Joe Mirabella

Homophobia Kills

Filed By Joe Mirabella | September 30, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Dan Savage, hate crimes against LGBT people, homophobic behavior, LGBT, school, suicide, transphobia

Homophobia kills. It kills. I don't know how else to say it. It kills. It kills. Homophobia kills.

Seth_Walsh.jpgHate is killing young men and woman every day. Just this month alone the media reported 4 suicides because of anti-gay bullying.

Truth Wins Out reported:

  • Seth Walsh, the Bakersfield, CA 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support. Police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself. "Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears," Police Chief Jeff Kermode said. "They had never expected an outcome such as this."

  • Asher Brown, 13, an eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston Texas. Brown, his family said, was "bullied to death" -- picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.

  • Billy (William) Lucas, 15, a student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, IN, was found dead in a barn at his grandmother's home Thursday evening -- he had hanged himself. Friends say that he had been tormented for years. "He was threatened to get beat up every day," friend and classmate Nick Hughes said. "Sometimes in classes, kids would act like they were going to punch him and stuff and push him. Some people at school called him names," Hughes said, saying most of those names questioned Lucas' sexual orientation.

On Wednesday Tyler Clementi took his life after his college roommate secretly broadcast webcam footage of Tyler making out with another young man without his knowledge. Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge in New York. He was an accomplished violinist, a son, and a young man with his entire life ahead of him.

What kind of society have we created that our children and teenagers think it is OK to torment their gay and lesbian peers to death? It is easy to point blame. From churches who preach that being gay is a sin, to a government that treats gays and lesbians and transgender people as second class citizens, to families who push their gay youth to the streets, to schools who refuse to stop bullying -- the list goes on as the list of the young dead grows longer.

I am tormented as I write this post because I know how deeply depressing it can be at that age. I was so afraid and sad and closeted that the simplest form of bullying could have sent me over the edge. I'm certainly grateful I survived. I have the love of my life sitting next to me now. I have a fulfilling career, supporting parents, and a network of friends that build me up. I would never want to give up my life as a gay man today. When I was a teenager, I could never have said that, but as Dan Savage and thousands of his fans have said on YouTube, "It Gets Better."

Sadly this message of hope did not reach them in time. I think of all the amazing gay, lesbian, and transgender people I know. Their lives are valuable and beautiful. Their contributions to humanity will last well beyond their natural lives. I could not imagine a world without them. What a loss that would be.

We have to save our youth now, so their light can burn on. Hate kills, but it doesn't have to if we were just brave enough as a society to hate once and for all.

But to reach an ideal that lofty we have to start somewhere. S. 3739, the Safe Schools Improvement Act is designed to end bullying in schools. It must pass now.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts there is help. The Trevor Project is there for you. Call 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.

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Angela Brightfeather | September 30, 2010 6:13 PM

I deplore the fact that this loss of life has to happen before people begin to wake up and realize that it is and always has been homophobia that we have been fighting as the common enemy of all GLBT people. It is the riit problem of all of our issues and before we really can make advances and better our lives, it must be excized from our society.

More than any other issue, and there are so many that have diverted our attention recently, it is homophobia that we should b e fighting the hardest on. Not SSM, not ENDA and not DADT! if we had been fighting harder to end homophobia, all those otgher issues would fall into line and the fights on them would be much easier and less expensive.

These recent deaths have proven that even with a Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill that did pass, the hate continues but on a different and more unseen level. While Trans people are still openly murdered in the streets, now the homophobes have resorted to more sublimial ways to exact the same results with gays and lesbians.

It is our common enemy and it is the reason and grounds for us to fight as a GLBT community, united against homophobia. Those who seek to dismantle or separate us as a community based on sex and gender differences, only become complicite to these deaths and delay the needed changes.

The Today Show is featuring a story on Asher Brown as I type this. It's so sad and unfortunate that this kind of thing STILL happens. I remember the hell I (and MANY others) endured in school, but personally, I had become complacent to a point that I actually believed that the younger generations had become much more tolerant than they were back in the day.

Asher was a cute kid with a lot of potential, stifled and eventually snuffed out by bigotry stemming from sheer ignorance and religious intolerance taught to his bullying peers, the children of parents who made us feel so horrible when we were young.

These instances illustrate the dire need for positive GLBT images and role models in every community. Harvey Milk believed that the "invisibility" of gays lead to the negative social stigmas of his time, and this idea, apparently, still rings true today.

Being "out" in a small community isn't easy, to be sure, but if you happen to be out in a small town, at least your presence could encourage GLBT kids, and hopefully send a positive message that "it gets better" beyond the world of teachers, lockers, books, and bullys...

