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Archive for April 2012

Jack Reese, 17, Bully-Related Suicide in Northern Utah

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It doesn’t appear to be getting any better.  On Monday, April 23rd, Alex Smith was speaking at a community event about bullying and about how his own boyfriend had suffered repeated bullying because he was gay.  Unbeknownst to anyone there, including Alex, his boyfriend, Jack Reese, had already taken his own life.

I don’t have any details about the event.  We don’t really need any details at this point.  The storyline has become all too familiar.  An LGBT youth, trying to live happily as the person he or she is, is faced with relentless, narrow-minded intolerance until he or she reaches the point of no return.  To them, the only way to make it end is to end their young lives.  Sound familiar.  Of course it does.  It’s happening far, far, far too often.  Let’s be clear on this:  if these bullies were to take a gun to school and shoot their victim, they’d be charged with the crime of causing the death of that victim.  When their words and/or actions cause that same victim to end their life, that bully is no less responsible that death than they would be had they pointed a gun and pulled the trigger.  

I found this quote, when researching Jack’s event, both deeply disturbing and alarmingly revealing:

 “It happens here about once a week, but officially, you know, it doesn’t happen here.”

“It”, of course, being LGBT teen suicides.  And, “here” being the Northern Utah region where Jack lived and died.  The world should be outraged that such a thing is happening in the entire world!, not to mention in one, small region.  That suggests a very deep problem with our society.

Telling our LGBT teens that “It Gets Better” is absolutely meaningless when they continue to see and hear people of power (religious and politic figures, school officials, and, sometimes, even their parents) tell them that they are flawed, evil, perverted, and more.  They’re not stupid.  They know that the adults they hear and see continually denouncing their very being are precisely why the incidents of bullying, especially against LGBT teens, continue to escalate, both in frequency and intensity.  I’ll say it til I’m blue in the face (which would really be a neat trick for me!) that these young people who do the bullying that’s causing other teens, straight and LGBT alike, to end their lives are learning their hatred and intolerance from adults!!  Think, for a second, of Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison’s statements from earlier in the week, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  And, he’s just one person.  This goes on in every city, in every state, every day.  Meanwhile, another family has to bury their teenaged child because that child couldn’t handle one more day of being emotionally destroyed.

In addition to the above quote, Marian Edmonds, director of the Ogden, Utah, OUTreach program, has a lot to say:

“The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both. These youth are bright, creative and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family. It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children. Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now,”

There are people, like Marian Edmonds, who are rolling up their sleeves and immersing themselves  in this business of changing this mean-spirited culture that’s not only causing children to end their lives but encouraging children to be so mean and intolerant of those whom they perceive as different that they end their lives.  She made one statement that was so poignant, it will stay with me for a very long time:

“Until all youth are loved and accepted in their homes, able to attend school without fear of bullying, and know that their lives are worth living, this community will continue to demand change,”

Make that two communities.  Until I breath my last breathe, I will continue to demand change.  The “community” that has developed in support of this blog has grown to numbers I would’ve never imagined when I started this in November of 2011.  With that enormity in numbers, there’s a rather formidable community here, more than capable of effecting change in our culture.  Change that will bring about tolerance.  Change that will save lives.  Look, nobody is suggesting that everyone has to love everyone.  It would be nice.  But, it’s also unrealistic.  However, the expectation of a tolerant society, one that lets people live their own lives without the scrutiny of those who may not agree with diversity is not too much to ask for.  In fact, we must demand it.

Unfortunately, Jack Reese is yet another teen who won’t be here to celebrate the day that acceptance is the norm.  It didn’t get better for Jack or the far-too-many before him.  And, it won’t get better unless we continue demanding it.  Every voice matters.  Rest in peace, young Jack.  And, for you Alex, I hope that you’re surrounded right now with lots of love and support.  Stay strong…stronger than you may feel you’re capable of right now.  Do it for Jack.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for the countless other at-risk teens there in Northern Utah, around the country, and around the world!  We need your voice to help us reach the day when no family, and no spouse or significant other, has to go through the ordeal of burying their young loved one simply because someone else felt it their duty to push them over their limit.  Enough is Enough!

And, Then There’s Tennessee

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Some of you may have already seen this article posted on the facebook blog page or elsewhere on the Internet.  According to Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison, teen suicides are due to bad parenting.  I can make this stuff up.

We can’t continue to legislate everything and we’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home.

I don’t even know where to begin.

