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The Tragedy Of Gay Teen Suicide - A Roundup

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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.

Raymond  road 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."

 road 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."

 road Teaching Tolerance, a division of The Southern Poverty Law Center, will premiere Bullied: 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."

 road NOM's Maggie Gallagher continues to disgust by making the ridiculous claim that “nothing in the press accounts suggest the kids who did this were motivated by homophobia.”

 road The New York Times lists tools against homophobic bullying.

Seth  road 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.

 road 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."

 road 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."

 road Amidst all of the tragic loss recently, Focus on the Family is still criticizing the GLSEN report. Something they've done before as recently as this past August.

 road 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."

 road 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 [email protected].

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Comments

  1. BULLY'S GREATEST SECRET

    Bullies are more like poison than a knife, and they are more like slow-working poison than cyanide.

    You're body is flooded instantly with adrenaline and it's derivatives, like norenephrine. Now when these hormones pervade the bloodstream, you're brain reacts. It shuts down certain centers and activates others. This is called the stress reaction. Or stress syndrome action. Then when the abuse recedes, the adrenaline levels begin to drop. As they drop, the entire system goes into mayhem.

    So what bullies usually do...they start and stop, start and stop. That achieves the maximal stress syndrome. And this is the great secret of bullying: never overdo it...small doses...the victim will do the rest.

    Posted by: I'm Layla Miller I Know Stuff | Oct 3, 2010 10:23:44 PM


  2. The pink elephant in the room is religion & all the homophobic prejudice they indoctrinate into generation after generation.

    Unless there is a collective push-back from everyone- including media, nothing will change.

    When a TV show desires an alternate point of view, they must stop and consider exactly what they are often enabling, which is a climate of intolerance & fear, most often based in nothing more than prejudice.

    Posted by: stephen | Oct 3, 2010 10:45:03 PM


  3. Beautiful young men all. I wonder how many gay men and women consider suicide at some time in their lives. I know I did. Time to knock this shit out.

    Posted by: Tom | Oct 4, 2010 12:10:24 AM


  4. What I'd like to know is (at least an estimate of) the actual number of teen suicides and gay teen suicides. Just because this handful made the news doesn't necessarily mean there is an increasing trend, nor does it mean that there haven't been many more unreported. I'd like to see the actual statistics instead of just what makes the media.

    First google hit I found (suicide.org) says that there were, on average, 11 suicides per day in 2001 by people aged 15-24 years.

    I'm pretty sure I've seen that LGBT youth are something like three times as likely to commit suicide as their straight peers, so can we say that 10% of young suicides are LGBT? That would make about 1 per day.

    I'm not by any means trying to lessen the outrage over these recent publicized deaths. On the contrary, I think we should be more outraged that this problem doesn't get any attention until the numbers have faces associated with them.

    If someone has better statistics, please share them.

    Posted by: joe | Oct 4, 2010 12:24:28 AM


  5. What people are forgetting is that an individual can be pushed to the edge, but it is that individual who chooses to go over the edge.

    Posted by: Tank | Oct 4, 2010 1:42:55 AM


  6. Andy - your reporting and diligence is nothing short of astounding. Thank you for everything you do.

    Posted by: Tre Gibbs | Oct 4, 2010 2:20:33 AM


  7. "What people are forgetting is that an individual can be pushed to the edge, but it is that individual who chooses to go over the edge."

    And some other people are forgetting that we're talking about CHILDREN.

    Posted by: BobN | Oct 4, 2010 3:33:48 AM


  8. @Joe, I've read that LGBT youth are four more times as likely to commit suicide, not three.

    I still have the scars.

    Posted by: Paul R | Oct 4, 2010 4:19:36 AM


  9. @JOE - "If someone has better statistics, please share them."

    Yes: one.

    All other numbers attempt to place a statistical value on human life, or to establish some sort of 'norm' so that numbers can tell us when there are too many ... tell us at what point we should be alarmed, at what point we as a society should do a better job of protecting our kids from those who would harass and torment them.

