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Vigil For Society’s Casualties

October 2, 2010

 

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From AlterNet
Posted by Antoine

NYU LGBT and Delta Lambda Phi host “Glowlight Vigil”

For the families of the five young men who committed suicide, September 2010 is a month and a year they would not likely ever forget. These families and others around the nation were rudely awakened to the stark reality of the effects of how vicious and callous homophobia, hatred and bullying was to their sons. By their deaths, these young men have become present day martyrs, expressing through their still, lifeless bodies, what they couldn’t say alive: giving their lives to remove the pain raging in their minds, wanting to let the hurt, rejection, and loneliness stop and drawing attention to the suffering many others endure for who they are. By their deaths, they screamed to the world that young male and gay between the ages of 13 and 20 are the most vulnerable members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Their deaths have roused many to the perils of those who are young and struggling with their sexual identity and acceptance in today’s society.

A New York University LGBT organization and Delta Lambda Phi plan to host a “Glowlight Vigil” in Washington Square Park at 9:00pm on Sunday, Oct 3.

Below is a list of six young men who felt powerless and so devoid of hope that the only choice they felt existed was to remove themselves from this life. A common theme in all the stories surrounding the reasons why they killed themselves is focused on bullying, name-calling, homophobia and other derogatory comments against young men who were at their most fragile; their sexual identity, like a chrysalis emerging from the protection of the cocoon.


Justin Aaberg, 15, Anoka, Minnesota – Hung himself

Justin was a talented and accomplished cellist, and a composer. On Friday, Jul 9, just weeks after completing freshman year at Anoka High, Justin hanged himself in this bedroom. His mother and two brothers found him. Tammy Aaberg said, “I touched him, because I just couldn’t believe it. I thought I was in a nightmare, and he was so cold and I just screamed and ran out and called 911.” Justin’s mother said she knew for about a year that he was gay, and feared for his safety. But, when he died, she began to hear from other students of how he was harassed and bullied at the school. Justin’s death was part of a series of seven suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in the past year, where some of the students who killed themselves were gay. There are concerns that bullying at the school pushed many over the edge.



Billy Lucas, 15, Greensburg, Indiana – Hung himself

According to WXIN Fox 59, on Thursday, Sept 9, Billy’s mother found him hanging in the family’s barn. To many, it seemed as though he didn’t quite fit in. Some of his classmates said he was bullied for being different, but even though he never told anyone he was gay, he was picked on because the other students thought he was. Students told reporters that the bullying against Billy had become worse, and on the same day he died, some students had told him to “kill” himself. One student, Dillen Swango said, “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.” School principal, Phil Chapple doesn’t deny that students are bullied in the high school, but he said he didn’t know Billy was one of the victims. A Facebook page dedicated as a memorial to Billy, with close to 6,000 followers included some who acknowledged that they knew he was bullied, “everyone made fun of him.” Bullying at Greensburg High School is a practice with a long history, and according to the principal, “We’re discussing where we are going. Where we are looking to establish a committee.” One former student, who did not want to be identified, said that he was bullied several times because he is gay, “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. I can’t help but take it personally because when all of this was happening to me I was the same age he was. I also attempted to commit suicide.”


Asher Brown, 13, Cypress, Texas – Shot himself

According to the Houston Chronicle, on Thursday, Sept 21 at about 4:30 pm Asher used his stepfather’s 9mm Bereta and shot himself in the head, leaving a note. The family said that in the morning he told his stepfather that he was gay. But the family said that Asher was constantly harassed by four students at the Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, he was “bullied to death” — picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. His mother and stepfather said that while some of the kids accused him of being gay, others performed mock gay acts on him in his physical education class. The parents said they complained to school officials who did nothing. School officials said that they had not received any complaints, which angered Asher’s parents, who called for justice and suggested a cover up to protect the four students who constantly bullied their son. But comments from other parents and students on a Website for a local television station, KRIV-TV Channel 26, said that Asher had been bullied for several years with school officials doing nothing to stop it. The day before his death, Asher reported to his parents that another student tripped him as he walked down a flight of stairs at the school, and when he hit the stairway landing and went to retrieve his book bag, the other student kicked his books out of reach and then kicked Asher down the remaining flight of stairs.