Let me make sure I’ve got this right:

  1. Bullied teens who commit suicide have their parents to blame.
  2. It’s more important to protect the bullies than it is to protect the victims of it.
Ok, if a middle- or high school student takes a weapon to school, a gun or a knife or whatever, and attacks another student, is that a criminal act?  Yes.  It’s called assault.  In Maryland, it would be called assault with a deadly weapon, with the possibility of the added charge of assault with the intent to maim.  Either, or both, charges would certainly then make the perpetrator a “criminal”, and they would be facing significant time.  If a middle- or high school student takes a  weapon to school, gun or knife or whatever, and kills another student, is that a criminal act?  Of course it is.  It’s called murder.  So, how is it that if that same middle- or high school student bullies another student, be it verbally or physically (and, always emotionally), so badly and so relentlessly that the bullied teen resorts to ending his or her life, they should be absolved of any wrong doing?  Explain to me so that I can fully understand justhow does sending these kids to the Principal’s office for detention is going to solve anything?  A child is dead because of his/her actions!  That makes THEM responsible!  Jacob Rogers is gone because of bullies.  Phillip Parker is gone because of bullies.  And, Jeremy Faison wants to send their bullies to detention.  He doesn’t want them to become criminals.  I won’t mention the fact that they’ve already committed criminal acts.  And, when it comes to the targeted bullying of LGBT teens, just as it is with bullying based upon race, the potential is there for it to be a hate crime.
That Mr. Faison could even dream of blaming the parents of the suicide victims is beyond reprehension.  What he did with his statement was kick these families, who are already reeling from the untimely and unnecessary death of their beloved young child, right in the gut.  Worse, he’s now on record as saying that, in his misguided opinion, it’s more important to protect who cause death by their actions of hatred and intolerance than it is provide protection for those who are suffering.
If there’s any “failure” to be “good parents”, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be the parents of those who find it necessary to demean, verbally and sometimes physically batter others to the point where they feel suicide is the only remaining option for them to make the bullying stop?  The obvious ones with self-esteem issues are the ones who feel the need to put others down in order to make themselves feel good. (and, yes, thatis a problem that needs to be addressed if we’re to tackle this issue of bullying/teen suicide)  To a further extent, where are these young people learning to hate and be so intolerant at such an early age.  They weren’t born that way.  Hatred and intolerance is taught and, in most cases, it starts at home.  Good parenting?
I’ve pointed out before, several times actually, that these lawmakers were elected into office.  The question has to be “how”?  To a further extent, the larger question, in my opinion, should be “how are they staying in office”?  And, to show a little equity to Jeremy Faison, he’s not the only problem in the Tennessee legislation.  There is still a push to pass a bill that would make it illegal for teachers to even say the very word “gay” in their classrooms.  They are also one of the states that wants to make it legal for LGBT teens to be bullied as long as it was because of the bully’s religious, political, or philosophical beliefs.  There’s a definite problem with bias and intolerance in Tennessee’s legislation, and it’s costing lives.  Worse, there are those in the Tennessee legislation who seem to be perfectly okay with that.  In fact, they now have one legislator on record as saying that he wants to protect the bullies.
Power in numbers?  Politicians are “hired” by virtue of our votes.  As such, they can be “fired” by virtue of our votes.  This isn’t about politics.  Enough is Enough isn’t a political blog.  This is about stopping the madness of bullying and teen suicides.  And, in particular, LGBT teen suicides.  Having paid, elected officials introduce laws that goes against preventing bullying and, especially, teen suicides only assures that we’re going to continue seeing the spike in bullying, teen suicides, and especially LGBT teen suicides.  After all, strip away all of their smoke and filters, and what they’re really saying is that they’re homophobic and don’t really care about what’s happening to our LGBT youth.  That is unacceptable.

Love and Determination

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It’s great to know that there’s a safe place where people can reach out and know that someone will reach back for them.  A member on the facebook blog page sent me a private message that was beautiful yet disturbing at the same time.  It illustrates, perfectly, how and how not to create a healthier environment for LGBT teens.

I don’t know where to begin. I just know that I need to share this. My 14 yr old son came out to me two weeks ago. He is bisexual. I knew something had been bothering him, he seemed so angry, so sullen, and sad. I didn’t know what was going on, and though I tried he never seemed to talk to me. Then 2 months ago all the sudden he started opening up. We talked about everything. I finally had my happy, bright, smiling child back. When he told me he was bisexual I could tell he was nervous. I could tell he was scared. He blurted it out and I think my response surprised him. I laughed. He asked me if I thought he was joking, and I said, NO that’s not why I had laughed. I laughed because I am bisexual too. I laughed because I love him. I laughed because I was happy that he could share that with me, something SO brave at his age to do. When I told him that, he laughed too.

Oh how I wish that’s where it ended happily, but it’s not. My dear sweet son has been living with his dad for the last couple of years. He wanted so much to get to know his dad better, but things aren’t going well. When my son came out to his father, he flipped out. He said some horrible things. And then he called me, to yell at me. Because I knew before he did. Because I didn’t come running to him with that information. He made it all about himself, and how I had lied to him, that my son CHOOSES to be “this way” and that by not telling him I am a bad parent because I put his “life in danger”. My son’s father apparently thinks that coming out and telling people you are gay or bisexual unleashes some sort of free for all orgy and my son will now magically get an STD based on a vocal admission of his sexuality.

