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

Archive for the ‘coming out’ Category

Kyle Wells, 16, Bullied for Being Gay

with 4 comments

The bad news just keeps getting worse.  I was alerted to this tragedy on the facebook blog page just moments after publishing the blog post about the three teens from St. Clair, MO. Kyle Wells, 16, from Cody, Wyoming ended his life October 30th.  According to his grandmother, she left home to buy some Halloween candy.  When she returned, Cody was already dead.  His grandmother and his best friend, Stephen, both agree that Kyle was bullied.  He was bullied because of his small size.  He was bullied for being gay.

His grandmother says that the bullying, because of his size, started as early as kindergarten.

It started when he was in kindergarten. He was about the size of a two-year old. And the kids would carry him around and call him their baby…He hated that. He wanted to feel as big and important as they were

His angry best friend, Stephen, added that Kyle would not have committed suicide if not for the bullying:

No he would not. He would have not. That’s what caused most of his problems, was the bullying. He’s been bullied for being gay, for being short, pretty much everything he’s done in his life

And, of course, the school officials gave their standard, scripted response:

School officials say they had no reports of bullying before Kyle died

Kyle had a failed suicide attempt two years before, an attempt that led to him being hospitalized in a behavioral and treatment center in Salt Lake City.  Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, his grandmother believes that that affected the way he dealt with bullying.

I’m going to play this song again because not enough people are listening to it.  They’re hearing it, but they’re not paying attention to the message of the lyric.  The time for you, the school officials left in charge of protecting each and every student in your care for every single day of the school year, to stop running from the issue of bullying is long, long past due.  You’re seeing the bullying for yourselves, but you’re looking the other way.  You’re hearing student after bullied student tell you, plead to you!, that they need your help to keep them from the bullying they are enduring, but you’re not listening to them.  Meanwhile, young people are dying needlessly because of it!  Sweeping this issue under the carpet isn’t making it go away.  It won’t go away without your intervention.  So what if you have “…no documentation” of bullying!  You’re SEEING it with your own eyes.  I know you are.  You know you are.  So, why are you continuing to allow these children to die!?  The same can be said about the police officials who rapidly release “official reports” that their “…investigation hasn’t found bullying to be the cause…”.  You KNOW it’s happening.  You know it!!!!  So, why are you rushing to dismiss it?  It’s a huge black eye on the otherwise great work you do.  “Zero tolerance” for bullying is 100% meaningless as long as you, the school officials, and you, the law enforcement communities, are doing nothing to enforce it.  And, the death toll rises.

Kyle Wells’ grandmother says she went to the school a couple of times every year to confer with the administrators about the bullying he was enduring.

“All through school I had to go to the schools once or twice a year, discussing the bullying problems and what was being said to him, and what affects it was having on him and things, and nothing ever changed,” she says.

How many more times do we need to hear that before we understand that there’s a real and serious problem?  How many more lives need to be senselessly lost because of the inaction of the very people who are supposed to be caring for the welfare of each and every student?  These suicides are 100% preventable.  One hundred percent!  To get to that point, however, bully prevention and suicide prevention both need to be taken 100% more seriously.

That Kyle was dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome was trying enough for him.  I know this because I’ve seen it up close and personal.  That Kyle also had to deal with a lifetime of bullying because he was apparently undersized for his age and, then, because of his sexuality proved to be too much for him to handle.  Alone.  He shouldn’t have had to deal with it alone.

Rest in peace, Kyle.  You shouldn’t have had to endure what you did.  You definitely shouldn’t have had to deal with it alone.


The Importance of Gay Role Models

leave a comment »

For as long as I can remember, I’ve strongly held that the world would benefit greatly from every LGBT person coming out of the closet.  Such an action would serve two very positive purposes:  1.)  it would show the world, a world that tends to minimize those of us who are LGBT, that we are solid, contributing citizens of our society who needs, and deserves, to be recognized as such; and, 2.) it could potentially save young lives by providing some of the struggling, young LGBT youth positive, strong, and gay role models.

