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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Archive for January 2012

A Teen Suicide That Wasn’t

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I was trying to go to bed, actually.  I had finished up what I had to do for the night and was tired.  I rarely ever use my twitter.  For whatever reason, last night I did decide to check it to see what was going on there.  And, right before my eyes, trending at the moment was RIPMatt.  Another apparent teen suicide.  Suddenly, I was wide awake again.

I’m reading every tweet that comes along.  One after the other after another, they were wishing Matt a fond farewell.  And, they were voicing their anger at yet another teen suicide from bullying.  Another bullycide.  So, the natural thing for me to do is to start digging for more information.  I’m following links; I’m asking questions; I’m googling…anything that would shed some light on what was going on.  Nothing.  No news anywhere.  However, I know from past experiences that that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  Often times, the actual news story comes later.  There was one instance earlier in the year where my blog entry was the breaking news on a teen suicide.  Finally, I gave in to my leadened eyelids and called it a night, figuring that I’d exhausted every avenue I could think of.  “There’s bound to be more information about it when I wake up” was my thought process.  And, there was.

As it turns out, Matt is alive and well.  There’s no telling how the rumor started or what made it, at one point, the 4th highest trending story on twitter.  I didn’t ask.  What mattered most was that another teen wasn’t lost to suicide.  The page that was a RIP page when I went to bed had been converted to a community page, “Stop Bullying, End Suicide“.  The creator of the page figured that since there were already a substantial number of people there, initially to “pay tribute” to someone they thought was gone, they may as well keep the page and turn it into a a community for helping.  There are great people out there.  So, please take time out, click that link, and “like” their page.  They’re the newest members of an ever-growing army and obviously great people.

Once the dust settled and we realized that young Matt was, indeed, still very much alive and well, I took a moment (or, two) to reflect back upon what had just occurred.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from this:

  1. Spreading news about a suicide is never a good thing unless there are facts.  I don’t know how this one got started, and it doesn’t matter.  However, it’s apparent that somebody, somewhere, posted something they shouldn’t have posted.  And, it mushroomed around the globe quickly.  People were upset.  People were crying.  What happens if some young person is right there at their own breaking point when they hear something like this?  News of yet another bullycide could be just enough to push them over the edge.
  2. Whereas it’s a great thing that so many people, and from all over the world, are now aware of the great harm that bullying causes and its devastating effects, it’s also important to know that not every teen suicide is due to bullying.  Every single tweet last night was either denouncing the bullying Matt “endured” or speaking out angrily about bullying in general.  While it’s a great thing that so many people are now in tune with the dilemma and are willing to speak up about it, again it’s just as important to know that bullying isn’t always the cause.  Jamie Hubley didn’t commit suicide because he was bullied, although he had been a couple times.  He committed suicide because he suffered from depression.  So, having the facts right is important.  One guy even went as far as to name the “bully”.
  3. I must have read over 1,000 tweets last night.  The vast majority of them were issuing both mandates and pleas for the bullying to stop.  “No one deserves to be bullied like he was”.  If nothing else I say makes sense, I want this point to be crystal clear.  Talking about stopping the bullying means nothing at all without action.  I’ll never know the exact number of tweets that were sent throughout the night.  I can tell you that it was well into the thousands.  Now, ask yourself: “what would this world be like if just the people who were part of the trending last night were to each do something, just one thing!, every single day to help prevent the bullying and end the suicides?

Let your imagination run with that one for a while.  Then, realize that that’s exactly the type of effort we need to combat this.  The bright news is that out of the rubble of last night’s false alarm has come another, new battalion in the army that’s ever-forming in an effort to, indeed, Stop Bullying, End Suicide.  Give them your support as they try to grow their group.  Then, roll up your sleeves.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.

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EricJames Borges’ Final Words

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He was a very gifted young man.  His talent for filmmaking was made evident in the short film he made not long before his death.  People who knew him well said that EricJames had just barely scratched the surface of what would’ve been a terrific career and very rewarding life.  Scorned, demonized, abused both physically and emotionally by his parents, EricJames was left with scars from his coming out process that he couldn’t recover from.  In a perfect world, EricJames’ parents would be charged with homicide for his death.  This isn’t a perfect world, and that will never happen.  No more so than the school administrators and State officials will be held culpable in the suicides of Phillip Parker or Jacob Rogers.