My son will be coming to live with me now. I have always been a supporter of the LGBT community for myself of course, but somehow it’s a deeper support, now that it’s my child. I’ve never felt more protective of him than I do now because if his own father could behave like a hateful bigot….I don’t want to finish that thought.

I needed to share this because it NEEDS to be heard. Parents NEED to realize that their children are part of who they are, no matter what their sexuality is. They are still that baby you held in your arms. They are still that child that reached to you when they were hurt. They are still that smart little person you help teach to ride their bike or tie their shoes. And they can still be the successful and happy adult you’ve always dreamt they could be. Sexuality shouldn’t be a deal breaker to parenthood, to LOVE.

I want people to think back, remember that sweet face that came bouncing into a room. That sweet little voice that said “I love you mommy, daddy” and remember she/he is the SAME child as before. Nothing changes that, nothing!

Whereas the father in this case makes my blood boil, we’ve sadly learned that this is far from unusual.  We know from recent history that there are parents, and in some cases both parents!, who reject their own offspring simply because of who they are.  We need look no farther than January, and the suicide death of EricJames Borges, to be reminded of the devastating effects parental rejection can have on LGBT teens.  Any teens, for that matter!  The bright side is that he has a fantastic mother who is there to support, protect, and nurture her LGBT son.

What was most impressive about this, though, was the bravery of the teen, himself.  It would be much easier, and healthier!, for him to simply pick up and flee to his accepting mother.  Instead, he chose to stay with his intolerant father through the remainder of the school year, hoping “…to make some progress…” with him.  That speaks volumes for his inner strength and courage.  Let’s hope it works out in his favor.

As for the dad, reality seems to be only a concept.  His viewpoint on the LGBT community and his own son are antiquated, at best.  Maybe the son can get through to him.  Let’s hope so, anyway.  Look, loving is much easier, much healthier, and much less stressful than hating.  Especially when it comes to your very own offspring.

The silver lining to this is that due to this 14-year-old’s tenacity, and because of the unconditional love and support of his mother, he gives other LGBT teens hope.  It can and does get better.

Written by Ron Kemp

April 26, 2012 at 5:30 am

To MY 7th Grade Self

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Maybe there’s something to this.  Last week, I did a bit of time-traveling.  Almost simultaneously, there was a powerful video released called “To My 7th Grade Self”.  Brilliant idea!  If only we could.

7th self

Our collective minds were in the same place.  Telling my 7th grade self to get it together and move on would be a life-changing event.  I know that, now.  In their video, speaking to their 7th grade selves would’ve also been life-changing, for sure.  And, I’m sure that holds true for everyone.  Hindsight is perfect vision.

In both my article and their video, however, one common thread is bullying.  See, it really isn’t anything new at all.  It’s been going on for as long as I can remember.  Today, however, it seems to have hit a fever-pitch.  In the video, some talk to their 7th grade selves because they were the bully; some were bullied; some were struggling with their sexual identity.  Face it:  the early teen years are hell!!  We go through a myriad emotional changes, hormonal changes, puberty, and social angst.  That’s quite a load for a 12-year-old.

From my own perspective, the summer leading into my 7th grade year was one of the defining moments of my life.  However, it didn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t have been.  The problem was who could he talk to about it?  There was no Internet back then.  There was no Wipe Out Homophobia to turn to, no Trevor Project.  He was on his own to just wing it and figure it out on his own.  And, that’s exactly what he did.  He figured it out and decided that internalizing it was the easiest way to cope.  What a mistake that turned out to be.

From their perspective, there was also a lot of trauma going on that year and the years to follow. The differences are strikingly similar.  What becomes clear is that there needs to be much more resources for all of our “7th grade selves”.  The ones who attacked me were only doing what was taught to them:  to be hateful and intolerant.  The ones from the video who were, themselves, bullies can say the same thing.  They didn’t know any better.  Why?  Because they weren’t taught any better.  They were taught to hate, to be intolerant, to belittle, to…hurt.  What is obvious, by my own story and by the pain that some of the people from the people from the video who were bullies when they were younger, is that the pain and trauma, on both sides of the bully spectrum, runs deep and for a very long time.

As we grow older, and out of those tumultuous early teen years, we who were bullied learn that “hey, it really does get better”.  Well, some of us do.  Unfortunately, some of us couldn’t wait around long enough for it to get better.  And, those who were our tormentors learn just how much damage they did to another human being.  In most cases, but certainly not all, as the tormentors grow older, they become remorseful at what they did to someone “back then”.  In some cases, they learn their lesson too late.  Their actions caused someone to end their life.

Alas, we can’t go back and educate our 7th grade selves.  What’s done is done.  That’s just the way life is.  We live our lives, have our experiences.  We learn and, hopefully, grow from them.  What we CAN do, though, is understand how important being able to go back and “coach” our 7th grade selves would’ve been, then pass that on to today’s young people.

