Bullying | Deaths | Education | Gay Youth | Tennessee

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Phillip Parker, 14, Has Killed Himself

Picture 31Another one. From WSMV.com:

A Gordonsville boy's parents say bullying caused their son to take his own life.  Phillip Parker, 14, died this week. His parents said he was constantly bullied for being gay.

... "He was fun, he was energetic, he was happy," said Gena Parker, Phillip's mother.

To his many friends, Phillip was known as the boy who told everyone they're beautiful.

"He kept telling me he had a rock on his chest," said Ruby Harris, Phillip's grandmother. "He just wanted to take the rock off where he could breathe."

Phillip's family said they reported their concerns over their son's bullying to Gordonsville High School on multiple occasions, but the bullying by a group of students just got worse.

I don't know what to say, other than this: If your local schools' counselors don't distribute info on The Trevor Project, why not drop off some flyers?

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  1. He killed himself because, while his parents may have cared, no one else did and, in fact, some of the scum who brutalized him probably gave each other high-fives for achievement, like what happened here in a suburb of Buffalo. And those brats were not disciplined until they also verbally attacked the dead boy's sister at a dance and the school administration was shamed into doing something about it. This is in NY State's second largest city, one that has a decent-sized gay population!

    It's not that kids like Philip don't have access to information on the web to show they aren't alone in what they're going through. They ARE alone when it comes to actual human beings supporting them. Parents don't count anywhere near as much to a teenager as friends do, peers who will stand up for them and back them up. It doesn't sound like this boy had anything like that, despite his efforts. Small wonder the despair overwhelmed him.

    There have always been bullies and there always will be. You can't stop that; it's part of our animal nature to attack those we perceive as weak or different, and some less-evolved "humans" will not respond to anything short of a punch in the nose. I found that out in junior high in Texas, where I was bullied until I lost it, hit the lead bully in the face with a rock and wound up getting pummeled by his friends. I went to the hospital, overnight; he got a couple dozen stitches. He was suspended for two days; I was suspended for a week (because I used a weapon). But the little bastard left me alone after that. And word carried over into high school, where I was left pretty much alone, too. If they know you will hurt them, they'll leave you alone.

    Bullying will stop when the gay community starts emphasizing self-defense instead of just sending out nice little messages about how It Will Get Better. That's all great and fine, but what makes it so is if we also tell kids, And Learn Aikido or Boxing or Karate or something. And be prepared to use it.

    Same goes for the churches and right wing nuts who preach hate of gays and fight against us having the same rights as them. Don't just say they aren't nice, that they aren't acting like Jesus or God would want them to. Start fighting to take away their tax-exempt status, because they are not religious-based, and shine a non-stop light on their hypocritical behavior. Make politicians embarrassed to be seen in their company, let alone ask for their support. After all, like cockroaches, politicians hate having the light shined on their diseased actions.

    Don't talk back; fight back.

    Posted by: kyle Michel Sullivan | Jan 22, 2012 3:48:44 PM


  2. Don't bother with Trevor Project flyers. TP obviously isn't getting the job done! Its director, David McFarland, believes that just talking about Gay suicides makes them occur. If he's dumb enough to believe that, how much help is his organization liable to be? Nada.

    http://www.advocate.com/Politics/Commentary/Op_ed_Our_Role_in_Stopping_a_Suicide_Crisis/

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Jan 22, 2012 4:12:35 PM


  3. I know this might sound harsh but wouldn't it be better to report bullying to the police? Schools can be very non-caring when it comes to bullying. The only way to counter bullying is to stand up to it. If this means getting the police involved, so be it.

    Posted by: jason | Jan 22, 2012 4:16:29 PM


  4. Maybe a nice little lawsuit of about twice the annual budget of the school district.
    If this had been a Corporation, they could be sued for allowing a hostile workplace. But of course, children are nothing but their parent's chattel and have no rights.

    Posted by: chuck | Jan 22, 2012 4:19:31 PM


  5. As a fully fledged gay boy of America, I take issue with the parents blaming the school for the bullying. THe parents are just as much too blame. If they knew about it why didn't they do more to protect their son? They should be holding their heads in shame.

