Heavy Heart

by Kelly Clark

It is with a heavy heart that I start the month of October.  As September, suicide prevention month came to a close many of us were saddened and angry to come to the collective realization that 5 young men had taken their own lives in just one month due to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.  One website is reporting that with the help of readers, they have discovered an additional 4 young men who met the same premature end of life.

For years LGBT advocates have been telling the world that LGBT youth are in trouble.  We know that 1/3 of suicides among teens are LGBT youth. We know that in 2009, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network reports that 85% of LGBT youth report being verbally harassed. Unlike when their parents were kids when school yard bullying was left in the school yard, today’s kids are connected 24/7. When school ends at 3 pm, the text messaging, Face Booking, My Spacing and Twittering starts and continues well into the wee hours of the morning.  In the past what may have simmered down overnight, today is likely to have escalated before a child returns school the next day. Bullying today can be constant, relentless, and much more humiliating as the whole world can now bare witness.

Nine suicides in one month is without a doubt a crisis. But I fear our knowledge of what actually happened in September only scratches the surface. The fact is that we only know about those cases that have made the news. Those cases have been publicized in large part due to the boys parents’ outrage expressed at schools and school districts that took no action to stop the bullying and keep their sons safe.  They were loving and caring parents who went to administrators and teachers and advocated for their boys who were basically being stalked by classmates.

We may never know how many boys left the fear of the school-yard and came home not to a respite of caring parents but to a home much like the school environment. How many were ridiculed, harassed, or abused by parents who thought they were too weak, too small, too effeminate, not boy enough? How many of them completed suicide? How would we know? Far too many LGBT youth face terrible treatment at home at the hands of mothers, fathers, step parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Who advocates for them?

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