Archive for November 2012
I heard this report yesterday on the all-news radio station in my area, and it caught my attention. With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1st, some sobering statistics were announced that I think we need to take heed to. The first thing that grabbed my attention was this:
“More than half of young people infected with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. DON’T know they’re infected.”
Young people, between 13-24, account for more than 1/4 of all new infections. If there are 50,000 new infections per year, which is what they’re reporting, that means that roughly 12,500 of those new cases are young males between the ages of 13-24. That’s not a good statistic. That means that we’re failing in educating young people on HIV/AIDS prevention. How can that even be possible with a disease that has been around since the early 1980s?
According to Julie Steenhuysen, Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, that figure of 1/4 being young males stems from high infection rates amongst LGBT young people, African-American, and, Latino males. What makes this problematic is that a lot of these young people report that they “Haven’t really learned much about how to protect [themselves] against infection.” And, again, the question, “how is this even possible?”, comes into play.
And, of course, there are some who report being subjected to a lot of shame because of their sexuality and the stigma attached to being LGBT. Now, the picture becomes a bit clearer. Shame and stigma. That goes back to a huge cultural problem we’re facing in today’s society as it pertains to the LGBT community. This is the year 2012. There is no way we should still be dealing with prejudices and bigotry when it comes to something as intrinsic to our being as our sexuality. Worse, here’s more evidence of the life-threatening harm that it’s causing.
When asked what she thought needed to be done to reverse this trend, Julie Steenhuysen added this:
Communicating to the community how important it is to support young people, no matter where they are [with their sexuality] so that they can at least stay safe. That could mean…to train leaders who are not LGBT, perhaps in the faith community and entertainers to be more sensitive to stigma, and help establish a healthy environment for these young men in which to grow and to learn about their own sexuality.
I was a young, gay man when the HIV/AIDS epidemic exploded on the scene back in the early 1980s. Worse, I lived in San Francisco during that time. “Worse” because a.) I literally watched a least one friend die from this epidemic on a daily basis; and, b.) it was easily the most frightening time of my life. Being a young, virile gay man, myself, at the time, of course I was sexually active as I searched for my Mr. Right. And, at one point, I even resigned myself to the “reality” of “well, if all of my friends are infected, I must obviously be infected as well.” By the grace of God, that was not the case. And, once I got myself tested and learned that I’d been spared of this devastating disease, I changed everything about how I lived my life. I educated myself. Educating oneself was very easy then, pre-Internet days; it’s much easier today because of the Internet. And, education is 100% effective.
Gone are the days when we can feel invincible and just do everything, sexually, we want to do. That half of these young people didn’t even know they were infected is all the proof you need. The only foolproof way of avoiding infection is protection. Yes, I know that there will be fundamentalists who will argue that abstinence is the only true foolproof way of avoiding infection. But, perhaps, being more in tune with the reality that these young people are going to have sex, protection is key. Education has to be a key component in protecting oneself from contracting HIV/AIDS. It’s that simple. It’s 2012. There’s no way there should be anyone, anyone!, who doesn’t have access to all of the education necessary to prevent numbers like this report reveals from happening.
December 1st, as we remember those who have already died from this epidemic, we must also re-energize our efforts to prevent it from continuing to spread. That’s going to take acceptance. That’s going to take communication. That’s going to take education.
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We all know by now that bullying has played a role, big and small, in many teen suicides. You’ve read about some of them here. If you’ve been a regular follower of this blog, or if you’re a member of the facebook blog page, you’ve also read many times where I’ve said that “…not all teens who commit suicide are LGBT teens, and not all teen suicides are in response to being bullied”. Over the past year, I’ve watched, both on some of my own blog posts and on other articles, as well, as people would a.) read about another teen suicide and instantly respond “Bullying has to end!!” and/or b.) make a statement that goes like this: “it’s a shame that these teens are killing themselves for being bullied just because they’re gay.”