    Posted by: Mark | Jan 22, 2012 4:49:04 PM


  6. What is really wrong with these kids? I was bullied as kid and I never thought about killing myself. Now I'm sorry this happened but isn't it about time that we start looking at ALL the reasons these poor children believe the only way to solve their problems is death. Is our culture now glamorizing gay teen suicide is some sort of must do act?

    Posted by: jaragon | Jan 22, 2012 5:19:54 PM


  7. I was bullied as a pre-teen and it was terrible and so confusing to me. It started because my best friend was being bullied, and I stood with him on the playground, I remember walking with my arm around his shoulder. We ignored the words, dodged the rocks thrown at us. When we went back to class, we were separated and that was when I was attacked and fought back. We went before the principal, parents were called in and the whole thing died and went away thank god. But I remember how I felt as if I was at fault, that I couldn't explain why we/I were being attacked, or what the problem's source was. My parents asked me questions but I was embarrassed by the whole situation and couldn't explain it anyway. They were just bullies, and they were mean, and we became victims uselessly trying to find a reason for their attacks on us. There was no reason. This we could not explain to the authorities, and because of this inability to explain, became implicated in our own victimization. But, me and my friend had each other, a peer. Who did this kid have? And it went on for years! My situation was a couple weeks. I can't imagine how this poor kid put up with it so long! Terrible!

    Posted by: kodiak | Jan 22, 2012 5:34:57 PM


  8. Tennessee takes another one.

    Posted by: Nashvilleguy | Jan 22, 2012 5:35:20 PM


  9. KMS is correct. I'm for funding lgbt high school and middle school kids' martial arts programs. A scholarship kinda thing.

    Am I the only run of the mill lgbta-er who'd quickly get behind regular checks to a program like that? I suspect not.

    It doesn't get better. And Trever Project is only a band-aid. We need to teach our kids to be TOUGH, TRULY, PHYSICALLY TOUGH. Martial arts programs, baby.

    And, yes we should ALSO...
    --sue baby, sue. There should be attorneys finding a cause of action in this case, or new ones if there's any doubt on existing ones.

    --I'm thinkin Jason's correct, that going to the police is in order sooner. It's not harsh.

    This is real life, folks. We've GOT to have our kids fighting back.

    No more sitting by the sidelines and LYING that it just gets better.

    Posted by: just_a_guy | Jan 22, 2012 6:07:15 PM


  10. Coming home with a black eye is much better for your ego than Lady Gaga dedicating a song to you. Fight back.

    Posted by: Divo21 | Jan 22, 2012 6:55:55 PM


  11. An eye for an eye leaves the whole word blind. Pragmatically, the best defense is a good right hook. But where is the civility, the morality, in saying that kids should fight fire with fire? What happens to the little, scrawny kid who can't fight off one, let alone a group of bullies?

    Trust me. I fought back at the group of boys who overpowered me and sexually assaulted me when I was a scrawny little 13 year old. It may have stopped them from doing more than they did, but what they got away with was more than enough. And that would be my point. Unless the person bullied evens the score, the bullies get away with it, and live to bully another day. Might makes right. And that is just plain wrong.

    Someone, something, more powerful than the bullies needs to put them in their place. Maybe a huge, successful lawsuit would prompt the powers that be to no longer tolerate the disgusting "right of passage" or "right of religion" (or whatever lame excuse such bullying gets justified as) that has lead so many to feel so hopeless. Maybe reporting it to police (yeah, that works; ask anyone in a domestic violence situation who has had an order of protection violated how helpful the police can be, or not be). I don't have a ready answer. But as a society that claims to be civilized, we owe our children a lot more than " tough it out" as a solution.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 22, 2012 7:05:32 PM


  12. Well you have to use your head. If it means fighting a whole gang of bullies then yeah skip it. But if it's just some a hole with a bug mouth , then take all that built up anger and do something with it. We do not live in an ideal world. And in the world of rural social conservatism defending yourself acheives the same effect as lawyers but a lit cheaper. And ultimately longer lasting.

    Posted by: Divo21 | Jan 22, 2012 7:14:40 PM


  13. DIVO21 - only if you win.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 22, 2012 7:22:45 PM


  14. The only suggestion Towleroad can think of is to drop off some flyers? Really? I'd be the last one to gainsay the Trevor Project, but honestly, now, that's hardly the only resource we have. How about suggesting that parents get in touch with the ACLU or Lambda Legal? Would it be so much of a stretch to recommend that? School administrators are cowards--time-serving bureaucrats whose primary interest is covering their won asses. The threat of a lawsuit will get them to move in a way Trevor Project literature never could.