Memorial services were held for EricJames this past weekend.  Hundreds attended.  They went to remember.  They went to mourn.  And, they went to celebrate a gifted young life that’s tragically, and needlessly, gone too soon.  It’s noteworthy that his parents, the two people who gave him life only to take it away, didn’t show up to the memorial services.  They were invited.

EricJames’ last words, in a copyrighted suicide note that I’m not privy to, spoke lovingly to the ones who would become his de facto family in the end:  the ones who really cared and loved him.  He spoke of Lady Gaga, leaving money to her Born This Way Foundation which benefits LGBT youth.  He also left money to several other LGBT organizations that would help LGBT teens.  As was shown in his “It Gets Better” video, recorded a month before his suicide, and in death, EricJames was passionate about helping other LGBT teens so they wouldn’t have to experience the sheer hell he was put through.

It is critical that we understand that the work that needs to be done before we can end teen-on-teen bullying pales in comparison to the work that needs to be done dealing with the adults in our society.  The kids are a mere reflection of what they’re learning from the adults.  That a parent could inflict the type of pain EricJames’ parents inflicted upon him is reprehensible, if not criminal.  No child should ever have to endure that, especially from the ones who gave him life.  Yet, it happens.  EricJames is not an isolated case.  That lawmakers can even dream of passing the type of damaging laws that a Michele Bachmann, a Stacey Campfield, or a John Ragan not only dream of but sign into law is reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous.  I’ve said it many times before, but it bears saying many more times:  the war against bullying has to start with the adults.  There’s no way around it.

“My pain is not caused because I’m gay.  My pain was caused by the way I was treated because I am gay.”  Pause to absorb that for a moment.  It can’t get more to the point than that.  Those were the words EricJames wrote to end his suicide note.

I hope you’re at peace now, EricJames.  Your family misses you.  Your real family.

Meet Brett: He Wants to Make a Difference

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I saw this video posted on my wall (actually, it was the Jamie Hubley wall, but that IS “my” home wall), and it didn’t really grab my attention.  Since the Jonah Mowry phenomena, there’s been a plethora of people, young and not-so-young alike, posting their videos, flash cards at the ready, in response to Jonah’s original video posted in the first week of December.  I’d grown weary of them, to be honest.  So, I overlooked this one.

However, Brett won out.  I gave in and watched.  And, I was moved.  Done in “Jonah Mowry” style, with flash cards, it really isn’t in response to Jonah, after all.  Rather, Brett decided to reach out to other LGBT teens who may be struggling with…whatever.  What a novel idea!!  I watched the video from beginning to end…twice!  The message is positive and very powerful.

Brett is gay, himself, but not yet openly so.  He’s been through what most gay teens have to endure:  the insecurities of the “what ifs”; the rejection; and, possibly even some bullying.  Luckily, though, he was accepted and loved just for who he is by his family and close friends.  That makes such a huge difference in a young LGBT life.  So, as a way of paying it forward, he’s reaching out to other LGBT teens to show them the same love and support he’s receiving.  You can’t beat that!

What I would love to see happen would be for his positive-message video to go viral in the same what that Jonah’s initial cry-for-help video did in early December.  That video has been viewed over 9 million times since I saw it for the first time.  Brett’s message is no less powerful.  And, just as the world responded to Jonah, so should they respond to Brett’s invitation to other struggling teens.  His message and open-armed invitation could help save some lives.

The Stacey Campfield Camp Responds!!!

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woke up this morning to the surprise of my journalistic life:  a direct response from the Stacey Campfield camp.  Actually, the unmoderated comment that was left is supposedly directly from Stacey, himself.  However, upon further inspection, and after checking the links provided, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he, himself, did NOT send me the response.  On the other hand, regardless as to who, in fact, sent it, it’s frightening to know that these are the “facts” these people espouse.  Worse, it’s detrimental that they seek to impose their terribly misguided “factual” beliefs on the public-at-large and, in particular, the LGBT community.  Allow me to dissect.

The responder started of for acknowledging my passion:  “While I apriciate (sic) your passion, here are some cold hard facts…”  Then, the fun begins.