This week, former NFL player Wade Davis announced he is gay.  Granted, Davis never played a single down on an NFL field.  That was because of injuries, not due to lack of talent.  And, certainly not from a lack of effort.  He tells a story of what it was like to be gay, open only to himself, in an NFL locker room.  Imagine the impact that an openly gay athlete would have on a growing-but-struggling LGBT teen boy.  The message that boy would get would be “you’re fine just the way you are, you can do whatever it is in life you want to do, and I’m proof that it truly will get better.”  That’s potentially life-saving.  How many of these young LGBT teens have given up hope and taken their lives because of a sense of hopelessness?  Their vision of the world is tainted by the extreme bullying they received constantly because of who they are.  They’re told, in one form or another, that their life is a non-factor.  Or, as one recent anti-gay group put it on their website, “It Gets Worse”!  Even more troubling, they don’t have many role models to look to and say, “that’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Imagine how many young, LGBT girls Ellen DeGeneres has positively impacted.
We’re living in a very unique time right now.  The march towards equality for the LGBT community may be slow, sometimes seemingly snail-paced, but it’s steady.  Why else do you think we’re witnessing unprecedented lashing out from the other side?  To them, they’re fighting for their moral (?) lives.  And, they fully understand that the fight is much harder than they ever imagined it would be.  For us, the members of the LGBT community and our supporters, we’re also fighting for our lives.  We’re fighting for the right to just exist happily without having to deal with “them” imposing their misguided and often ridiculous “morality” on us.
We’re also fighting for our youth.  With 9 out of 10 LGBT teen reporting having been bullied at school, 90%!!!, and with the suicide rate amongst LGBT teens skyrocketing, we’re fighting fiercely to end that trend.  We end that trend by making them realize that they do have a place in this world.  We end it by letting them know, not by mere words but by example as well, that it really, truly will get better.  We end it by showing them role models of people who, like them, grew up gay, knew it early on in life, dealt with the ridiculously mindnumbing abuse that we sometimes must endure, yet made it through and are now living happy, productive, and promising lives.
To get to that point, however, we need more and more people, like Wade Davis, to step forward and be that example.  I’m not naive.  I fully understand that, in some cases, coming out of the closet would amount to professional suicide.  Imagine, a LeBron James coming out!  Or, a Bill O’Reilly.  Or…pick a name.  You get my point.  However, it’s that very culture, that unforgiving mindset that we’re working tirelessly to interrupt and, eventually, change.  It’s going to take a lot more work.  It’s going to take more people, like Wade Davis, stepping up and coming out as who they really are.  In some cases, I understand that that’s a hard thing to do.  I get it.  But, it’s so incredibly important.  Our LGBT youth are counting on us, the LGBT adults, our friends and families, and our supporters.  In too many cases, lives are depending on it.
I can’t think of any better reason than that.

Love and Determination

leave a comment »

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

Love is ALL That Matters

with 3 comments

I was perusing the facebook blog page and ran across a link to an article that caught my attention.  I followed the link, read the article, and cried.  I couldn’t figure out why it made me cry at that moment.  It just touched a place in my soul that’s sensitive.  Then, I saw another post, reminding people that I was the guest writer of the month on a very popular anti-hate website.  In the reminder, he told his audience that I was writing about my childhood experiences.  Then, it made sense.  The tears were coming from that still-bruised 12-year-old.  You have to read the article to understand.

In a nutshell, the link led me to a lengthy comment to an article from another blogger, “I’m a Christian, Unless You’re Gay” which, itself, is a rather lengthy article.  Lengthy but very worthwhile.  Correction:  lengthy but a must-read!!!  The article is powerful.  It’s powerful because the author, Dan Pearce, is speaking the truth on a topic that far too many people shy away from.  It’s powerful because it hits the nail right on the head.  It’s top-dead-center.  Perfect.  It’s what I’ve been saying, in one form or another, here in this blog.  But, wait!  For as powerful as the article, itself, is, the article isn’t what this is about.  The message he sends is, in a nutshell, love is all that matters.

Writing such powerful articles, straightforward, honest, and real is certain to evoke plenty of emotions and get overwhelming responses.  THAT’S what this is about.  The still-bruised 12-year-old who resides inside of me connected with that lengthy comment that was left by one of his readers.  A teacher gave this article to his class and told them to write about it.  In that class was a 15-year-old gay student.  The article resonated with him.  See, in his Christian home, in his community, homosexuality wasn’t just frowned upon:  it was more like the ultimate sin.  As such, he’d lived his entire life buried deeply, and safely, in the closet.  That is until he was handed this assignment and read it.  The comment was written by his devoutly Christian, deeply homophobic mother.