There are young people, right now!, right under our noses who need to hear what we would tell our like-aged self if we could.  They need to hear that their words can be just as deadly as any material weapon.  They need to know that their negative actions can and, in some cases, will cause someone to end their life.  They need to know that the feelings that they’re having for someone of the same-sex is okay and normal, that there’s nothing wrong with them.  They need to understand that it’s completely okay to be just who they are, that they don’t have to try to be someone they’re not just to fit in.  And, more than anything else, they need to be taught that there’s nothing in the world more powerful than love, but it must start with self love.  See, I’ve said it, they say it in the video:  we are born to love; hatred and intolerance are taught and learned behaviors.  Teaching today’s young people that life is about loving and caring is such a very crucial lesson.  Since we can’t go back in time and teach our own younger selves, the next best thing is to pass it on to today’s youth. There are some who are literally dying to hear it.

Amazing Grace

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I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my life while playing my guitar and singing my songs on the streets and in the subways of San Francisco and here in Maryland.  In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that some of the best people I’ve met in my life, I met while busking. (um, that’s the universal term for playing music publicly.)

One of those people, Rich, contacted me on the facebook blog page and thanked me personally for the post I did last week about Grace McComas, the beautiful 15-year-old girl who took her own life, right here in Maryland, on Easter Sunday.  She was from his community and attended his church.  Talk about hitting close to home.

Rich reminded just how incredibly painful and tragic these teen suicides are.  I mean, I always knew, instinctively, how devastating they are.  I’ve been through it, myself.  However, actually knowing someone who’s close to a recent one brought back a flurry of emotion for me.  At the top of that list is deep sorrow.Grace McComas2Grace McComas was a beautiful young girl.  In the video eulogy her father, Dave, made as a tribute, you see this amazing girl, exuberant, full of life, happy.  Grace was surrounded by an incredibly loving family and lived in a picturesque home environment.  And, that’s what makes this all the more torturous.  A beautiful young girl, living in a loving, nurturing environment, surrounded by a family who adored her took her own life.  Why?  Because, in her mind, she couldn’t endure one more day of the relentless bullying she was being subjected to.

Surrounded by love, from family, friends, and even pets, all she could see was the nastiness that was being directed to her.  What that says, to me, at least, is that the level of bullying that was directed towards her was extraordinarily intense.  It was strong enough to overwhelm the amount of love and support she had.  And, she had a lot.  When the hatred is so strong that it tilts the balance to that degree, well, we’re seeing what the results can be.

I’ve talked to friends and family of Kenneth Weishuhn.  I’ve talked to a friend of Kenny Wolf.  My “sister” recalls seeing Kenny around often.  Rich knew Grace from his community.  The pain is very real.  These are real people, teenagers!, with real families, real friends, real people who love them but are now left to grieve, hurt, mourn…and try to make sense of the fact that their loved one is gone.  More to the point, their loved one is gone because of someone else’s carelessness, meanness, hatred.  There’s absolutely no way whatsoever of justifying the behavior known as bullying.  Period.

This is posted on the Grace McComas Memorial Webpage.

Grace McComas- 15 Maryland 4/8/12

Bullied For Being Vulnerable

You know the lyrics to the classic song. The line in “Amazing Grace” goes, “How precious did the grace appear…the hour I first believed.” Appear, she did. And, she made those around her believe. In the breathtaking video Grace’s dad produced and posted on YouTube to honor his daughter, the melody tears at your heart as you learn the story of a girl who won believers even before she could breathe.

The video sweetly opens with Grace thriving in her mother’s sonogramed womb. Next, beaming mommy introduces tiny Grace to her awestruck big sisters, Cara and Megan. In the touching string of photos and videos that follow, an adored and loved Grace laughs, surprises, teases and delights as part of a family that seems to have it all and which does it right. Grace is the girl you’d be proud to call your sister. Your daughter. Your friend. Her family says Grace was “tender hearted.” One friend remembers her as “the funniest person I ever met who changed my life forever.”

But, like Grace’s life, the tone of her memorial video unexpectedly changes toward an end you hope doesn’t come. The lyrics of “Saint Francis Prayer,” include “pain,” “sadness,” and “injury.” Grace’s family says the 15-year old had been brutally bullied on the Internet for four grueling months. They knew about it and documented it. But, like most loved ones, they couldn’t fathom how deadly it could be.

In her journal, Grace wrote, “My hope for the New Year is to find happiness and to forgive those who’ve hurt me.” But there won’t be a new year for Grace on this earth. On Easter Sunday, the mean comments, taunts and criticisms had taken an irreversible toll. Under attack by peers, the girl who once was found…was lost. The child whose eyes could see..became blind. Unable to focus on the love immediately around her, Grace took her own life.

As conveyed in the carefully chosen song ending Grace’s video eulogy, great good can come from tragedy. Sarah Mclachlan sings, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is sadness; joy.

These describe Grace’s philosophy she’d learned at home. And, indeed, there is joy. Through Grace’s organ donation, she saved three lives. A 10 and a 15- year old boy and a woman now live on.