    Posted by: jomicur | Jan 22, 2012 7:23:45 PM


  15. Whenever I read something like this I get so frustrated and angry, I also feel totally helpless to do anything. I mean - yeah you can support LGBT groups in your neighborhood (and I have) but it just doesn't seem like it's doing enough - or at least not doing enough quickly enough.

    Posted by: Jeffrey | Jan 22, 2012 7:26:47 PM


  16. Just A Guy
    It never got better for you? Even today?
    I'm sure the hell not going to tell kids that.
    I'm all for fighting back but the school won't change until you drive them to their knees. Exposé their failures, use names and sue the town. Nothing gets people's attention like raising taxes to cover a schools unwillingness to protect everyone

    Posted by: George M | Jan 22, 2012 7:30:06 PM


  17. Why are we even bothering to talk to teachers and principals?

    GO TO THE COPS.

    What takes place in a classroom in these instances would be an ARRESTABLE MISDEMEANOR if it happened in a supermarket, movie theater, or restaurant to anyone else.

    Get a police report number, and a court date, and PURSUE THE CHARGES.

    Posted by: greg | Jan 22, 2012 7:51:04 PM


  18. TJ: Not true. Anyway the point is not "to win" but rather to slow your peers that you Will do something about it. Kids these days have grown up in a culture that fetishizes victimization . 12 years i
    Of boo hooing about 911 taught them that. Ask someone from the War generations or further back , the Dustbowl and ask them if they ever expected the same sympathy. We must teach young people that they have an obligation to be active members in society. If we continue to baby teenagers they will grow up with unrealistic expectations of life.

    Posted by: Divo21 | Jan 22, 2012 7:53:23 PM


  19. Why are so many gay teens today so weak? They have life much easier than than the older gay generations. Gay teens today don't have to worry about dying from HIV, they have all the information of the internet at their fingertips, and have equal rights in many jurisdictions. I feel too many of them have unreasonable expectations.

    Posted by: david | Jan 22, 2012 7:57:46 PM


  20. Gay teens don't need to hear about gay suicide on news site.

    Lady Gaga tells them about it - the schools post pictures - two different rock bands recently did songs that featured pictures and names of gay suicides. And facebook regularly lights up when another kid murders himself.

    Just so you know. I work with gay youth - they hear about it constantly.

    Posted by: David C. Jones | Jan 22, 2012 7:58:38 PM


  21. Jomicur:

    Thanks for reading. My suggestion wasn't addressed to Mr. Parker's parents. I'm not sure what good The Trevor Project might do for them at this point.

    - BKT

    Posted by: Brandon K. Thorp | Jan 22, 2012 7:59:56 PM


  22. I'll go with the lawyer

    Posted by: George M | Jan 22, 2012 8:00:10 PM


  23. Don't get mad. Get even.

    Posted by: Erik | Jan 22, 2012 8:04:03 PM


  24. DIVO 12 - "Babying teenagers?" Really? Culture that "fetishizes" victimization? Seriously? What kind of world do you want to live in? A dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest one? Or one where reason, compassion, and justice are more valued and important than who carries the biggest stick? Having power does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with deserving it, or having the moral integrity to use it wisely. That is why civilizied societies are based on rules, and the best rules are those that are fair and reasonable. We live in a country that is based on the premise that all people are created equal - no one is better than another, or more or less deserving of justice. Realistically, we fall way short of the ideal. But it doesn't mean we have to accept the way things are.

    Like many people, you blame the victim for not fighting hard enough, for accepting "poor me" as an excuse. Besides the judgment and lack of empathy, you show ignorance about the factors that contribute to not fighting back that are visceral and real and in the moment, but also are learned behavior. It would be great if all our gay youth were Karate Kids. But that just solves the conflict at hand. Imagine if people of color had been encouraged to fight lynchings with lynchings. Imagine if disagreeing about which is the right religion gets settled by warfare - oops, you don't have to imagine that.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 22, 2012 8:40:16 PM


  25. @George M.: What is better? Better is changing the world. We haven't done enough to do that. We need to FIGHT to get THAT.

