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It Needs to Get Better: Gay Teens and Suicide

 

 

If you've hesitated for even a second, wondering what the point to Dan Savage's new It Gets Better Project is, just think of this:

 

Seth Walsh, a California teen who spent the better part of the last 10 days on life support after attempting suicide over relentless bullying because he was gay, died today. He was 13 years old.

Seth Walsh was found Sunday, September 19, after he tried to hang himself from a tree branch near his house in Tehachapi, California. He was unconscious and not breathing. Walsh was openly gay and had apparently been bullied for years. He attended his local middle school for only two weeks this year until he transferred into independent study because of abuse and harassment from his schoolmates.

 

 

During the investigation many students acknowledged that Seth Walsh was in distress due to bullying over a long period of time because Walsh was gay. In spite of an anti-bullying program mentioned by school, the school officials didn't interfere to stop the bullying and mental torture of Seth Walsh. It's ironic that the principal of the Jacobsen Middle School Susan Ortega proudly claims that she has a B.A. in Child and Family Crisis. Apparently Seth Walsh was a crisis Ortega did not see.

Police investigated and interviewed Jacobsen Middle School staff and students regarding the death of Seth Walsh but found that the no crime was committed and there would be no charges in the death of Seth Walsh.

Four more suicides of gay teens were reported this month: 15-year-old Billy Lucas, whose death inspired the It Gets Better Project, hanged himself in his grandmother's farm in Indiana on September 9; on September 13, Cody J. Barker of Wisconsin killed himself; and on September 23, 13-year-old Asher Brown shot himself through the head in his own home.

 

 

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On Poz.com, Oriol R.Gutierrez writes:

 

I hope Billy, Asher and Seth rest in peace, the peace that they could not find in life.

We could think that these are isolated incidents with no connection whatsoever to each other or to us, but we would be wrong. I'm not suggesting they knew each other, but I am suggesting that their stories are just the tip of an iceberg.

The more progress LGBT people make in securing our rights, the more push back we receive from people who do not want us to succeed. It should not surprise us that as our inevitable victories happen that we suffer casualties along the way.

So I'm not surprised that gay teenagers are killing themselves, but I am sad and I am angry.

 

Also last week, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after two of his classmates, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, secretly made a video recording of him having sex with another man and broadcast it over the Internet.  Unlike the classmates of Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Cody Barker, and Asher Brown, Clementi's classmates are facing criminal charges:

 

Rutgers police have charged Dharun Ravi of Plainsboro and Molly W. Wei of Princeton with two counts each of invasion of privacy for using the camera to view and transmit a live image of an 18-year-old student on Sept. 19, the Middlesex County prosecutor and Rutgers police said.

Ravi, Clementi’s roommate, faces two additional counts for attempting to view and transmit another encounter involving the same student on Sept. 21, authorities said.

 

Thank you to Dan Savage, to Ivan Coyote, to Kate Bornstein, and to every other activist who's fought to bring bullying of gay teens to light and make it better. Thank you to all of those who are making videos that say "It gets better." Thanks to everyone who's tweeting in the #stayalive thread. To those of you who are undergoing bullying for being queer, there's little that we can add to the sentiment of that thread: Please stay alive. And for more resources, we recommend you read Sinclair Sexsmith's post on her site below:

 

 

Thanks to Tim McElreavy for help with additional research.

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