    One bullied LGBT suicide is too many. The first is when we should have been alarmed.

    Posted by: sparks | Oct 4, 2010 5:38:47 AM


  10. these hateful motherfuckers should be hanged and tortured, why do they have the right to make someone's life miserable? my heart truly goes out to these young guys and my sincere condolences to their families. UNBELIEVABLE and truly DISGUSTING

    Posted by: Omar | Oct 4, 2010 5:50:38 AM


  11. Im concerned by Dan Savage's comments (he's usually my go-to guy). We havent heard the whole story on Clementi's situation. Yes, his roommate filmed him having sex, which was invasive, humiliating and terrible. But there's no indication there was a widespread atmosphere of hate or intolerance that pushed Tyler to commit suicide--as its clear there was with the other youths who took their lives.

    I dont even know if you can clearly say the roommate was motivated by hate. College kids do cruel and stupid things--I know I did. Thats not to excuse his actions, but where's the evidence that Tyler's teachers, administrators or classmates are to blame? Tyler had gone to his RA about the taping and steps were being taken. Lets not twist this scenario to fit our agenda.

    Posted by: dizzy spins | Oct 4, 2010 8:38:18 AM


  12. It also requires ADULT LGBT ...us grown gays to get the word out there on this alarming issue of anti gay bullying, and educate our friends, especially hetrosexual friends who are parents about this. That is how you spring board change. I made a facebook dedication and informed all my friends about the recent heart breaking gay suicides and in turn they reposted the facebook links. Altogether, it sparked some 30 positive replies, not to mention all those friends share it with their hetrosexual friends on their facebook pages and real change is made. Do your part by going to the uncomfortable and not being afraid to be a little bit of an activist, not just for yourselves, but the children who have no voice in all this and are living a daily nightmare.

    Posted by: Lee Creole | Oct 4, 2010 8:38:43 AM


  13. "College kids do cruel and stupid things--I know I did."

    Let's not make it seem like everyone does that. I never did and I am sure many others didn't either. It is like when people say about children who bully and harass, "oh that's what kids do". Not it is not true. Some kids do and to say what you did above is wrong and both statements make it seem like it a normal expected thing to bully or do cruel stupid things. It is like giving the bullies permission because that is what kids do. I hate when people talk like that. How about we say "That is what immature idiots do and it is wrong and morally not acceptable." It should not be looked at as the norm for kid's behavior when it is a small percent of kids who do this.

    Posted by: Rann | Oct 4, 2010 9:13:25 AM


  14. People like President Obama send out mixed messages that LGBT people are not worthy of having legal marriage, and dragging his feet on ending DADT. When the most powerful man in the world cannot bring himself to fully support LGBT issues, it gives lesser bullies carte blanche to continue their hate. I agree with Dan Savage, it's the administrators, the teachers etc., but it's also the politicians, the religious leaders, the talking heads on TV who foster the hate that leads to bullying. These kids took their own lives, yes, but who created and enabled the poison atmosphere where hate flourishes? Every time some jerk gets up and says, "I don't hate gay people, but..." they promote this bullying.

    Posted by: Brad | Oct 4, 2010 12:13:07 PM


  15. The man I helped elect President refuses to stand up for me and other gay people. Unwed mother Maggie Gallegher tells gays they are destroying marriage. Jim DeMint says gays and single women should not teach children. In the past few weeks 5 young gay children have committed suicide. I wonder if the constant negative screeching by these assholes has anything to do with it. A pox on all of them!

    Posted by: mad1026 | Oct 4, 2010 12:46:39 PM


  16. "What people are forgetting is that an individual can be pushed to the edge, but it is that individual who chooses to go over the edge."

