherent resilience.

    As for being on the wrong post, I might question the sensitivity and empathy of those who post about "glorifying" because a post makes note of a fallen brother, or have the gall to intimate that they have the "right" idea about suicide when they have yet to show any true understanding or empathy. Suicide IS a matter of mental health, which isn't always or only about the selfish individual not considering how they impact others.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 21, 2010 2:55:52 AM

  17. Leo is so right. "Bullying"? Geez, talk about missing the forest for the trees.

    Suicides of gay teens and people in general have been high for decades, and it's not just teen bullying that causes it. It's the culture and institutionalized prejudice in America that does it. We have to fight this battle on all fronts, including in schools, but also in laws, in churches, in all our own families and communities. Kids won't or can't always speak up and act to defend themselves, so those of us lucky enough to have some semblance of freedom, limited as it may be, to speak up for them and to defend them when they cannot.

    Posted by: X | Oct 21, 2010 3:17:26 AM

  18. JM,slow down with the rhetoric. No one is making a martyr of anyone. It's a fact that gay teens are more likely to commmit suicide than "straight" teens. It's a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It's dangerous ever to assume anything, but it makes sense that the overt social stigma against being gay is a factor in many if not all these suicides, and therefore that "but for" that stigma many of these kids might still be alive.

    Bullying is not just physical. When Andy posts notices of gay teen suicides, he does not "do a disservice to those who have been harmed by anti-gay bigotry." he pays to tribute to one more victim.

    Posted by: justiceontherocks | Oct 21, 2010 8:32:19 AM

  19. More Kellan Lutz pics plz

    Posted by: Clubboi | Oct 21, 2010 8:42:01 AM

  20. So wait, he comes out to folks he's probably known for only a month or two, comments to his family that he feels like people are treating him differently and don't know how to act around him (which is a natural part of coming out), and everyone is so quick to label that "bullying"?!?

    Sounds like the kid had no one to talk to, not that he was the victim of harassment or bullying.

    Posted by: DR | Oct 21, 2010 9:48:27 AM

  21. This really seems like a GREAT discussion the likes of which I wish was here at towleroad more often (as opposed to excessive bitchery...a LITTLE bitchery is fine, even wonderful actually but...I digress).

    I want to read all of these what seems at first glance to be illuminating response than come back and comment.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Oct 21, 2010 10:18:18 AM

  22. I had the misfortune of trudging through Detroit Public Schools during the late 60's into the 70's . I was. Skinny boy who threw like a girl. Was the only white boy in a class of 35+ kids. To say I got bullied is an understatement. I found out that a good hunk of pipe or big rock placed right between the eyes of the bully made him stop. What did I have to lose? The church already brainwashed me into hating myself for what I felt inside. Sissy boys gather up your pipes,rocks,whatever is at hand and take it too the bully. It gets better.

    Posted by: Chuck C. | Oct 21, 2010 10:20:10 AM

  23. @Ila Lwara:
    Your question is off-topic, but since you're curious, I'll answer it.

    "Gay" and "homosexual" mean exactly the same thing. The latter is an old clinical term and the former is usually considered the preferred term to use.

    A gay person is someone whose natural romantic and/or sexual attractions are wired exclusively or primarily toward members of the same sex.

    Whether a person actually has any sexual experience with anyone makes no difference to his/her sexual orientation.

    Posted by: gregv | Oct 21, 2010 10:57:50 AM

  24. I hold the likes of Obama resposible for these suicides. It seems Obama is frequently doing things to make us feel unaccepted...i.e. continually stopping the courts from giving us equalty and striking down DADT. Thanks for nothing Obama, the liar, and give me back my money and more importantly give me back my vote.

    Posted by: Robert | Oct 21, 2010 11:49:40 AM

  25. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    The US ranks 40th in the world in suicide rates, which suggests general contentment. Some countries count suicide differently. For example, binge drinking might count as accidental in one country and suicide in another (its self-reported by govts.) France is 18th! Some countries in Europe have doctor assisted suicide for the elderly or very ill.

    Now, clinical depression does not respond well to publicity. Stories about suicide encourage, rather than discourage, the CD'ed to commit suicide. Why? Because the victim thinks: if they can do it, so can I. It's not the normal way of thinking, which is why CD is a mental illness. What also doesn't help is all the support the family of the victim gets in the media, which also encourages others to commit suicide, thinking: my family will get help and be better off.

    Also, suicides are generally under reported, so what seems like an increase is actually more likely and increase in reporting. However, the media coverage will increase the number of "showy" suicides, as victims will change their plans. Also, suicide rates increase in the fall as it gets darker.

    Posted by: anon | Oct 21, 2010 1:07:11 PM

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