The news of Grace’s bullied suicide spread across the nation. Pro athlete, Ray Rice, of The Baltimore Ravens and “American Idol” runner up, Lauren Alaina, called for all memorial attendees to wear blue. It was Grace’s favorite color. A Nile of blue pins, jackets and dresses streamed onto the sidewalk of St. Michael Roman Catholic Church.

While Grace’s school remained mum and police said little about the bullying or any investigation, mourners raised their voices with words of comfort meant for nobody else:

“When this flesh and heart shall fail
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
life of joy and peace.“

R.I.P Amazing Grace.

Written by Ron Kemp

April 22, 2012 at 8:12 am

Kenneth Weishuhn’s Wish: Be Buddies, Not Bullies

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I’ve had the honor of befriending and talking to one of Kenneth Weishuhn’s uncles since his tragic and untimely death on last Saturday.  There’s another uncle who’s a member on the facebook blog page now, as well.  Yesterday, Kenneth’s lovely older sister, Kayla, released this very powerful and emotional video as a tribute to her brother’s life.  I’m left with this:  what an amazing, caring, loving, beautiful family he had.  And, it reflected in him.  In every picture I’ve seen of Kenneth, he was happy, he was engaging, he was warm.  To think that “they” snatched that away from him is beyond comprehension.

One thing that sticks out and reverberates in my mind in this video is Kayla, talking directly to the ones responsible for Kenneth’s feeling of hopelessness, saying “I forgive you….”  Wrap your mind around the amount of strength and courage it took for a high school sophomore to say that to someone(s) who may as well have held a gun to her brother’s head and pulled the trigger.  I think it speaks to the foundation that both Kayla and Kenneth were raised in.  I’m not really sure that I would be able to utter those words to the people who were responsible for pushing my younger brother, whom I loved dearly, to and over the edge.  At least, not just yet.  She did.

I read it somewhere, when this event first unfolded, and now I’ve heard Kayla say it:  Kenneth’s mantra was “be buddies, not bullies”.  Such a simple message.  Yet, obviously, it’s such a difficult message to get across.  It takes effort to be an ass.  It takes effort to be hateful and mean.  These aren’t things that come naturally.  Loving and caring are natural, innate emotions.  Unfortunately, these people have been so indoctrinated with vile, hatred, and intolerance, so programmed by the religious culture in which they live in that region, just the opposite is true for them.  Intolerance comes natural for them.  They’ve been taught that.  Lashing out against someone who’s perceived to be different from them is their norm.  They’ve been taught that.  Hating someone because that person’s life goes against their religious teaching makes sense to them.  They’ve been taught that, as well.

See, it’s been said many times, and I’ve alluded to it here, myself:  the bullies, themselves, are but teenagers.  Young minds.  The difference in when someone says it to me and when I say it is this:  people want to give these kids a free pass for their actions, even when it leads to the suicide of another human being!!!  To wit, a reader just posted this comment on a blog entry about 15-year-old Grace McComas, who was bullied into suicide days before Kenneth:

My child, too, was bullied at Glenelg. I am appalled at the lack of response on the part of the school. I have heard, though, that anyone who says anything to Grace’s bully will be suspended on the spot. Why weren’t her bullies suspended? Seems to me the bully is getting more protection than Grace did. Schindler needs to go.

“…anyone who says anything to Grace’s bully will be suspended on the spot.”  Wait!  They know who this person is!?  And, now, this person is being protected?  Where was that protection for Grace?  For Tristan?  For Kenneth!?  When these young people cried out for help, where was that protection!?  Would you bet your year’s salary that if that same protection would’ve been afforded to Grace or Kenneth, they’d still be alive today?  If someone had offered this level of protection for Tristan, she would’ve be fighting for her life right now?

See, when I allude to the fact that these bullies are but teens, themselves, it’s done in the context of they have to have been taught this level of hatred and intolerance.  Pay attention to the details of what some of these bullies do to these victims.  Their actions are reprehensible and repugnant.  And, quite obviously dangerous.  I mean, how does a teen hate at such a level that they start a facebook page about their hatred for gays?  Where do they learn to hate at such a level that they’re calling up and leaving death threats!?  Death threats!  Yes, these are just teens!!!!  Which means that there are some really vile and dangerous adults in their lives.  They aren’t born hating like this.  They.  Are.  Taught.

Kenneth’s message is so much easier to teach.  “Be buddies, not bullies.”  I wouldn’t be writing about him right now if more adults in his region were teaching their young teens rather than who and how to hate.

She’s Alive: Victoria Tristan Roxas Alora

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The same cousin who alerted us, two nights ago, that 15-year-old Victoria Tristan Roxas Alora had committed suicide after being constantly bullied at school, sent this message last night:

Subject: THANK GOD! Plz read!
Sent: Today 8:52 PM
Message: Thank you to all who showd concern towards my cousin.
Last night my cousin was claimed dead by a doctor,
I got a call this morning…
Last night my cousin was found breathing. I dont believe in god but if there is one THANK THE LORD!
Tristan is in a coma though.
I dont know what happened but she is better somewhat.
I was in awe nd found this very unbelievable.
I dontt evn no wut to say.
All i can say is thank yu all for the prayers and the help.
I really appreciate it nd when Tristan is better Ill have her msg you guys.
She is a living miracle.
When she is better I will make sure she knows NEVER to try it again.
Thank you all again.
I REALLY appreciated the support.