On the issue of gay men having a decidedly shorter lifespan, this link was offered as their “proof”.  Their “documentation” turned out to be a far right-wing propaganda piece chock-full of the same old diatribe we’ve been hearing for decades.  In the first paragraph, it’s noted that “…evidence shows homosexuality to be a compulsion and lethal addiction, not ‘mainstream America'”.  It’s also noted that even without AIDS, “…homosexual persons will probably not live past their 40s…”  I can’t make this stuff up!  Read it for yourself.

As I suspected, and as I stated in the original article, At The Root of the Tennessee Madness, they are taking outdated information, in some cases from as far back as the late 70s!, and presenting it as today’s facts and reality.  How dangerous is that?  First of all, things that held true in 1978 obviously don’t hold the same validity in 2012.  But, more importantly, how dangerous is it to attempt to govern in today’s world using 1978 survey information?

Conclusion:

Study after study reveals that homosexuality, whether male or female, can take anywhere from 10, 20 to 30 years off of someone’s lifespan. With all the attention on smoking, which the National Cancer Institute says takes from 7 to 10 years off someone’s life, why not the same human outcry on homosexuality? Here’s a behavior that’s killing people 2 to 3 times the rate of smoking, yet nobody seems to care. In fact, we are encouraging and affirming individuals into the “gay” lifestyle. If you truly love someone, you would steer them away from self-destructive behaviors, rather than towards them, shouldn’t you? Homosexuals need our tough love, not blind love, the kind of love that is going to love them no matter what they say and do. We must extend that helping hand and say ” I think your worth saving, let’s work on it together.”

All of that, and I’m still only on the first link “he” provided.

So, where does his information supporting getting AIDS through “normal” heterosexual vaginal sex come from?  What’s his “scientific” proof?  Cecil Adams, touted as the world’s smartest human.  The world’s genius was asked, in December 1988, his opinion of how risky heterosexual sex was.  In 1988, the whole world was still trying to get a grip on what was really going on with the virus.  I know.  I was there.  I was in San Francisco during those days, watching my own friends die on a daily basis from a disease that we still hadn’t fully come to understand.  But, again, that was 1988.

So, to make sure this is very clear:  A U.S. Senator is taking someone’s opinion and presenting it to his constituents as “scientific fact”.  Worse, he’s using someone else’s opinions, masked as knowledge, in order to propagate his own bigotry and hatred towards the LGBT community, young and old.  Can I say again:  this is an ELECTED official!  I’m convinced that today’s elected officials have completely lost sight of the fact that, by virtue of our votes, we hired them to work for us.  They’ve got it reversed.  And, that needs to be re-examined.

And, finally, an attempt was made to justify his bill “Don’t Say Gay”, which forbids school administrators to say the word “gay” or even acknowledge their LGBT students as such.  The bill that, if not already implemented, could’ve potentially saved Phillip Parker’s life.

As for the reason for the interview (My bill on parental responsibility of teaching sexuality to very young children) Here are some points of view for you to consider.

 

-It is a parents responsibility to decide when a child is ready to grasp such a complex issue as sexuality and what they want to tell the child about that complex subject. Not a teachers.

 

– All children develop mentally at different rates. I do not feel a teacher with an agenda (Be it pro or con) is the appropriate person to decide “Now is the time” for an entire class of children just because they may think one way or another on an issue and want to espouse it.

 

-A teacher is not a trained child psychologist or psychiatrist and could do as much harm as good to a sexually confused child.

 

-I doubt many on the other side would want a teacher who said “Homosexuality is evil, dirty and wrong” just because they felt that it was what is appropriate, that it is what they thought the children needed to and were ready to hear. This bill ensures neutrality from teachers.

 

Physically threatening behavior is what is and needs to remain covered for all groups. Not the sexuality of the victim. We already have anti bullying legislation passed in Tennessee (In fact I co sponsored it 2 or 3 years ago when it passed) so all children are protected from bullying in our schools. [this is in reference to the bill that would allow for bullying of LGBT students if done for “religious, political, or philosophical reasons”.  And, they still don’t get it!  No one is looking for SPECIAL protection.  And, we certainly don’t present ourselves as a “special class” of people.  Equality means we’re equal to every other person, not special.  In fact, THEY are making us that “special class” of people by singling us out to be victimized by discrimination in the job and housing markets and, frightfully, in the schools!]