We see it everywhere.  We see it in the news regularly.  We see it in communities across the country, and around the world.  We see it in our homes.  We hear it from certain politicians.  We hear it from some religious “leaders”.  The message is clear:  God hates gays!!!  In God’s eyes, gays are condemned to hell.  Sick.  Disgusting.  Perverted.  The list goes on.  The message is picked up by the LGBT youth across the country and around the world.  The results…well, we’re seeing the results.  The results are being manifested in the bullying we’re seeing that’s leading far-too-many LGBT teens to suicide.  The results are being manifested in the lack of self-esteem that far-too-many LGBT teens experience that leads them to depression, drug-abuse, and eventually suicide.  Here’s the real deal:  this message is being sent by people who call themselves Christians.  In their own minds, and in their own warped visions of religion, they are “doing God’s will”.  The wake-up call is that God Doesn’t Hate!  I say this a lot, and I say it for good reason:  1 John 4:8 could not be any clearer.  “God is love”.

The core message in Dan’s article is one that I’ve been saying all the while:  in order to change the culture of hatred and intolerance that plagues our society, the one that leads to the bullying and violence we’re seeing towards our LGBT teens, the one that’s leading to far, far-too-many LGBT teen suicides, we have to start with the adults.  Look, no one is born hating.  No one is born intolerant.  We’re born to love.  Plain and simple.  We’re taught hatred and intolerance.  Young people are taught that it’s ok, and in some cases accepted and expected, for them to treat people who are different than themselves harshly.  With disdain.  With disgust.  With hatred.  With intolerance.  Especially if they’re gay or lesbian…real or perceived.  And, they are being taught that from certain political “leaders”, some religious “leaders”, and from their own parents.  Meanwhile, in many of these ultra-conservative, “religious” homes resides an LGBT teen who are being destroyed from the inside out by the nastiness and disgust they hear coming from their parents’ mouths.  The end result is usually bad news.  On the other side of the coin, in many of these ultra-conservative, “religious” homes, there are impressionable teens hearing mom and dad saying those very same words of disgust and intolerance, being taught to live “right”, live up to the parents’ expectations, and pass their hatred and intolerance on to any classmate he or she may have who is even perceived to be gay or lesbian.  The end result is equally bad news.

Here’s the real deal:  it is time for people to start speaking up for love, to start speaking up against hate…in all forms.  It’s the only way we’re going to change our culture.  It’s the only way we’re going to start seeing the incidences of bullying, hatred, violence and intolerance towards LGBT teens or anybody perceived to be different.  And, it’s the only way we’re ever going to start seeing the number of teen suicides, LGBT and straight, begin to reduce.  Regardless of what Fred and his group of loonies say, God does not “hate fags”.  In fact, God doesn’t hate.  Remember that.  God is love.  And, love is all that matters!

Thanks, Adriana.   And, thanks Dan!!!

Celebrating Acceptance: Dad gets “Born This Way” Tattoo!!

with one comment

What a marvelous story of acceptance!!  At a time when we’re grasping and struggling for acceptance, at a time when we’re losing teen after teen after LGBT teen to suicide because of a lack thereof, we get this heartwarming story from Jessica Romani about her brother, Dylan.

Dylan, who is bisexual, went through all of the usual trials and tribulations that nearly all LGBT teens experience.  He knew at a very young age that he was “different”.  He struggled with acceptance of himself!  And, of course, he was bullied.  Or, according to Jessica, he dealt with “extreme bullying”.

In Dylan’s own words, “…I was so scared of what he would do or think or say because he’s a tough guy and i am his only son so I didn’t want to be a disappointment or anything.”  That sounds familiar.  What he found, instead, was the surprise of his life.  Fred Romani, the dad, in an amazing show of unconditional love and acceptance, got the Lady Gaga-inspired catch-phrase, “Born This Way” tattooed in Italian on his wrist.  Dylan already had it on his.  You have to watch the video to see the reaction to it.