Miracles DO happen!!!  This is tremendous news for those who care about Tristan.  However, she is still in a coma, so we have to continue to send her lots and lots of positive vibes in hope that she pulls through completely.

There’s still the issue of being bullied the the point where she felt it necessary to go to this drastic measure in the first place.  It will be very interesting to see what steps, if any, are taken to reconcile what happened to Tristan.  The fact that she named names in her post should go a very long way.  The fact that no one of authority came to her aid should weigh just as heavily.  I, for one, want to see people held accountable for this.  She didn’t just wake up Tuesday morning and decide that this was what she wanted to do.  She was pushed to do this.  Now, there needs to be accountability.  I will be watching this very closely.  Watch for updates as they become available.

Thinking that she was not going to be alive after writing it, Tristan revealed graphic details about who had done what to her.  That’s huge!!    There’s documentation, with names, and with full description of what happened to her.  There’s no way this gets swept under the rug.  Not now.  Now, there’s someone who can put a face on what almost happened and tell a first-hand account of what led her to that point.  With names!!

In the meantime, now is also the time to send out all of the positive vibes, prayers (for those who are religiously inclined), and other good wishes to Tristan.  She’s still here with us.  Now, she needs a full recovery.  With tomorrow being the National Day of Silence, in an effort to bring attention to the national issue of harassment and bullying (particularly for LGBT teens), take time out to focus on Tristan.  She needs it.

Victoria Tristan Roxas Alora, 15, Bullied to Death

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This just came across the online site, TrevorSpace, tonight:  15-year-old Victoria Tristan Roxas Alora, from Bakersfield, ended her life tonight after being bullied because she was a lesbian.

According to Brett Simpson, who contributed heavily to this article, Tristan (which was the name she went by) joined TrevorSpace, an online site for LGBT youth, just this March.  Her profile was promising:

I’m Tristan. Im Fillipino! Haven’t “Technically” came out yet. Just tired of lying and covering it up. So I just tell ppl, I’m pretty easy going, I’m bisexual. I believe that it doesn’t matter who you are, If you love somebody, or If they have a good personality, It shouldn’t matter if you’re guy or girl.  I love robotics.  I plan to go to MIT, I am in love with KPOP!  I am a busy person.
My favorite saying is:  Dont Be Afraid Of Shadows.  It only means Light is near!
I hate it when I’m in love cus I fall too hard. I’m Catholic.  I am strong in my faith. Music is my life. I’m Asian. I play many instruments, I do MMA, Mostly TKD, JuiJitsu, and Kickboxing.  I’m a huge tomboy! I don’t agree with bullying
I am constantly bullied everyday just because I’m “Gay”
I’m real friendly & Straight forward, so feel free to message me anytime,
I’ll practically answer anything,

That’s so heartbreaking in its honesty and hopefulness.  Dammit!  Tristan didn’t want to die!!!  Tristan had high hopes for her life.  Unfortunately, because people couldn’t or wouldn’t leave her alone to live her life, and because there was no adult she could turn to for help, she saw no way out.  Tonight, she took matters into her own hands and ended the bullying.

Subject: I hate my life with a passion.
Sent: Today 6:46 PM
Message: I hate my life,
I’m constantly bullied,
Today some guy I know named Casey called me out cus I got something in my eye almost the same time a girl had to use the bathroom. When I told him to shutup cus he was making fun of me more he told me to suck his d***. I told him “uhmm no thank you”.  He said yeah cus your afraid of d***.” I told him just cus I can get more girls then he can doesn’t make it right to pick on me. He ended up stating that I have bad shoes and clothes. I have a girl at the school I go to named Zarea.  She pushes me against lockers, pushes my head down from behind, and once she took me by my hair and threw me down. I am sick and tired of this and the school isn’t doing crap about it. When I told the first time, they only got talked to, and then it got worse. Then, when I told the school it got worse, they said unfortunately that happens. THEY DON’T DO ANYTHING! When I fight back I get csp (Suspension) When I leave the school until i feel strong enough to come back, it gets even worse. I already tried to commit suicide once, but it’s starting to sound real good right now.

So, there you have it, in her own words.  She posted this just tonight.  When she tried to reach the school officials about the bullying, they did nothing.  They did nothing!  Now, she’s gone.  Listen, these suicides are preventable, dammit!  There is no reason I should have to writing about Tristan right now!  She was full of life, had big dreams.  She was failed by the adults, doomed by the bullies in her life.  That is an atrocity!