 

We do not need an un equal justice system that creates special separate classes of protected people that gets special protection under the law.

 

Nor do we need to silence the first amendment rights of religious free speech of those in our schools whose family may hold different beliefs (as long as those beliefs are not physically threatening). [note to you, Rep. Campfield:  not only is it physically threatening to the LGBT students, it’s costing lives.]

 

-While there is a scientific and educational need to mention the basics of heterosexuality when teaching the basics of reproduction (XY chromosomes, etc.) there is no scientific need to mention homosexuality as homosexuals do not naturally reproduce.

 

-We are falling behind the rest of the world in math, science, and English amongst other things. Tennessee ranks about 46th in most areas. Social engineering is just one less issue teachers should have to worry about teaching as part of their curricula.

That someone from the Stacey Campfield camp thought enough of what I said to take time to respond is encouraging.  That they have this view of reality is mind-boggling.  That they are passing their myopic, unfounded, and outmoded views on the people of an entire state is very dangerous.  So, again, I strongly urge signing the petitions.  Too much is at stake to wait for “someone else” to do it.

Bill Clinton Responsible for Oral Sex-Related Cancers!!!!

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Sigh.  There’s no real purpose for posting such an incredibly foolish story other than to allow every breathing human being with even a shred of intelligence the opportunity to see for themselves the kind of mindset we’re up against in our fight for equality.  It’s important for everyone to understand the shear insanity that being spewed from so-called leaders.  And, it’s being spewed with absolute conviction.  I don’t know what’s scarier:  the fact that there really are people out there who believe and, worse, promote the nonsense that comes from their mouths, or the fact that there are REAL PEOPLE who accept their misguided words as gospel.

I’m reminded that “anybody can say, or write, anything they want, and there’s always going to be someone who believes it.”

From the man who brought us the breaking news last week that AIDS was primarily a homosexual disease, caused by gay sex and poppers!, and that rarely if ever will you find a case of AIDS where people are having “normal” heterosexual sex now comes the revelation that Bill Clinton is to blame for the recent spike in the number of mouth cancers.

I can’t make this stuff up.

According to Bryan Fischer (remember him?), because of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky back in the 90’s, young people were influenced by his actions.  Using Bill’s now infamous (and, I’d bet, regrettable on his part) “it wasn’t sex” response, young people took his “advice”.  Oral sex increased, according to Mr. Fischer.  And, with it came an increase in the number of cases of mouth cancers.

So, what makes this important?  To my thinking, it’s important for all of us to know, and be constantly reminded of, exactly the type of insanity that we’re up against.  It’s equally important to understand that all of this opposition is coming from a very small faction in our country.  However, they’re in positions of power and persuasion.  And, they are quite boisterous in their fight against us.  Misguided, but boisterous.  However, for every person who follows them and their teachings of hatred, ignorance, and intolerance, there’s a hundred people who are against what they preach.

We need to continue to grow, daily, in numbers.  We need to continue to make our voices heard, very loudly and very clearly.  We need to be precise and concise with our message:  We will no longer accept intolerance against the LGBT community!  Lives are being lost daily because of it.  Zero tolerance means just that.  It’s time to stop saying it and start making sure it’s being carried out.

At The Root of the Tennesse Madness

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A couple things really bother me here.  First of all, how is it possible that one person as completely ignorant and out of step with the real world could be elected into a political position!?  Every single thing Stacey Campfield breathes about the LGBT community would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s damaging so many lives.

Rep. Campfield is the author of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the bill that doesn’t even allow for the recognition of the word gay.  His logic and reasoning behind that predates Anita Bryant.  It might even predate the neanderthals.  Certainly, it’s not in step with 2012 and the real world.  He’s clinging feverishly to an old, outmoded myth about homosexuality.  Now, it’s fine if he has those views and strongly believe in them.  That’s his choice and, under our Constitution, he has that right.  The line, though, needs to be drawn decisively at the front door of his home.  As a politician, as a human being, and as an adult, he should not be allowed to let his bias, his archaic views of reality influence and harm other people.  In this case, particularly, the lives of young LGBT people are in the balance.  Tennessee has had two gay-teen suicides within the last 2 months.  How many more lives must be lost before Stacey Campfield is put in check?  Don’t lose track of the fact that it was also Stacey Campfield who authored the bill that allows for the bullying of LGBT youth as long as it’s done for “…religious, political, or philosophical reasons.”  Your son gets bashed in the face at school.  The attacker yells “Praise the Lord”, goes to the office and collects his get-out-of-jail-free card.