    Yeah, ok, I have some personal space to be myself that I didn't feel I had when I was a closeted or gay-confused-but-not-exploring kid in high school. But it's not like things are home-free and the world I live in as an lgbt adult is a cake-walk in which I don't see CONSTANT anti-lgbt bias controlling TOO MUCH of the world around me.

    I think getting these kids ready to TRULY protect themselves is underrated by y'all bc you never learned or gained much from self-defense yourself. There's a lot of personal strength and self-knowledge you can learn in martial arts classes.

    YES, I'm fully behind taking this to the courts. But at a cultural level, why the h*** shouldn't we consider EMPOWERING our kids PERSONALLY, one-by-one, through self-defense and preparation IN CASE hand-to-hand combat is needed to protect themselves; obvi, IMPLICIT in good martial arts training is that you don't go around attacking and you don't try to trigger fights.

    Imagine a 14 yo kid like this coming out, facing challenges, and then in response signing up for a martial arts program in his home town, funded by lgbta adults who want to give him an actual REAL tool to empower himself, physically, mentally, AND spiritually.

    Trevor project DOES NOT DO THAT. Trevor project in my mind says, hey, kids, wait until you are ENTIRELY hopeless, and then we'll have someone LISTEN to you a little bit, even though we won't actually be able to change your situation. That's TOO LITTLE and TOO LATE. Sorry, but am I wrong?

    "It's get better" says the world is fine as it is. Shut your trap and deal with it, that's what we did. That's bullsh** in part bc I truly believe anti-gay bullying is WORSE than it was when most of us were in middle and high school. "That's so gay" as a CONSTANT insult wasn't around when I was that age, was it when YOU were, y'all? What's more, the strides we as a community HAVE made have simply set the stage for these kids to COME OUT and FACE THE HATERS sooner. But WHAT have we done to TRULY empower them when they do that?? We need to get our kids TOUGHER. Thousands of Out and PREPARED martial-arts-equipped-and-responsible lgbt middle schoolers and high-schoolers would change that!! Do you really think I'm wrong?!

    Further, just as these kids are coming out early, some of them are entering their teen years arguably more alienated from their straight surroundings than ever, right? So rather than have them seek un-helpful solace in, say, the drug scene or promiscous contact...why not ACTIVELY encourage them to look within themselves, SEE THEIR OWN STRENGTH, and understand and take pride in the physical ability they DO have.

    If a kid, say, is openly gay and thinks of himself as scrawny or weak, living in physical fear of bullies, that only reinforces my point, no? If we empower him, get him into a martial arts program, he learns to value and respect the body, strengths, and skills he DOES have. As he improves through self-patience, there's a self-acceptance and self-value that creeps in. He doesn't NEED so much approval from his parents, his peers, etc. He has more internal strength, and values himself SIMPLY for being a human, developing his physical skill set at the same time. IT'S PERFECT. And perfect PRECISELY because developing such physical prowess as a newly openly-gay kid is EXACTLY what the bullies around him are likely to assert he is incapable of. HE CAN DO IT. Give him a chance; TELL him he can and give him a little boost.

    Plus, most martial arts programs that I know about -- even in small nowhere towns-- ALREADY HAVE A SKILL SET in taking kids who are maybe disadvantaged, building them up from wherever they are at, finding their own spiritual wholeness through practice, persistence, self-respect, and self-protection.

    BONUS: These kids enroll and develop this strength BEFORE they are hopeless enough that they might call the "Trevor Project." THERE WOULD BE LESS OF A NEED FOR THE TREVOR PROJECT, thank God.

    Double BONUS: These empowered kids would be more ready to take on their parents, peers, and others and ask for and get respect, through their performance, even out-performance in ANY endeavor, whether in the classroom, the playing field, or otherwise.

    Martial arts for lgbt kids across America. Brilliant, KMS. Thank you KMS. LOVE it. Now how do we make it happen??

    P.S. WHy no coverage of the 49ers loss tonight? So f***ing close. And against an NYC team. Surely there is some relevance to such things with all the NYC & SF men who follow this blog.

    Posted by: just_a_guy | Jan 22, 2012 11:36:20 PM


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