I don’t want to hear one more person saying that they think it’s “absolutely absurd” that the school officials can’t make a difference or make this end.  If a student is reaching out to them, it’s their responsibility to provide protection for that student!  End of story.  The fact of the matter is this:  we are failing our young people, gay and straight, in grand fashion.

It’s been suggested several times that the young people who are being bullied needs to learn to defend themselves, perhaps through martial arts.  That’s reasonable enough.  On a purely logical level, it even makes sense.  What’s not being fully understood, I believe, is that the bullying that is occurring today cuts to a very deep, emotional level.  Martial arts can’t solve that.  Tristan was a MMA student.  She knew how to defend herself, physically.  What she couldn’t do was defend against the constant emotional attacks.  Worse, there were no adults willing to help her deal with it.

I’m going to spell this out as plainly as I can:  we need to stop trying to rationalize, and intellectualize, what’s going on with today’s LGBT youth.  Period.  The hard cold fact is they are being bullied to a point where they feel the only way to stop it is to end their lives.  That is not acceptable.  Someone needs to be held accountable.  The message that’s being sent to the LGBT teens is “we don’t care that you’re being bullied.”  And, that is not acceptable.  Yes, it needs to start in the homes.  Yes, we need to re-educate the adults first and foremost.  But, most importantly, we need to reach out to these at-risk young people and let them know that there are people who care…that life will get better.  WE need to be the change that we want to see!!

I, for one, want to go on record right here and now for letting them know that there ARE people who care!  There ARE people here waiting to reach out to you!  You life IS worth living, and you DO matter!!  Who’s with me?  Here’s your challenge:  starting this very day, make it a point to reach out to someone you DON’T know.  Sometimes, even a simple smile and hello could be the difference between life and death.  Don’t talk about doing it:  just do it.  Your life is not that busy that you can’t take just a few minutes out of your day to reach out to someone.  Tonight makes 5 teen suicides that we know about in the past 11 days.  All 5 were from bullying!  I’m deeply saddened, but I’m also seething.  Much, much more needs to be done.

Tristan, I’m so sorry we failed you.  You had such a bright future.  May you rest in peace.

Written by Ron Kemp

April 18, 2012 at 5:17 am

Lane Laymon, 14, Death by Suicide

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I had just finished writing about Kenneth Weishuhn’s suicide when I got the news about Dustin “Lane” Laymon.  And, I just broke down.  That makes 4 teen suicides since April 6th…in this country alone, and that we know of!…and, all 4 were a result of being bullied.

On Wednesday, April 11th, Lane Laymon, of Dover, Arkansas, felt he’d had enough of the bullying, so he made a suicide attempt in his school’s bathroom.  On Friday, April 13th, the attempt became a success.

There is little-to-no information surrounding this event.  I do know that, according to sources, he’d been badly bullied.  It is uncertain as to why he was being bullied.  Frankly, the “why” doesn’t matter.  What matters, most, is that yet another teen has been driven a point of hopelessness, a point where he felt no other way out but to end his life.  What matters, also, is that yet another teen’s family and friends have to endure the nightmare of coping with the suicide death of their loved one.

To say “this has to end” has become both redundant and empty.  Empty, because we’ve long ago passed to point of simply talking about it:  with 4 known teen suicides from bullying in the past 10 days, it’s time for real action.

How do we put those words into action to get real, tangible results?  The first and maybe not-so-simple answer is it has to, has to, has to start in the homes.  These young people would not be hurtful to others if they weren’t taught that that’s acceptable behavior.  A commenter to the article about Kenneth James Weishuhn wrote this:

The blame should not rest at all on the bullies in this school. They have grown up in an environment that teaches kids that being “gay” is against the bible. In such a conservative area where this idea is accepted by the vast majority of the residents, how can you blame these kids for pointing out a kid who is different.

It’s not hard to figure this out:  it starts in the homes.  We’re born to love; we’re taught to hate.  As I’ve been saying, and as is pointed out in this comment, the “teachers” are the adults.  And, sadly, in far too many cases, the adults are these bullies’ parents.  Human life is of much more value than religious or political beliefs.  Plain and simple.

That same commenter also had this to say:

It is absolutely absurd that you people don’t realize that this isn’t an issue for “politicians and school administrators” to solve.

Speechless.  When you see 98% of one party’s presidential candidates essentially running their campaign on their hatred for and intolerance of members of the LGBT community, when you have elected officials tirelessly attempting to pass laws that would be oppressive and very dangerous for a portion of this country’s population, you have a problem that needs to be solved.  These people are dangerous on more than one level, to be sure.  Their laws, if passed, would send the message to any LGBT teen that they are, in fact, defective, perverted, and worse.  See the damage?  Their rhetoric is passed down to their followers, filters into the homes, and suddenly there’s a community in Iowa or Arkansas or Anoka-Hennepin that becomes a hotbed for bullying.  And, sadly, we end up with a Justin Aaberg, a Kenneth Weishuhn and, now, a Lane Laymon.  These young people are taught to hate and be intolerant.