Seth Walsh, 13, Tehachapi, California – Hung himself

Seth loved to sing and dance, swim, and perhaps most of all, laugh, The Bakersfield Californianreported. He also had big plans, together with his best friend, Jamie Elaine Phillips, they were going to travel to France when they were adults. CBS NewsCrimesider reported that on Sunday, Sept 19, Seth hanged himself from a tree in the back yard of his home. He was discovered unconscious, cut down and rushed to hospital where he remained on life support for eight days, finally succumbing to his injuries in the afternoon of Monday, Sept 27. Friends told NBC affiliate KGET that Seth had been picked on for years because he was gay. Some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself said that they did not think their actions constituted a crime. “Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.” While reports state that on the day he hung himself, he had encountered a group of teens in a park; details of what transpired remain unclear. Seth’s grandparents confirmed Thursday that their grandson was gay, and had known he was gay since he was in the third grade. Kermode said an ongoing investigation has determined Seth was bullied for at least the past two years. While bullying itself is not a crime, police are looking at any underlying crimes that may have occurred, such as assault, vandalism or criminal threats. According to TehachapiNews.com, Seth’s mother, Judy Walsh said, “He was different. He knew he was different. He was a very loving boy, very kind. He had a beautiful smile. He liked fashion, his friends, talking on the phone. He was artistic and very bright.” She hopes her son’s death is a wake up call to the community to “develop more tolerance for different people.”


Tyler Clementi, 18, Ridgewood, New Jersey – Jumped off the George Washington Bridge, NYC

Sometime on Wednesday, Sept 22, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River, linking New York with New Jersey. When his body was recovered, according to the New York Daily News, the 18-year-old’s cause of death was suicide by drowning. Tyler’s final act came three days after another 18-year-old, with whom he shared a dorm room at Rutgers University. filmed and broadcasted live on the Internet Tyler having some type of sex with another man in his room. The roommate, Dharum Ravi and another student, 18-year-old Molly Wei, who were involved in the filming and broadcasting, was arrested and charged with invasion of privacy, but following the recovery of Tyler’s body, mention has been made of upgrading the charges to classify the action by Ravi and Wei as a hate crime. On his Facebook page, Tyler posted a note mentioning what he intended to do. Subsequent reports state that it wasn’t the first time this had happened and that Tyler had complained to university officials, and even to posted comments on a gay Website.



Raymond Chase, 19, Monticello, New York – Hung himself

Described as an energetic and lively young man, Raymond, an African-American 19-year-old college sophomore was discovered hanging in his dorm room on the campus of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. Raymond who was from Monticello, NY was studying culinary arts. Details about what led him to take his own life are as yet unavailable.