Mitch Weitzman | October 1, 2010 12:58 PM

(My prayers and tears for the 4 members of our family who took the permanant solution to the temporary problem last month.)
WHO'S WORSE? THE BULLY OR THOSE WHO ALLOW IT? If the bully is retaliated against, scorned and rejected, would he bully anymore? Doubt it!
I remember falling in love with with my friend, then being told by him and others that it wasn't socially acceptable and we couldn't be. Then they sent him away to Straight for reprogramming. I got outed during all that.
I remember dealing with people and suddenly noticing THAT look on their face.I remember THAT crowd coming down the hall. I remember having to go to THAT class again. Sure enough, there they were. And here comes asshole to MC it once again with an entire receptive audience either laughing (majority)or doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! (That includes teachers and administrators.) So WTF is going on here? Rules not enforced?! I stand up and get in trouble?! The IN crowd gets a gold pass? The first and last time I brought a gun to school was one of the most terrifying days of my life. Worst bullying ever from that chunk of steel in my book bag. (And its really hard to get bullets at 16 in 1985)
So, what's the answer?? Suicide? No. I internalized it. Therapy failed. I thought I was crazy and wrong. Got a psych eval later and turned out to be ADHD inattentive and quite sane. The rest is the cool part that made me happy I didn't off myself.
Then one day, I caught this kid, an out 8th grader in the bible belt, being cyber bullied on myspace by his local tormentors. Myspace wouldn't take it down!! I watched the vid and got angrier and angrier.(Understatement, it sent me into a blind rage!) I had my credit card out! I was gonna UPS my .45's ahead, fly down there and do home invasions! Then, epiphany! A liar, cheat, thief being broadcast for all to see and hear is a fate far worse than death! I didn't care if it trashed my career to defend this kid. I commented on the vid, they bullied me back. They were only throwing gasoline on the church BBQ. At the end, I had them fearing for their very lives and low and behold, they left this kid ALONE! The kid and I became friends.(More risk)I got to be virtually there from then on. Kid turned out to be a musical prodigy and got a full scholarship to a great arts college instead of hanging from a tree. He beat the odds! I got in no trouble! For me, I'm not gonna take it ever again for myself or anyone else! Stand up! Fight! There's NO loyalty amongst their selfish, self centered, image consumed 'friends'! Please believe me on this one. Others will join you! You'll inspire hope and more action! It gets waaaaay better, believe me!

The title of this of this article should be "Bigotry Kills," or the even more accurate "Religiously Taught Bigotry Kills."

Christian beliefs grant permission to bullying by making the victim wrong or deviant. When will a Christian denomination end that teaching/belief? It would save lives.

I'm still betting on MCC.

Friday, October 1, 2010
Brody's Scribbles... A Symptom Of A Larger Problem In Our Society

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) OCT 1 | Twelve years ago this month, a 21 year old university student was tied to a fence on a cold starlit night, in a pasture outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and pistol whipped so severely that his distraught parents couldn't even recognise him later as he laid dying in an intensive care unit in hospital. He was beaten solely because he was Gay. That student's name? Matthew Shepard.

After the tragedies of this past month, where four bright loving and promising young lives were snuffed out by suicide, as a direct result of anti-Gay bullying, it becomes readily apparent that Americans as a society and culture have not gained a solitary lesson from the death of young Matthew in the intervening years.

The common thread to all of these deaths is religious intolerance that has been sanctioned as a political and societal acceptable mainstream reality. The anti-gay religious brigade is nothing more than a faux love masquerading their hatred. The hypocrisy of the religious must not be allowed to sanction the deaths of teenagers, or justify the actions of the bullies. Religious intolerance must be eradicated, not tolerated, and if the religions want to survive, then they have to be told to stop bullying the people in their own bedrooms.

I happened across the following comment posted by a 'bear54f' on a ABCNews follow-up story to the most recent death, that of 18 year old Tyler Clementi, from Rutgers University in New Jersey:

This is a terrible tragedy and in my view more than a simple invasion of privacy. It is a symptom, I think, of a larger problem in our society. The actions of the two students resulted in the death of a gifted and by all reports brilliant and good person. It is interesting to see, on this website and others reporting this story, the diversity of opinion about whether the roommate and his friend should be punished and how.

I am an older gay man and was not bullied in this way only because I hide my sexual orientation and never discussed it with my parents or friends in high school because it was a time when that was just not done. So I was not bullied about being gay, however I can understand what the young man must have felt being exposed in this particularly cruel and cavalier way.

While in many ways younger people feel more free to express themselves about their sexual orientation, society in general has not caught up to most of our young people in their attitudes about homosexuality. It is obvious that Mr. Clementi was not comfortable enough with his sexuality and his tragic reaction to the actions of his roommate is very sad and troubling. Perhaps he felt he had no other choice and that makes this situation much more troubling.