NOT EVERY TEEN WHO COMMITS SUICIDE IS LGBT; NOT EVERY TEEN WHO COMMITS SUICIDE WAS BULLIED; EVERY SINGLE TEEN SUICIDE IS TRAGIC!
The mother of Jordan Halmich, one of the three teens who committed suicide in a seven-week period, left a comment on the blog that prompted me to respond to her via email as opposed to simply replying to the comment:
I am the mother of Jordan Halmich, and just to make this all clear, Jordan was not bullied He didn’t take his own life because of being bullied. He had been depressed. He came to me. and I took him the assistant principal and called in the alt ED counselor and had them evaluate him. At that point, he was given a therapist, which he was seeing as well as had the assistant principal and alt ED teacher whom he trusted. He talked with Jordan, and I talked as well. His problem was not being ignored. I was so upset to see all this published and people just jumping on the bandwagon of what people were saying, that the three suicides were caused from bullying. Well, I am here to tell you get off that bandwagon and get the story straight: Jordan Halmich, 16, of St. Clair, took his own life on Sept. 28 due to severe depression that his family and many others were trying to help him with and that we don’t know and never will know the true state of where his mind was that dreadful day that he saw no other way to end his depression that day than to take his own life. As a parent, to face life everyday without him here, and for his father, his brothers, his other family, and many friends, is the most empty, hurtful feeling to go through in life, so seeing all this online reporting of non-truth about Jordan is hurtful and all the pictures, comments that they dug up and found just goes to show that social media is out of control. Nothing is private anymore, and that is where the problem truly lies this day and age.
I don’t agree with bullying, and I am not saying it isn’t a problem and that, if it is happening, that it doesn’t need to be addressed or dealt with. It does. I always taught my kids that “no one is better than you”, not to ever let anyone make you feel that way and, by all means, you stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone treat you as if you don’t matter. My kids didn’t let that happen and still don’t. Jordan was only 5ft 3in and would stand up to someone 6ft tall without fear. So, believe me, he was not bullied. I, as a parent, would not let someone bully my children for more than 1 day without me taking care of it, anyway I could, to make it stop. If we don’t fight for our children, then who will? It’s our job to love and protect our children, and I take that very seriously.In the blog post, itself, I specified that “It is alleged that he’d been bullied.” Now, we know for sure that he wasn’t
Last year’s suicide death of Jamie Hubley was similar in that people were, and still are, beating the “bully drum” when, in fact, it wasn’t bullying at all. The role that bullying played in Jamie’s suicide was miniscule in comparison to the level of depression he was locked in to. Had he been bullied? There were a couple of instances. But, it wasn’t why he ended his life. Same is true with Jordan Halmich. Was he bullied? His mother says a definitive and emphatic “no”. Jordan suffered from a deep depression that, much like Jamie, no one could save him from despite the efforts of his loved ones.
Following Jamie Hubley’s suicide, I had the honor of meeting several of members of his family. As was the case with Jordan’s family, they were keenly aware that Jamie wasn’t dealing with severe depression, and they were doing everything humanly possible to help him see his way through it. What Jordan’s mother said to me was almost identical, nearly verbatim!, to what one of Jamie’s family members told me about his suicide last year:
I just want people to know he was not bullied and I did not turn a blind eye to him or his depression. I was on top of it and got him help from staff, therapists, doctors, his family and friends. He was not alone. We were all here and trying to help. He was an energetic, fun, had a huge heart and was loved by many. His smile and outgoing attitude made him several friends, and that is way I want him remembered. I don’t want anyone thinking I am, or anyone else is, trying to point fingers and place blame for what he did, and I definitely don’t want it being believed that he was bullied when he wasn’t.
That’s a simple and reasonable request. Teen suicide is tragic, regardless of the reasoning behind it. Sure, the pain and even anger are both magnified when bullying is involved; however, the fact of the matter is not every teen suicide is the result of bullying. In our hard-fought efforts to get both the bullying epidemic and explosion of teen suicides under control, it’s important to the families of those lost to suicide to understand that simple fact.
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