I posted quite a lot in 2009 about Jaheem Herrera and Carl Walker-Hoover, two 11-year-old-boys who committed suicide last April because of abuse at the hands of classmates who perceived them as gay. I decided to pull out this post from April 15th, the day before Jaheem’s 10-year-old sister found him hanging from a belt in his closet, because it best encapsulates the problem and the desperate need for adults to stop allowing this kind of abuse.
I hadn’t planned on saying anything more about the suicide of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, but this morning I re-read the article The Advocate did with his mom. I’d read it last night in a hurry, skimming past the first couple paragraphs. Here’s what I missed, and the reason I’m bringing it up again. Discretion is advised, though I think it’s important to face what’s happened.
On April 6, Sirdeaner Walker came home, walked up the stairs to the second floor of her home, and saw her son suspended from a support beam in the stairwell, swaying slightly in the air, an extension cord wrapped around his neck, according to police. He apologized in a suicide note, told his mother that he loved her, and left his video games to his brother.
And that’s where I lose it. That’s where I lose patience with groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and Exodus International. That’s where I lose my temper with demagogues like James Dobson, Rick Warren, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, and John McCain.
To steal a line from Jon Stewart: IT’S NOT A FUCKING GAME.
And that’s been a big part of the problem for a long time. They treat this like some grand chess match, a diversion from the mundane everyday life. They have nothing to lose, a complete lack of integrity, they tell lie after lie after lie, and they collect MILLIONS of dollars from their supporters.
Meanwhile, we have people making wild assumptions about “lifestyles”. We have people being beaten and killed. We have families being split up because one spouse isn’t a citizen and the other can’t sponsor her. We have adopted children being taken from their families. We have an eleven-year-old writing his will before taking his own life.
And why? Because the boy was bullied by other kids who were influenced by their parents who are influenced by James Dobson and the relentless stream of horseshit coming from the Religious Right.
Walker said her son had been the victim of bullying since the beginning of the school year, and that she had been calling the school since September, complaining that her son was mercilessly teased. He played football, baseball, and was a boy scout, but a group of classmates called him gay and teased him about the way he dressed. They ridiculed him for going to church with his mother and for volunteering locally.
“It’s not just a gay issue,” Walker said. “Itâ€™s bigger. He was 11 years old, and he wasn’t aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child whoâ€™s 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, Maybe I’m like this. Maybe I’m not. What do I do?”
Ms. Walker is right. This isn’t about being gay. It’s about a culture that permits and even encourages people to look down on others, a systemic problem that school officials, in many cases, aren’t willing to fight. According to Ms. Walker, who is captain of the school’s PTO, she contacted the school over and over and over, and they did nothing.
I just wonder what would happen if people stopped calling it “bullying” and started calling it what it really is: ABUSE. Would that change the way people react to it? Would that loosen the hold of the “boys will be boys” mentality?
The 13th Annual National Day of Silence is this Friday, which coincidentally would have been Carl’s 12th birthday. I hope that this year, the participants and everyone else in the class remember who they’re being silent for.