Archive for April 2012
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.
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.
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.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.Two 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.
Last week, while we here in Maryland, and around the world, were mourning the suicide of Kenny Wolf, there was yet another event here. Fifteen-year-old Grace McComas, of Glenelg High School, ended her young life because of cyberbullying two days following Kenny. Both were laid to rest within moments of each other Saturday, April 14th.
Specific details of the cyberbullying were not reported by The Baltimore Sun because of an ongoing police investigation.
What is apparent was that blue was Grace’s favorite color. Her friends started a cyber campaign, #blue4grace, which quickly went viral and attracted the attention of such notables as Lauren Alaina, the 2011 “American Idol” runner-up and Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice. Mourners were asked to wear blue for the visitation, but it didn’t stop there. People as far away as Ireland and the Czech Republican were participating in the event. The message is getting out: this has to end. And, to be sure, there ARE many people doing a lot of great things in an effort to end the bullying that’s claiming far too many teens’ lives. One teen suicide because of bullying is one too many. I’ve had 2 here in my own backyard within the past 10 days. Enough.
Footballer Ray Rice has become proactive in the campaign against bullying. He’s hosting an anti-bullying event in Howard County, where Grace was from. I’m in the process of getting more information about that right now. I’ve messaged Ray via his personally-run facebook page. And, as the information becomes available to me, it will be passed along via the blog and on the facebook blog page.
It’s been said in conversations I’ve had with some people that today’s young people should have thicker skin and just understand that bullying is a part of growing up. When I hear that, I seeth as I listen to their opinion. But, listen, I do. See, on the one hand, I do understand where they think they’re coming from with this logic. Bullying has been around for as long as I can remember and, I’m sure, well before that. My own dealings with the bullying and violence is well-documented here. And, speaking from a personal standpoint, suicide wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary when I was a teen. I coped. I moved on. But, as I’ve been figuring out over the past 10 years or so, I didn’t really “cope”. The subconscious scars were very slow to heal. And, that’s because I didn’t even realize they were there until, well, 10 years ago or so. So, that said, it isn’t just a matter of today’s young people “getting over it”. It just needs to end. Period. Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer who advises Facebook and MTV on online safety, had this to say about it:
“I don’t want the kids to be more resilient”. “I want the kids who are doing it to stop. I want friends of the kids being bullied to stand up and say, ‘I am with you.’ The popular kids, the smart kids, the big kids need to stand up and say, ‘Stop.'”
That’s the correct answer. Damned needing tougher skin!! They shouldn’t have to be dealing with it at all.
And, of course, there have been naysayers who believe this is all much ado about nothing. To them, I say “think again”. This is a real-life, real-time problem, and it’s costing lives.
In the most recent report, released March 31, the Maryland State Department of Education cited nearly 4,700 incidents of bullying, harassment and intimidation in the 2010-2011 school year, up from about 3,800 in 2009-2010 and 2,100 in 2008-2009.(The Baltimore Sun)
What that statistic clearly shows that bullying has increased in each of the past three school years in Maryland, alone! Understanding that that’s only from the cases that are reported really puts it all in perspective. We’re in the midst of a crisis that’s causing teens to end their own lives. And, even in the cases where they aren’t committing suicide, sometimes the psychological scars they’re left with can last a lifetime.
A lot is being done, now, and by many people, to address the issue. However, a lot more needs to be done, and by many more people. And, we start by a.) re-educating the adults; and, b.) making sure our lawmakers and school officials understand that this issue needs to be taken with the same gravity of, say, an outbreak of a deadly viral infection that’s hitting teens around the country and around the world. How quickly would “they” find a cure if that were the issue instead of bullying? That same intensity needs to be focused on the issue with bullying.
To the family and friends of Grace McComas, I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this. My heart and condolences go out to you. And, to you, Grace, the world will now never know what gifts you had to offer. Rest in peace.
I was presented recently with a very interesting question: “If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?” Damn. That’s deep. So, I’ve spent the better part of several days pondering this question. Here’s what I came up with. Bear with me, here.
