Gay suicides: For some, it never ‘gets better’
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 11:09
Jamey Rodemeyer was a freshman at Williamsville North High School in New York. For years, he dealt with intense bullying at the hands of peers who told him that he was a ‘disgusting faggot' and that he would burn in hell for being gay.
Following the advice of his idol, Lady Gaga, Jamey tried to hold his head up as high as he could. In May, he contributed his own YouTube video to the It Gets Better Project in order to convey hope to other bullied youth. "Love yourself and you're set," he said. "And I promise you it'll get better."
But we denied Jamey the harvest of his own promise. On September 18, Jamey's hopelessness claimed his life. He was only 14. His suicide dealt all of us a sobering reminder that, for some, it really never does get better.
And we're all to blame.
We preach tolerance. Yet our society, including those of us who are LGBT supportive, far too often tolerates the very institutions and ideas that engender the kind of desperation that has taken the lives of untold numbers of youth. It's not ‘just your belief' or ‘just your opinion' — beliefs and opinions have consequences.
Kids like Jamey have to grow up in a world where their humanity is constantly called into question on a daily basis – and not just from peers.
Politicians make the oppression of gays central tenets of their campaigns. And in doing so, they tell gay youth that they aren't worthy of growing up to enjoy the same happiness that everyone else is entitled to — like the happiness that comes with marriage, with commitment, and with family.
Hate groups like the American Family Association, which is highly respected in conservative circles, demonize gays daily in the name of "protecting family values" from the "homosexual agenda."
And churches, where many people go hoping to find love and acceptance, often become realms of rejection for young gay people.
Teens and young adults from the Hattiesburg area flock to Hamilton, Ala., to visit The Ramp, a high energy youth ministry that promises to "awaken a generation" to their responsibility as "an offensive army imposing the kingdom of God."
There, they hear 'Prophet' Damon Thompson preach fiery messages filled with violent rhetoric – often directed against "queers."
"You cannot have a prime time television show without a queer on it," he complained in a sermon last year.
Then, he launched into a tirade against anti-bullying efforts: "What they're not saying is that the kid is not just miserable because he's bullied; he's miserable because he's gay. Because there's a lot of people who get bullied who never kill themselves. But the kid already hated himself because he was dealing with the demonic force of homosexuality."
Thompson is correct in thinking that gay teens are more likely to kill themselves than their straight counterparts; according to the Trevor Project's website, they are actually 300% more likely to attempt suicide. But it's not just because they're gay – it's because they're victims of a society that rejects and dehumanizes them simply because of who they are.
Everyone feigns bewilderment at the idea that kids could be so cruel as to bully others to the point of suicide. But as long as we lend validity to political agendas and religious ideas that assault the human dignity of our LGBT brothers and sisters, the youth of this nation will follow suit.
In one YouTube posting, Jamey described a class discussion where students were asked to express their views on gay marriage. Many students explained their opposition by saying that gays were "disgusting" and that it was "against the Bible." Jamey left the classroom in tears.
"I got upset thinking about all the lives that have been lost because of gay bullying and I ran out of the room crying," he said. "And then, I was thinking, ‘Hold your head up and you'll go far.' I want to make a difference."
Today, Jamey's wish is being realized. But because of what we've allowed, he's not here to see it.
Watch Jamey's 'It Gets Better' video: