During the autumn of 2010 the world witnessed a stream of isolated but tragic events: the suicides of gay youth around North America. These teenagers, truly children, took their own lives because they could no longer deal with the difficulties that came as a consequence of their sexuality, their homosexuality.
Initiatives and movements sprung up to offer support to gay youth and decry the events. The “It Gets Better” YouTube video series remains the most famous among them. For a short while we, the gay community and its allies, dared to believe that our collective support conveyed the message that life would indeed get better for gay teens facing taunts or ridicule from their peers or inner struggles.
We were wrong.
On September 18th, 2011, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14 year old from Buffalo, NY took his own life.
On October 14th, 2011, Jamie Hubley, a 15 year old from Ottawa, Canada followed suit, also taking his own life.
Both of these young men were active bloggers who just wanted to be accepted for who they were. The death of both these boys is the direct result of the intolerance, the bigotry, that permeates our supposedly liberal society.
I’m sad and angry. These deaths should not have occurred.
The reason these tragedies strike so close to home is because not all that long ago,* a long time before YouTube and the “It Gets Better” movement, I too contemplated “escaping” the life that seemed to present me with nothing but hardship. Obviously, I chose a different path, but that doesn’t stop the memories from haunting me to this very day. I spent some time today reflecting on what stopped me from committing suicide. At first, I couldn’t find an answer. Upon further contemplation I realized that I was lucky. In my teenage years I happened upon a few token individuals who either listened to my cries or simply lived and led by example. Though no one could guarantee that everything would be okay or removed the pain I felt, they let me know that the choice was mine and that in time I could build the life I wanted and deserved. I wish these boys could have had the same luck.
Please, preach acceptance and love. Reach out to your friends, or your friends kids, or a random stranger you encounter who seems to be struggling because of their sexuality and let them know that you will do your best to help them with whatever you are able. Let them know they are loved. Let’s rally together to ensure that the deaths stop here and now.
It is customary in the Jewish tradition to perform certain Mitzvot, good deeds, in honor of the deceased so that their souls are elevated to higher levels of Heaven. One such custom is to donate charity. Please join me in donating a few bills to a local charity in memory of these two young men.
*By “not all that long ago” I mean nearly a decade ago.