An award-winning journalist, Antoine B. Craigwell is currently engaged in writing a book on depression in Black gay men. As a journalist, he reported for several prominent business magazines, community-based newspapers, and online magazines. In 2008, he earned two awards from the New York Association of Black Journalists. Antoine graduated from Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY) with degrees in journalism and psychology. As a member of the New York Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Deadline Club (SPJ, NY Chapter), and the Baruch College Alumni Association, Antoine is actively involved in giving back to his community. He was a volunteer tutor teaching journalism to high school students at Harlem Live. Antoine, as a public speaker, presented the keynote address, “Business of the Church in the Community” for Black History Month in 2007, and was a guest speaker on “Recapturing the Male Image,” for the 3rd Annual Men’s Conference held at York College, CUNY, September 2008. Antoine was a workshop presenter in Dec 2008, “It’s all in the questions: Coming up with great interview questions,” and in Nov 2009 “Grammar for Journalists”, for the Annual NYC High School Journalism Conference at Baruch College, CUNY. In July 2009 he was a panelist on GritTV with Laura Flanders discussing the film “Bruno”.
~~~

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How To Help a Suicidal Friend
By , About.com

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey. A 2007 San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute study shows that lgbt and questioning youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. And for every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made (2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey). Here are steps you can take to help a suicidal friend:

Lend an ear. Make a call.

Loneliness. Isolation. Fear. Regret. Rejection. These are common feelings a suicidal friend may be experiencing, especially after coming out. Name calling and bullying in school, at home or in the community can amplify these feelings, leading to depression and sometimes suicide.

Lend an unconditional ear. Encourage your friend to share their feelings with you and one of the free LGBT-focused hotlines. The Trevor Project and the GLBT National Help Center provide free and confidential counseling.

Share These Article:
How To Break Free of Post Coming Out Depression
Coping With Feelings Of Loneliness
Suicide Is Not Painless

Their feelings are real. Don’t take that away from them.

Your friend may not be able to communicate how severe their depression is or how far the name calling, bullying or harassment have gone. Check in often and stay alert. Sometimes our tendency as loved ones and friends is to dismiss attempts at reaching out as inconsequential. Be understanding without being judgmental. Take action and take no concern for granted. Even if your friend’s thoughts, fears or feelings seem dramatic or unrealistic, understand that these issues are very real for them—real enough for them to consider taking their own life.

Share These Articles:
What to Do When a Friend Is Feeling Suicidal
After Coming Out: Dealing With Family Rejection

Don’t avoid the topic.

Avoidance isn’t what your friend needs right now. Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide. Ask them if they are considering taking their life. Ask if they’ve made a plan (this will help you gauge the seriousness of their intentions). Their intent may still be there even without an initial plan.

Avoid the common myth that if they really wanted to die they would’ve already done so. Your friend needs help and any thoughts, plans or failed attempts on their life should be taken seriously. Death is final. Remind them of that and encourage them to stick it out. For tips on support call Trevor Project and the GLBT National Help Center.

Read These Articles:
The Gay Suicide Rate
Is An Unsuccessful Suicide Attempt Just a Cry For Attention?

Make a plan.

Sit with your friend and create a plan of action to help them cope with or improve their situation. Write down the issues and come up with plausible short-term and long-term solutions. Develop alternatives together and help him or her see them out.

Remove the tools.

Remove any dangerous items from your friend’s home. You know your friend and their habits and maybe some of their secrets. Is there a gun in the house or do their parents keep a knife collection? What about chemicals or pills? Try and remove any items that may be used to attempt suicide.

Tell an adult. Reach out to a professional.

Unfortunately, now isn’t the time for a pact of secrecy. Don’t promise not to tell anyone. Find a trusted adult that can help you help them. If your friend is considering suicide because of issues with their parents, it may not be best to solicit their help. Try your parents, adult siblings or a trusted community or education professional. You can also solicit the help of your local LGBT community center or a gay-affirmative therapist. Be persistent in your search for help.

Articles to Read:
Find a LGBT Center
Finding a Gay-Affirmative Therapist

Seek emergency help.

In emergency situations where you aren’t able to help your friend and you believe they are going to commit suicide despite the steps taken above, stay with them and call 911 immediately.

having lived most of my life in emotional desolation
feeling unconnected, in complete isolation
that noone understood nor listened to a word
even if they could, i just was not heard
my heart reaches out to those in this sad place
you are not alone, many of us share this space
please try to find someone who will listen and believe
with a compassionate ear, you will feel greatly relieved
do not ever let someone take your ego and destroy it
your self-esteem is forever yours, part of YOUR life, so enjoy it
be different and revel in who you are meant to be
if other don’t “get it”, it is there problem, really
it is the oddballs, characters the ones who make art
who save lives, possess great courage…our earths’
finest part
namaste

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

15 Comments leave one →
  1. caroline 62 permalink
    October 2, 2010 8:31 pm

    This post is so heartbreaking and I feel for all the young men here and we need to end the hatred, the racism, bigotry and homophobia. I have raised my child to love himself no matter what and that I also will love him no matter what and he knows what that is and to this day he has gone to rally for human rights (colorful ribbons) which I am glad about. There are few things in my life that outrage me and/or hurts me to the point of tears and pain in my heart and this is one of them. There has to be tougher laws to bullying whether in school or in the cyberweb, cell phone etc and counseling should be available in all school and make it mandatory for kids who feel shamed because they feel different being gay. I would think in the year 2010 things would change were the people would be acceptable to them but seem it has not. And what is wrong with some people where they have to be so cruel, I don’t understand how anyone can hurt a person who has done nothing wrong because mental pain and shame is just as worse if not worse then physical pain..

