Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On the LGBT Suicides and On Harrassment

I'm sure you've heard about it. Recently, the LGBT community and its allies have been up in arms about the group of 7 recent suicides that were the result of bullying and harrassment that they faced because of their sexuality. As well it should be. When people like Billy Lucas and Tyler Clementi are pushed to suicide by the harrassment they face at the hands of their peers, the community SHOULD be riled up.

I love the fact that people have been so responsive about this problem. Richmond held a candlelight vigil last Wednesday night. There have been huge surges in public service annoucements (including a beautiful project on YouTube called It Gets Better, which features prominent gay figures from both on and off of YouTube letting kids who are facing harrassment and confusion now know that it does get easier). Thousands of people plan to wear purple in honor of the lives that have been lost and in solidarity with those facing similar problems still. I am proud to know that my friends and family have been public about their concern for the problem.

But here's my issue, and the reason I'm posting. This is not, first and foremost, a gay rights issue. Yes, the LGBT community has jumped on this problem because it's clearly a crisis. But when a large number of kids are killed or driven to suicide because of bullying and harrassment they face, for any reason, the crisis is bigger than any one community. This is an issue that comes down to a very basic fact: for all the anti-bullying programs in schools, all the information about cyberbullying, all the discussions of fairness, tolerance, and respect, people are still capable of being so horrible to one another that death seems like a better option than continuing to deal with it.

This should not be a gay rights cause. This should be the cause of every parent, friend, sibling, teacher, and colleague of someone who ever faced harrassment that made their life hard to deal with. Yes, Billy Lucas committed suicide because he was harrassed for being gay. The fact of the matter is that bullying-related suicides are unfortunately common and, if anything, the focus on the gay suicides recently has dwarfed the importance and the tragedy of a lot of other suicides which stemmed from harrassment. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the boys who took their own lives because they were harrassed for their sexuality...and to those of every other harrassment-related suicide. Your loss is something I cannot even fathom, and I hope it never has to happen to anyone again.

--Rachel

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