Mr. Campfield is a bonafide threat to the well-being of every LGBT person in the state of Tennessee.  From his “Don’t Say Gay” policy to his policy of allowing realtors and businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, Stacey Campfield is truly a danger to the community.

His latest diatribe, though, was at least humorous.  He enlightened the world with his revelation that AIDS is an exclusively gay disease.  According to Stacey Campfield, it is “virtually impossible” to contract AIDS through “normal”, heterosexual sex.  Again, the question:  “how on EARTH was this man elected!?”  I’m not even going to comment on just how insane that series of statements are.  You can read it for yourself.  It’s great humor.  Well, not really.  It’s actually rather scary.  Never forget that this man is in a position of power.  He’s a shot-caller.  And, he’s amazing ignorant.  Bad combination.

Returning to my “power in numbers” mantra, if you haven’t signed any of the three petitions calling for changes in the Tennessee laws, here there are again:

Our army is growing by leaps and bounds daily.  Now, we need to put those numbers to work.  Talking about change is one thing; being proactive in helping to bring about that change is a whole different animal.

Power in Numbers

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Since I posted the link, “Help LGBT Students Get Their Voices Heard“, the petition has picked up over 125 new signatures.  Awesome!  If you’re reading this and haven’t signed, or don’t even know what it’s about, I encourage you to sign it.  And, if you don’t know what it’s about, read my previous entry of the same name.

At this point in time, it’s urgent that we, the people who care and are passionate to see change in the way of equality for all, continue to pull together and be heard.  “The Other Side” is lashing out like never before!!!  Just today, I read of two MORE states attempting to implement their own version of a bill that will make it okay to bully LGBT teens if it’s done for religious, political, or philosophical reasons.  That’s absurd.  And, very dangerous.

Also today, pastor Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church spoke out against his state’s push to legalize gay marriages.  His remarks were, indeed, remarkable:

“Do they believe that if they change the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman, what is going to stop two men one woman, two women one man, one man against a horse, one man with a boy, one man with anything,”

I can’t even comment on that.

One of the two states that want to give a free pass to bullying if it’s for religious, political, or philosophical reason is Michele Bachmann’s Minnesota.  More specifically, it’s the very district that she represents.  Bachmannites.

See, these people are determined to impose their narrow-minded beliefs and destructive bigotry on the entire country.  It’s totally ok if they are against homosexuality, gay marriages, or sanity.  That’s their constitutional right.  For them to attempt to force their opinions, their intolerance, their hatred down the throats of an entire nation is morally wrong.  Beyond that, it adds to the feeling of despair felt by millions of vulnerable LGBT youth from sea to shining sea.  And, that is one of the factors driving the increase in gay teen suicides.  The good news is that it’s a factor that can be minimized.  There is power in numbers.

People are joining together in record numbers, all in support of the same cause:  to end inequality and hatred towards the LGBT community.  Straights and gays alike are letting their voices be heard:  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  “Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook” is approaching 300,000 members;  “STOP Teenage Suicide” has more than 25,000 people involved;  “ABC: Anti-Bullying Coalition” and “The Equality Mantra” are both over 12,000; you get the point.  We need the numbers to continue to increase.  But, it can’t stop there!  We need people to stay plugged in and involved.  The ONLY way we’re going to create the change we’re seeking is to continuously, and loudly!, let our voice be heard, our presence felt.  Our voices must be loud enough to drown out the boisterous rants of a Michele Bachmann, a Rev. Ken Hutcherson, and the Tennessee lawmakers.  It is the people of this ilk who would rather see the LGBT population dead than become equal.  By extension, they couldn’t care less about the LGBT teen who commits suicide!  Our presence must be made known.  There truly is power in numbers.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, or asexual; black, white, or Venusian.  We all have the same goal:  equality.  That’s the big umbrella that will help protect our LGBT teens from the storm of hatred we’re witnessing today from our so-called leaders.