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

Posts Tagged ‘Trevor Project

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.

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More on EricJames Borges

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If I could, I’d give $1,000,000 to the first person who could explain to me how being an “extreme Christian” is any different that being a neo-Nazi.  Their hatred is destructive, not to mention very UN-Christ-like.  “Disgusting”?  “Damned to Hell”?  Those sound like two pretty good descriptions, to me, of some of these hate-mongers who hide behind the cloak of God and religion.  If “zero tolerance” on bullying is our goal, if we’re seeking to increase the penalties levied on those who bully, EricJames’ “parents” should be right there on the front cover of the Zero Tolerance manifesto.

When the story of young EricJames first hit yesterday, the details were still being formulated.  Now that there is more information, his suicide becomes all the more heartbreaking.  Demoralizing.  And, for me at least, maddening.  EricJames was a rising superstar with a beautiful soul.  He would’ve been a difference maker.  A game breaker.  His talents and his passion for helping others would have affected many, many people.

As an intern with The Trevor Project, he worked to prevent teen suicide in the LGBT community.  He created his own “It Gets Better” video a month to the day before his suicide.  The video is well made and very well scripted.  In viewing it, however, I’m not convinced that HE was convinced that the words he were saying held validity.  Who could blame him, given his circumstances?

And, the parents.  I am serious with my contention that they need to be brought up on charges like any other person who bullies a person to death.  As we see the wave of support, nationwide, continue to swell in favor of punishing people guilty of bullycide, these people should absolutely be held accountable for EricJames’ death.  His mother performed an exorcism on him!  Are you serious!?  Then, to further trample his self-esteem, they called him very UNGodly names and, for the knock out blow, kick him out of the house…effectively banishing him from the family.

So, here he is:  19-years-old, just coming out of the closet, starting college, and condemned and abandoned by his family.  Stop for a second and just imagine the inner pain and turmoil he was going through.  Now, multiply what you just imagined ten-fold.

The coming out process is supposed to be liberating, not a death sentence.  Your first year of college is supposed to be an adventure, a new beginning, a coming of age, not a horrific continuation of the bullying and harassment endured in middle and high school.  Family is supposed to be your foundation, the people you can always turn to when times are overwhelming, real or imagined.  I can speak from experience when I say that that’s a myth that truly needs to be abolished.  However, even with the shithole of a family that I was saddled with, I can say that they were never abusive.  They weren’t nasty, mean-spirited, or evil about it.  They just shut the door on me.  In EricJames case, they may as well have held a to his temple and pulled the trigger themselves.

Like so many of the young suicide victims, in particular LGBT teens, I steadfastly believe that EricJames was merely trying to convince himself that it really is possible for a young LGBT person to find real love in a world that exhibits such hatred and intolerance.  Surely, his parents showed him that he was not lovable.  The ones who bullied him throughout his life taught him that he was not acceptable.  For me, the saddest memory of EricJames’ life will be the short film he created and produced.  In the film, you can see him in the throes of love and passion.  It wasn’t enough to sustain him.  The unspoken subtext to the film is obvious, but I love his words.

Love is universal.  It has the strength to decimate the threshold of all prejudice, all inequity.  Human relationships, and those who come into our lives, have the ability to ultimately shape who we are.  There is importance in loving each other the way each of us truly deserves….

Makes me cry every time.  You’re at peace now, EricJames.

Eric James Borges, 19, May You Rest Peacefully

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Suicide has claimed yet another teen and another teen from the LGBT community.  Eric James Borges, known to his friends as EricJames, died Wednesday, January 11, 2012.  He was a 19-year-old intern with The Trevor Project.  Sadly, even being involved with that group couldn’t save him.

Like many victims of suicide before him, Eric wanted to help others even as he was struggling with his own situations.  Eric was dealt a troubling hand right from birth as he was unwanted by his birth parents.  Still, he navigated his way through 19 turbulent years, interning with The Trevor Project and becoming a Supplemental Instructor at the College of the Sequoias.  And, through it all, a look at his facebook page info reveals a positive young mind with a great spirit and passion to live…and give.

To the family and friends of EricJames, we offer our condolences and prayers.

To everyone else, I say never stop trying to reach these young people.  Listen carefully to what they have to say.  Lives are depending on it.  We’ll never know if a compassionate ear would’ve saved EricJames.  All we can do at this point is say Rest in Peace, EricJames.  You were a rising star.