When I read Jessica’s and Dylan’s description of their dad, the image comes to mind of the stereotypical testosterone-driven Italian male.  Sylvester Stallone.  Santino Corleone.  Fred Romani showed, however, that macho men also have a heart.  Especially when it comes to family.  Even moreso, I would say, when it comes to his only son!  It’s that show of unconditional love and acceptance, even if he doesn’t yet fully understand what his son is going through, that makes the most significant difference.  It’s that acceptance that, say, EricJames Borges was looking for but got the opposite, instead.  And, we know where that led.  The mental and emotional health of young Dylan Romani grew exponentially by Fred’s gesture of support.  That’s what makes this story so important.  And, quite touching.

I first viewed this video, and story, yesterday on Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, the social network super page that is helping so many people, LGBT and straight alike, and saving lives.  It’s stories like this that makes us realize that love really is winning the war over hate.  For Fred, an old school Italian dad, to reach out to his young, struggling son with such a loving gesture, and then to see Dylan’s caught-off-guard, stunned reaction speaks volumes to the power of love and acceptance.

The hope, of course, is that this video will catch on and go viral so that people all over the world can see with their own eyes the sheer power of unconditional love and acceptance.  Dylan’s tears of joy say it all.  If more families showed their LGBT teens this type of support….  Well, you know.  Let’s hope that this video is a harbinger of things to come.

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!!!

leave a comment »

I’ve always said that the world would be a better place if every single gay, bi, lesbian, and transgender person in the world would just come out.  En masse, if necessary.  That way, there would be no remaining doubt that we truly are everywhere.  We’re your sons and daughters; we’re your teachers and preachers; we’re the beat cop and the sentencing judge; we’re your doctor, your lawyer, your boss.  Imagine the difference it would make for the LGBT teen struggling with his or her identity, trying to figure out if they’ll be ok or all alone in this cruel ol’ world.  Of course, that day may never come and for a myriad reasons.

One of the biggest obstacles, as we all know, is fear.  That’s a hard one to overcome.  The “what if” pill is a very hard one to swallow?  “What if” I come out and lose all of my patients?  “What if” I come out and they void my Major League contract? (ask Glenn Burke about that one)  “What if” I come out and get ridiculed at school.  “What if” my family rejects me if I come out?  Well, what if you could come out anonymously?  What if you could write a letter to dear ol’ Dad, or the guy who plays baseball on your team, or to your students and tell them your innermost feelings WITHOUT identifying who you are?  Imagine the healing and growth that would come from that.  The simple act of getting it out of your system and committing it to paper is therapeutic in itself.  Add the shield of anonymity, and it’s a wonderful tool.

Meet Charity Smith.  Charity is, in her words, a 30-year-old, half-queer lady living in Frederick, MD.  Charity’s vision was to create a page where any and everyone could go and come out anonymously.  And, it’s catching on.  Sometimes, coming out is a very hard traumatic thing to do.  It’s not always easy to sit across the dinner table and tell the family that you’re as queer as a three dollar bill.  Telling the wide-receiver that you’ve been throwing to for the past three years that you think he’s really hot and that you’d love to go out with him would be right next to impossible to do.  Unless you were able to do it anonymously.

Project:  OUT, Charity’s creation, is exactly that anonymous coming out project.  It encourages members of the LGBT community to share their stories safely by mailing anonymous letters to  whomever it is one would feel the need to come out to.  By keeping it anonymous, the writer is able to be completely open, completely honest about their feelings with the safety net of knowing that no one will ever know who wrote it.  Brilliant idea.

From my perspective, it is my hope that every single struggling LGBT teen will find this page and begin to utilize the unique therapy that Charity has provided.  Imagine the weight off of their shoulders as they begin to open up and pour their thoughts and feelings onto paper!  It is my hope that this will be a catalyst to ending the current plague of LGBT teen suicides.  Time will tell.  Project:  OUT certainly has the potential for making that difference.

Charity’s mission is to provide a clear-cut platform for those who are truly closeted to come out, even if anonymously.  At the time of this writing, nearly 7,000 people apparently like the idea enough to have “liked” the page, thus becoming members of the Project:  OUT community.  Now, it’s time to see those number grow.  I know that there are a lot of people who can, and will, benefit from Charity’s vision.  In a community that’s burgeoning with people committed to making a difference, to making the world a better place for everyone, Charity Smith is a rising star!

Keep the letters coming!

Written by Ron Kemp

January 15, 2012 at 3:32 am