Third grade, I had a crush on everyone in my class, boys and girls alike. I had my first boyfriend when I was in the 5th grade: 10-years-old. That lasted the entire school year. At age 12, I was viciously beaten for daring to sneak a kiss from a boy I had a crush on. And, it was downhill from there.
Perhaps as a result of the beating I endured, I didn’t dare chase after anyone when I returned to school. That was my 7th grade. Same held true for the 8th grade. Ninth grade, well, that was a different story. Going into 9th grade, I met a new neighborhood boy who was cute and rather fun to be around. In retrospect, he was what we call today “flamboyant”, although I didn’t really consciously pick up on it at the time. (although I’d bet that, on a subconscious level, it was exactly what drew me to him: the unspoken knowledge that he was also gay.) And, he was aggressive. We had quite an enjoyable time together that lasted until his family moved clear to the other side of town.
Then, I met the guy who, to this very day, I consider THE love of my life. He was one year and one day younger than myself. We were compatible in every way imaginable. Except sexually. But, I’ll come back to that. We were literally inseparable for almost 2 years. We’d have sleepovers every day. His place or mine…it didn’t matter. What mattered was being together. Only during the school day would we be separated. When his family moved across town, it didn’t deter me. I’d find a way to see and spend time with him. I’ve never loved on that level before or since. Why weren’t we sexually compatible? Truthfully, I don’t know that we weren’t.
The truth of the matter is that the beating I absorbed for daring to love that other boy, when I was 12, got in the way of my showing my Mr. Right my true feelings. I mean, he knew I loved him, for sure. And, I had know doubt that he loved me equally. He even let me know, on several occasions, that the physical attraction was mutual. He never verbalized it, mind you. It was more the look in his eyes, the smile on his face. More than anything, it was the…well…let’s just say it was his own physical, and quite noticeable, arousal that told me more loudly and more clearly than any words could’ve. And, it wasn’t once. It wasn’t even twice. This happened quite a few times. Eventually, I guess he lost patience, or figured that I wasn’t interested in him “in that way”. By the time we were 18 and 17, we’d drifted completely away from each other. I’ve never loved as intensely or completely since.
If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? Easy. I’d tell that badly battered 12-year-old boy to:
“…never, ever be afraid to love because of who you are. Never, ever be afraid to show your love. Don’t let what just happened to you control the rest of your life. Yes, what happened to you was traumatic. And, no, you didn’t deserve what happened. However, if you don’t get back on your feet as fast as possible and continue to be who you are and love who you love, then that boy and his group of bullies will have totally won. They will control the rest of your life even though you’ll probably never, ever see them again. For as wrong as it was, what happened, happened. It’s over. You heal, you grow, and you win by getting back on your feet as fast as possible and continuing to be that same ‘you’ you were before the attack. Being bullied, even as brutally as you were, isn’t the end of the world. Now, it’s up to you to pick yourself up, move on with your life, and continue to grow into that awesome person you already know is there inside of you. Anything short of that, and you’ve completely allowed the bullies to win. And, in the grand scheme of things, that would be much worse that what they did to you physically.”
If only. Since I can’t time travel, I pass my knowledge on to today’s struggling youth. Who knows? Maybe it can help somewhere along the way. Knowing what I know now, it’s the emotional scars of being bullied that last the longest, that potentially cause the most damage. And, knowing what I know now, keeping your head held high and moving forward with your life is a great way of starting the process of healing those emotional scars. Bullies win only if you let them.
There was a very sobering video posted today on the facebook blog page, courtesy of Wipe Out Suicide and Wipe Out Homophobia. Sobering because it was a mother telling how her 5-year-old son had been bullied to the point where he wanted to die. Five years old!!! There can’t be a more resounding wake-up call than that.The story of 5-year-old Aden is both heartbreaking and familiar. Heartbreaking, for obvious reasons. When you have anyone feeling so much emotional pain because of the actions of a few people who carelessly abuse them because they are “different”, that’s a problem. When you have a 5-year-old saying he wants to die because of the treatment he’s getting, that’s a 5-alarm blaze.