    I am so tired of this hateful attitude towards those who commit suicide. It strikes me as similar to the kind of bullying, intolerant, blame-the-victim attitude that contributes to suicidal impulses in the first place. Those who are contemplating taking their own lives don't need to feel even more guilty and ashamed of themselves than they probably already feel. They need to know that people will listen to them and try to help them. They need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that people care. Many of us DO care. We just need to get LOUD ABOUT IT!! And stay loud until we drown out all the hate talk.

    Posted by: Theresa | Oct 4, 2010 12:53:27 PM


  17. Let us put the blame where it belongs.
    Leviticus started it all when he decided that anyone who produced children (or DID NOT produce children at all) who could become members in good standing with the religion of that time, was to be stoned, or otherwise executed. As only children of married men and women of the faith could become members also, it followed that anyone born out of wedlock were tainted by birth and could not become dues paying members of the faith. Thus, children born to: 1. Adulterers, 2.Prostitutes, and 3.Rape could not become members of the Church. In addition,those people that did not produce children because they did not marry, but enjoyed sexual relationships with other non marrying persons, were also listed for death, 4.Homosexuals

    Times changed over the centuries, and religions decided that maybe the adulterers, etc really were not so bad because they did produce children and maybe we were a little too critical to exclude them and their dues paying kids. BUT, those terrible homos did not produce children, so let us keep killing them off when we find them. Who cares if their families and friends love them as they are, we, the Church, hates them. So what if GOD created them. So what,he made a mistake. On this the Church knows better. OF WITH THEIR HEADS!

    Posted by: Jerry6 | Oct 4, 2010 3:15:04 PM


  18. Is Maggie Gallagher guilty of murder?.

    I'm just asking, because it seems that NO ONE is taking responsibility for the LGBTQ teen suicides, nor for the beatings and murders that happen regularly.

    http://gaytaxprotest.blogspot.com/2010/10/guilty-of-murder-is-vigilante-justice.html

    Posted by: Queer Equality Revolution | Oct 4, 2010 3:25:51 PM


  19. The only way to deal effectively with bullying in school is to get a few very large 6 figure settlements.

    Otherwise the admins will just avoid changing anything or putting a new program in place, esp. during a recession.

    Posted by: mark | Oct 4, 2010 6:23:10 PM


  20. @sparks, regarding LGBT suicide statistics, I agree that one is too many, but I'd still like to know the full extent of this problem.

    Posted by: joe | Oct 4, 2010 8:24:04 PM


  21. This is tragic. While I regret that these boys died untimely deaths, at least there is now a national dialogue about the abuse that gay teens endure, and perhaps something good can come from all this tragedy.

    Posted by: John | Oct 4, 2010 10:19:58 PM


  22. Tragically, the Fred Phelpses of the world have a lot of help from "nicer" homophobes ...there's no end of blame to go around.
    http://www.dranespout.com/2010/10/heres-to-fred-phelps.html

    Posted by: DraneSpout | Oct 5, 2010 2:54:14 PM


  23. I think that people really need to open their eyes and realize the harm they are doing by bullying anyone in general! I don't care if it makes you feel better about yourself by making someone else feel small. It isn't right and it needs to stop.
    It isn't ok for people to be dying because of this!

    Posted by: Amanda | Oct 5, 2010 9:39:33 PM


  24. Take it from a gay teen, me. I could care less what kind of ignorance or hate people spread about us gays. Their opinions don't mean a thing to me. The toughest part of it is the feeling of being different. That leads to feeling very alone...and those emotions combined with the whole "teenage hormone" thing causes us to really hurt. I can remember plenty of nights where I would go to sleep and hope to never wake up. Because the only way out of these feelings is to either stay strong, which is very hard to do, or to die, which is easy. I've chosen to stay strong and hope for brighter days, but many chose the easy way out. It's these people who we need to never forget. We need to show more people, not only gay teens, but everyone that they are loved. Then maybe problems like these would not occur.

    Posted by: Julio | Oct 27, 2011 5:22:50 PM


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