It occurred to me that this may rise to the level of involuntary manslaughter as the actions of Mr. Clementi's tormentors led to his death. I am not a lawyer and so I am not sure of the legalities but I do think that the roommate and his accomplice should be held accountable for their actions, which resulted in this tragic death.
The world has been deprived of someone who by all reports was a talented, sensitive and good person and we as a society cannot let his passing to go unpunished. Is it not time for us as citizens stand up do something to protect the many young people who are being bullied simply because they are different for whatever reason?

It is troubling to see comments, on this website and others carrying this story, by those who believe that those persons who perpetrated this horror should not bear the consequences of their actions and believe that the victim, Mr. Clementi, is solely responsible for his suicide. We as a society really should examine ourselves and decide if we are going to continue to marginalize and demonize those who are different from us and while we regret the ending of a life do nothing to prevent this kind of thing in the future.

At what point does the public connect the dots? When does it become patently obvious that America's religious leadership needs to be held accountable for the domino effect that the message of Homosexuality is a sin and an abomination is directly attributable to the marginalisation of the LGBT citizens which in turn makes it acceptable in some minds to beat, harass, and in the case of some, kill?

A week before Tyler Clementi took that fatal plunge from New York's George Washington bridge, comedian and author Jim David wrote the following op-ed, "How Many Teens Have To Die Before Focus On the Family Gives A Damn?" Which succinctly states the case:

Another teenager killed himself because of bullying and anti-gay harassment. This one was in Minnesota, and his name was Justin Aaberg. The local news report is here. School officials, wary of conservative protests, did nothing.

This comes on the heels of the suicide of another teenager in Indiana, one who never actually said whether he was gay but who was mercilessly harassed nonetheless. His name was Billy Lucas. The local news report is here. Again, school officials did nothing.

Eleven-year-old Jaheem Herrera of Atlanta hanged himself with a belt. His mother had complained to the school authorities about the bullying he endured, but they did nothing. Seventeen-year-old Eric Mohat of Mentor, Ohio killed himself after being called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo," and after a student said, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself? No one will miss you."

Eleven-year-old Carl Hoover of Springfield, Mass., hanged himself with an extension cord. School officials did nothing.

These are just the ones who lately made the news.
Focus on the Family, a right-wing lobbying group that fronts as a religious organization, pays lip service to the bullying issue, but wants no mention of homosexuality in schools because it might encourage kids to be gay -- this in spite of the fact that the vast majority of bullying is directed at teens who either appear to be gay or are actually out, not those who are fat or wear glasses.

If Focus on the Family thinks that the mere mention of the topic will prompt impressionable children to suddenly turn gay, they need to immediately see a neurosurgeon. They do anyway, but that's a another story.

Same for the Family Research Council, a right-wing lobbying group that fronts as a religious organization that purports to be helping families, but does nothing to help families with gay members in them. In fact, they're part of the problem; in the guise of fighting a "gay agenda" in the schools, they help to make the actual problem worse.

School officials, running scared from screaming religious fanatics and conservative parents who have bought into the lies of Focus and FRC, are afraid to actually address the issue. Sometimes school officials are religious fanatics themselves. It's the same with teen pregnancy. By merely saying "abstinence only," they do nothing to help teens, who are going to be sexually active whether school officials like it or not, make sane choices. There's a reason why teen pregnancies are highest in the most conservative, religious states.

But don't take my word for it; look it up.
Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and similar groups don't actually give a damn about these kids or their families. They couldn't care less how many of them are beaten within an inch of their lives or actually take their own lives. What matters to them is power, influence, and promoting an extreme religious agenda to help them hang on to said power and influence. They are deathly afraid that some of the kids might not grow up to be as bigoted as they are.

The facts are that when schools actually mention sexuality, bullying goes down. It's been proven time and time again. When schools say some generic thing like, "Uh, leave other kids alone for any reason, please," it makes no difference whatsoever. Kids need to be told these things explicitly. They're kids.

The documentary For the Bible Tells Me So includes first-person testimony by a mother who raised her gay daughter ccording to the teachings of Dr. James Dobson, former head of Focus on the Family. The daughter killed herself. Dobson, of course, said nothing.

Lost in the hysteria of Quran-burning and mosque-building is the clear and present danger to our youth, and society in general, by these American "religious" organizations, their teachings, their agenda and their political influence with equally insane right-wing politicians, who callously turn away when the clear evidence of the atmosphere they help create manifests itself.

In the name of Almighty God, they are evil. How about some good old Tea-Party-type energy directed againstthese people?

What's the difference between the Taliban and the Focus on the Family? About 7000 miles.

You are correct, Bigotry Kills.

Christian sponsored bigotry continues to kill innocent young people.