I could connect with this because Marty, my 23-year-old surrogate son, deals with the same issue. Like Aden, Marty is not your average Joe. He’s uniquely Marty. And, that’s okay. He’s highly intelligent, as I’m sure Aden is. He yearns to be accepted by his peers, like Aden; yet, because he’s perceived as different, it’s a constant challenge for him to gain acceptance . As a result, he struggles with social anxiety. Like Aden, all he yearns for is to be accepted, by his peers, by anybody…simply for being Marty. That’s not asking too much. Isn’t that what we all want? Sure it is. And, sadly, like Aden, Marty has voiced on occasions that “I don’t belong in this world”. I’ve worked hard for 3 1/2 years to show him that he’s wrong.
Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that there IS a place in this world for him. He’s got an incredible mother who, right now while he’s still very young, is Aden’s “voice”. On that, alone, he’s got a leg up on Marty. But, that’s a whole different story. Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that Asperger’s is simply something he has to deal with in his life, but it’s not who he is. In the 3 1/2 years he’s been with me, Marty has done nothing but grow. It’s amazing what positive reinforcements can do for a person. It’s sad, though, that he had to wait until he was an adult before he had someone who would take the time to give him that daily positive reinforcement. And, that gives Aden a major leg up!!! His mother, in speaking out with this video, should win “Mother of the Year” accolades!! Asperger’s isn’t a death sentence. It’s just extra luggage to carry as you embark on your journey through life.
Here’s the real problem. How is it that five-year-old kids can be so intolerant and mean as to make one of their peers want to end his life!? That’s a REAL problem!! And, there’s no way you can blame a 5-year-old for that behavior. I’ve said it a thousand times but, obviously, it needs to be said tens of thousands more times: the issue of bullying isn’t just about the young people, IT’S THE ADULTS WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON!! The young people are learning this level of meanness and intolerance from people much older than themselves. Take that to the bank. And, perhaps, it isn’t the parents, directly. Maybe it’s the older siblings. However, the link still goes back to the parents. Adults are the root to this whole bullying problem, like it or not. The issue with Aden makes that woefully clear.
I challenge every single adult and, especially, parent to monitor themselves. Do it for a week. How are the young people in your life seeing you deal with other people, people you perceive as different? How are they hearing you talk about a different ethnic group than your own, about members of the LGBT community, about someone with a disability? How they see and hear YOU deal with people you perceive as “different” is how they are taught to deal with them. Plain and simple. And, as is made obvious by this video and 5-year-old Aden, they learn young.
It’s the only way we’re going to change this culture of hatred and intolerance. As Aden’s mother stated poetically in the video: “Love…cures. Hate…kills. Be nice to others. It starts with you.” It’s really just that simple.
Every teen suicide is hard to take. Each time I write about another one, it takes another piece of my own soul. And, there are some that I take very, very hard. Jamie Hubley, for example, hit me like the ton of bricks. To be sure, it was his suicide in October that led me to embark upon this campaign to make a change. Kenny Wolf’s recent suicide hit me as hard, if not harder. He was right here in my back yard, right there from my old neighborhood. I know it’s counterproductive to blame myself at all, but I can’t help but wonder…with me doing this right here in Maryland, why wasn’t this blog or the facebook blog page reaching him? And, if it was, what could I have done differently with it to prevent this from happening?
Second-guessing aside, I have some vital updates about Kenny. Firstly, all reports of age were wrong: Kenny wasn’t 17, as originally reported, nor even 16 as it was later reported. Kenny was just 14 years old. Secondly, his event wasn’t Thursday, the 5th. It happened Friday, the 6th. Thirdly, I have a link for those who would like to leave their personal condolences for the family and friends. It goes without saying that this is an extraordinarily tough period for Kenny’s family and friends. Indeed, for the entire community. Letting them know that there are those of us around the world who are mourning Kenny right along with them will, I’m sure, help with their healing process.
Lastly, I can’t stress enough that if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, or any mental issues, bullying, and/or suicidal ideations, please, please, please reach out!! There are many people, professional and non-professional alike, ready to reach back.
With this tragic event being right here in my backyard, I’m redoubling my efforts to reach out and bring this epidemic to an abrupt end. Sadly, of course, it’s not going to bring Kenny back. Or, any of the other teens who ended their lives far too soon. But, it will, hopefully, prevent another family from having to go through what Kenny’s is going through right now. That’s my promise.