    Like

  2. karen lyons kalmenson permalink
    October 3, 2010 6:26 am

    having lived most of my life in emotional desolation
    feeling unconnected, in complete isolation
    that noone understood nor listened to a word
    even if they could, i just was not heard
    my heart reaches out to those in this sad place
    you are not alone, many of us share this space
    please try to find someone who will listen and believe
    with a compassionate ear, you will feel greatly relieved
    do not ever let someone take your ego and destroy it
    your self-esteem is forever yours, part of YOUR life, so enjoy it
    be different and revel in who you are meant to be
    if other don’t “get it”, it is there problem, really
    it is the oddballs, characters the ones who make art
    who save lives, possess great courage…our earths’
    finest part
    namaste

    Like

  3. Joey permalink
    October 3, 2010 7:39 pm

    Thank you.. I think it a tragedy that these kids don’t get to experience life outside the narrow vacuum of their school days.. I wish I could tell them that everything changes when you’re outside of those confines..

    Like

  4. Roxana Cortez permalink
    October 8, 2010 12:07 pm

    Fucking Evil coward mormons or morons I should call them! I don’t know that “God” they believe in? Because they and others believe in a God who is a hater, arrogant, bitter, disrespectful just like them! I do not believe in that kind of God. These people think they will go to “heaven” just because they make these innocent kids kill themselves? guess what they will be the first ones going straight to hell!!!!!!!! And FAKE MORON-PASTOR WILL GO TO HELL!!!!!!! FUCK YOU IF YOU SUPPORT THESE MORONS- FREAKS AND THEIR TWISTED BELIEVES! These kids were innocent victims of stupid homophobics freaks.

    Thank you,

    Like

  5. Jayne Matthews (UK) permalink
    October 8, 2010 3:58 pm

    Who the hell does he think he is, evil prick!!!!! Whatever race, creed, colour, sexual orientation or species, everybody deserves respect. I am so sick and tired of the f****** human race and their belief that they are somehow superior!!!!! SUPERIOR MY ASS!!!! People like this fake, biggoted, arrogant, self-important prick are the ones that should commit suicide, not our precious children/grand-children who are struggling to come to terms with themselves. I have had a few gay friends over the years, all of whom were gentle, fun-loving, tolerant, loyal and generous of heart and basically the ‘salt of the earth’. It’s time we stopped letting these religious, bigotted fanatics try to tell everybody else how they should live. I’m not a great believer in any God and one of those reasons is how can I possibly believe in somebody who let’s innocent children/animals/people suffer in this life and why so many disasters in the world. I know ‘it’s supposed to be for a better life after’, but the world is getting worse, not better. I’m sorry, but I can’t beleive in a God who allows cruelty/bullying/intolerance/selfishness or any of the other sins that this ‘so called’ preacher personifies. My heart goes out to all people and families of children who feel persecuted for whatever reason.

    Like

  6. hess permalink
    October 8, 2010 5:33 pm

    Its time to wake up and stop any form of discrimination!

    Put a stop to all of this!!!

    Like

  7. hess permalink
    October 8, 2010 5:33 pm

    Its time to wake up and stop any form of discrimination!

    Put a stop to all of this!!!

    Like

  8. terri pelletier permalink
    October 14, 2010 3:51 pm

    what a touching and emotional message from ellen the ignorance of people in this world is unacceptable because of someones race,color, and or sexual preference should be excepted and cared for with the love that one would show anyone no matter what this is a tragedy in so many ways to know that you r gay,lesbian,bi,transgenders is tough enough in its own way and then to be bullied and beat or even killed is a whole new tragedy…when will we wake up and realize that people are people we live,love and laugh just like anyone else and thats the way we should …WAKE UP and allow people to be who they r
    weather or not we agree or disagree it is not our place to take it in
    our own hands and decide who lives and who dies i am discussed with this
    issue and many more like it in america how dare you may god have mercy
    on your soul “Judge not less you be Judge…..”

    Like

  9. October 17, 2010 10:56 pm

    As long as we are so interested in the sex lives of “GAY” people I think we should extend that intrigue. Do you realize all the heterosexual people in just this country alone that are also having sexual encounters. Now horrifying as this revelation may be, not all of these encounters are of biblical approval.
    That is correct, there are men and woman having sexual contact with each other and indulging in the same kind of abnormal sexual encounters as homosexuals. They are duplicating the same obscene unnatural practices with each other. How are we suppose to know who these people are.
    Sure with homosexuals there is little doubt as to what is occurring, but what about your neighbors, your dentist, doctor, the mailman, the list is endless. You don’t know who is doing what with who?? I shudder to think of all this encompasses. How do we weed out the deviants? Where do we, the righteous God fearing people turn now?? We are literally surrounded by unnatural human copulation. Oh the humanity.!!!
    I think we should demand to know just what each person’s sexual preferences are, we need answers and we need them now.
    Perverts, we are being taken over by obsessed deviants. Heterosexual people have had their time in the closet for long enough. I say we write down guideline s for healthy, proper sexual relations and anyone who crosses these lines be ostracized. Don’t be fooled by the heterosexual label, we need the facts, details and strict moral codes for those that are intimate with each other. It is time we are all questioned with a lie detector test. Let those whose lust is unnatural be warned once then banned and shamed forever more. The thoughts of what may be happening right in my own neighborhood is reviling. We must return to a wholesome life with sexual functions that call for restraint and modest purity, there is no recourse!!! Praise the Lord and pray for the sinners, for those who lust unnaturally . We will not tolerate this obscene behavior or unclean thoughts!!

    Like

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