'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Death of Seth Walsh (Part 2) 

This is just one of the many candid, biographical videos of gays and lesbians describing how they overcame bullying and familial and community ostracism to live fulfilling lives as adults.

They are part of the It Gets Better project launched by columnist Dan Savage. He was inspired to do after the suicide of Billy Lucas in Greensberg, Indiana earlier this month:

Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother’s property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body.

Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment at school, and gay teens are four times likelier to attempt suicide. Many LGBT kids who do kill themselves live in rural areas, exurbs, and suburban areas, places with no gay organizations or services for queer kids.

“My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas,” a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. “I wish I could have told you that things get better.”

I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

Indeed, Billy was treated horribly by his classmates:

He was a teenager who didn't quite fit in. His classmates said Billy Lucas was bullied for being different.

The 15-year-old never told anyone he was gay but students at Greensburg High School thought he was and so they picked on him.

People would call him 'fag' and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he's different basically," said student Dillen Swango.

Students told Fox59 News it was common knowledge that children bullied Billy and from what they said, it was getting worse. Last Thursday, Billy's mother found him dead inside their barn. He had hung himself.

Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself.

They said stuff like 'you're like a piece of crap' and 'you don't deserve to live.' Different things like that. Talked about how he was gay or whatever," said Swango.

Not surprisingly, it's not a new phenomenon at Greensberg High School:

It's a common problem inside Greensburg High School that goes way back.

I was bullied several times because I was gay. I was called f**, queer. i was thrown up against lockers. I would tell the school officials about it and they would dismiss it," said a former student who did not want to be identified.

Furthermore, it is important to note that, according to his mother, Lucas wasn't gay, although her statements are tinged with language of fundamentalist denial. So, it's not just gay teens at risk, but anyone that bullies like the ones in Greensberg and Techachapi believe are gay. They abuse their gay peers and seek to enforce their code of conduct by calling non-conformist students gay and bullying them as well. Next thing you know, they will be bullying straight kids who support the gay ones.

And, then, there's the suicide of Asher Brown in Houston, Texas:

Brown was found dead on the floor of his stepfather's closet at the family's home in the 11700 block of Cypresswood about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. He used his stepfather's 9 mm Beretta, stored on one of the closet's shelves, to kill himself. He left no note. David Truong found the teen's body when he arrived home from work.

On the morning of his death, the teen told his stepfather he was gay, but Truong said he was fine with the disclosure. We didn't condemn, he said.

His parents said Brown had been called names and endured harassment from other students since he joined Cy-Fair ISD two years ago. As a result, he stuck with a small group of friends who suffered similar harassment from other students, his parents said.

His most recent humiliation occurred the day before his suicide, when another student tripped Brown as he walked down a flight of stairs at the school, his parents said.

When Brown hit the stairway landing and went to retrieve his book bag, the other student kicked his books everywhere and kicked Brown down the remaining flight of stairs, the Truongs said.

Durham said that incident was investigated, but turned up no witnesses or video footage to corroborate the couple's claims.

Savage and the participants in the It Gets Better effort couldn't reach kids like Walsh and Brown and even Lucas, because these videos aren't just for gays and lesbians, they are for everyone. But, hopefully, they will reach them in the future, and perhaps make a critical difference in someone's life.

NOTE OF CLARIFICATION: For those of you have thoughtfully challenged my willingness to compare these deaths to the lynchings of African Americans, please consider that the bullies of gay and suspected gay teens have actually induced the victims to inflict the same violence upon themselves that lynch mobs directed towards African Americans. Walsh and Lucas hung themselves, and Brown shot himself. In this, they can be said to have improved upon the technique.

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