October 14, 2010

Queer Issue: Bullied to Death.

I intend to talk about a very sensitive and personal issue here. I make no apologies for what I am about to say here nor do I believe that I have any reason to hide now from the public eye events that occurred years ago.

Recently, news reports have focused in on a string of suicides committed by LGBTQA teenagers. They have successfully brought to light a serious problem, one that is not new, but has existed for decades. While this issue is now in the public eye, I have decided to talk in detail about my own experiences during my senior year of high-school.

It started while I was working on my Boy Scout Eagle Project. For those who don't know, the Eagle Scout award is the highest rank in Boy Scouts.

My memory is a little fuzzy on the details. I remember that on the last day of my Eagle Scout project, which was a Sunday, I can remember making some excuse to my Mom to skip church. Once I was alone I got a knife and proceeded to try and slit my wrists.

I don't remember now, why I wanted to kill myself. Nor do I recall, what compelled me several weeks later to try and suffocate myself with duct tape on my 18th birthday. I'm not sure either, as to my motivations when I found myself in front of the garage with a plan to park my mom's car inside and leave it running.

What would drive anyone to do this?

I can come up with only one rational answer. By living in perpetual fear. By being told that being queer was something to be ashamed of. That being queer is inferior, gross, and disgusting. That queers should not be seen or heard in public. That you should never, ever tell anyone who you were.

This is the message that was not sent to just me, but sent and reinforced to every queer teen in this country by their peers, parents, teachers, social institutions, the media, and even our government. Don't ask Don't tell has been the mantra of the U.S. Military and the Boy Scouts of America. That's so gay! was the in way of expressing disdain for anything "dumb" or "stupid" for as long as I can remember.

Should I wonder now, why I did what I did? Is it any surprise, that after I found the will to stand up in front of a class of my peers and tell them that I was gay, that I never once tried to commit suicide again?

I'd like to make a few points in closing:

1) It's important to note that bullying of anyone is a problem. Children and teenagers need to understand that picking on, insulting, or intimidating their peers, is absolutely unacceptable.

2) While media attention has been pointed towards a few recent suicides of LGBTQA youth, let us not forget that this is an on going issue, involving many, many more people. And it is not limited to queer youth, but the scope and problem of bullying expands even further.

3) In my experience, society in the form of teachers, parents, clergy and other authority figures, frequently reinforce the idea to youth, that simply being different (in any way) is somehow "wrong".

And so, let us not forget about those who have gone before. Those who were bullied for being different. Those who were victims for no other reason then being themselves. That is all I ask.

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