Real results for this very real issue?  Teach love every single day.  Teach love in your homes.  Demand acceptance from the school teachers and administrators.  Let your political and religious leaders know that human life means much more than their beliefs or teachings.  See, what’s “absolutely absurd” is continuing to believe that neither group of people have anything to do with this deadly cycle of bullying and teen suicides.

There isn’t one, simple, cut-and-dried solution to this, obviously.  That said, it should be clear that the time for just talking about it has come and gone.  Now, it’s time to actually work towards making a change.  Change won’t bring back the ones we’ve lost, obviously; however, I believe that we can end this vicious cycle of bully-driven teen suicides.  Whether they are gay or straight or whatever!, these teens deserve to be able to simply exist without being worried about relentlessly and, sometimes, brutally being bullied because of who they are.  If nothing else, their lives are worth our effort to at least try our hardest to make a difference.  It surely beats what’s going on right now.

Our efforts won’t save Lane Laymon, sadly enough.  He’s now in a place where he can no longer be bullied.  It shouldn’t have had to come to that.  May he rest in peace.  And, to the family and friends of Lane, may you find strength during these very difficult and trying times.

Kenneth James Weishuhn, 14: Death by Suicide in Iowa

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Last night, Saturday, April 14th, 14-year-old Kenneth James Weishuhn, of Primghar, Iowa, succumbed to the bullying he’d been receiving since coming out as an LGBT teen back in a couple short months ago.  In looking at the few pictures of Kenneth I’ve been able to see online, he was a very happy young man.  Handsome and full of life.  In talking to some of his friends and family tonight, they confirmed just that.  More than that, though, they expressed how much he was loved by them.Kenneth-James-Weishuhn-Jr.Unfortunately, coming out of the closet cost him his young life.  The bullying was relentless and severe to the point where he couldn’t take it any longer.  No one, and I mean no one should have to sacrifice their life simply because of who they are.  Yet, we’re seeing it happen over and over and over again.  The question that’s begging to be answered is “how many more teen suicides do we have to endure before everybody realizes that we have an enormous problem on our hands?”  How many more parents have to endure the pain of having to bury their teenaged child because he or she were bullied to break point before the politicians, school administrators, religious leaders become proactive and stop treating this as a mere annoyance?  The people I talked to tonight are in real pain.   Some were crying real tears.  This is a very real problem, one that needs a very real solution.  And, the attention given to it needs to be immediate.

It’s not enough to say “the ones who bullied him to a point where he took his life will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.”  That’s true.  However, there’s two problems with that:  1.) if they were cold-hearted enough to do this in the first place, chances are they’re not going to lose much sleep over the fact that their actions caused someone to end their life; and, 2.) the families and friends of the victim also has to live with the bully’s actions for rest of their lives.  And, that’s unacceptable.Kenneth Weishuhn2Two of Kenneth’s friends, Kristi and Brandi, made a youtube video in tribute to their gone-too-soon friend.  It moved me to tears.  He truly seemed to be a very happy teen, and the love he had surrounding him was apparent.  Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t enough to overcome the brutal bullying he had to endure.

We can no longer afford to wait for our “leaders” to come to a solution with this issue.  Too many lives are being lost.  I’ve written about 3 in the past 9 days!  And, believe this:  for the three I’ve written about, there are at least three more somewhere around the world that I don’t know about.  Yet, our leaders are treating a 5-alarm blaze like a brush fire.  It’s time…it’s past time!!!…for every concerned citizen, young or old, black or white, gay or straight, Christian or atheist to do their part in bringing this sad chapter to an abrupt end.

  • Let the politicians know that it’s not okay that they are putting their political/religious views before these young people’s lives;
  • Let the hateful “religious leaders” know that it is not acceptable that they spew utter hatred in towards members of the LGBT community God’s name.  Hate speech is NOT freedom of speech;
  • Let the school administrators know that it’s not acceptable that the bullying epidemic runs rampant in today’s school, that they are required to protect every single student in their charge, all-inclusive;
  • Let the young people in your lives, directly or indirectly, know that it’s okay to let someone know when they’re being bullied.  In fact, it’s expected of them.  If one person doesn’t listen, go to another.  Repeat that process until they find someone who will listen and take action.

It’s going to take every single one of us, the everyday Joe, the concerned citizen, to bring about the changes that will rid our society once and for all of the bullying and teen suicides.  Sadly, all of our efforts won’t bring back Kenneth James Weishuhn.  We lost him last night because someone felt it was okay to bully him until he broke.  It wasn’t okay.

There’s a facebook page in Kenneth’s memory.  Take the time out to express your condolences and thoughts.  Also, I’ve been told that there is a fund set up to help his family bury him.  As soon as I have a link for that, I will pass it along.

I can’t express enough to the family and friends of Kenneth how sorry I am for your loss.  I can only say that my heart goes out to you.  To you, Kenneth James Weishuhn, rest in peace.  They can’t hurt you now.Kenneth Weishuhn