Why We Die: So Many Suicides

It’s been a really, really shitty month in LGBT America. In the last 30 days, at least seven gay male American teenagers have completed suicide. Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, Cody Barker of Chiocton, Wisconsin, Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Asher Brown of Harris, Texas, Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, California, and Raymond Storm Chase of Providence, Rhode Island all died at their own hand because of a lifetime of bullying abuse. I haven’t been able to verify two others, but they may be added to the list.

Billy Lucas, 15 years old Cody Barker, 17 years old
Billy Lucas (15) and Cody Barker (17)

I’ve been stunned (not really) by the difference between responses to this story between my straight friends and my gay friends. With rare exception, the reaction of straight folks has been sympathy, followed quickly by questioning of motive and defense of the abuser before shrugging of shoulders and moving on to discussion of the weather.

With equally rare exception, the reaction of gay folks has been sympathy, followed by concern for the deceased’s family and other kids in similar situations, followed by memory of their own abuse and the mostly impotent desire to stop it from happening again.

Tyler Clementi, 18 years old Asher Brown, 13 years old
Tyler Clementi (18) and Asher Brown (13)

After these latest child victims have been eulogized and buried, I think it’s time to start shining a light on the abuse heaped on LGBT youth and adults. This abuse against LGBT youth is widespread and systemic, ingrained in our families, our churches, our schools, and our relationships. Often, straight Americans don’t even recognize the abuse.

To help correct this problem, I’m beginning an open-ended, periodic series called Why We Die, which will look at often casual abuse that cause LGBT youth to choose death over the lifetime of hatred and condemnation that they’ve been told is inevitable. Look for the first installment of Why We Die on Monday morning.

Seth Walsh, 13 years old Raymond Storm Chase, 19 years old
Seth Walsh (13) and Raymond Storm Chase (19)

I’ve also started a Google map plotting the hometowns of gay suicide victims. You can find a link to information about each teenager by clicking on the yellow map pins. I plan to keep it up for the foreseeable future, hoping to show that LGBT suicides aren’t isolated or regional incidents. If you know of someone that I have missed, please drop me a line and I’ll add them.

If you’re in a bad way and you feel you might hurt yourself, please call The Trevor Project at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.

Note: An earlier version of this article included Felix Sacco of Saugus, Massachusetts in the above list. It has since come to my attention that Felix did not identify as gay, though bullying did lead to his death. I’m leaving his name here because removing it gives the impression that only gay kids matter, and that is far from my intent.

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10 thoughts on “Why We Die: So Many Suicides

  1. Know that this straight person is absolutely heartsick over these poor children’s mental torture. 😦 Know that there are many, many parents out there like me and my husband that are teaching their children that this is NOT ok, and that it is OK to love who you love, and that it is NOT ok under any circumstance to be mean or cruel. I’m so sorry for what all of my LGBT friends and family have had to endure.

  2. 1) Not to take anything away from any of these victims, but the major media outlets have been following only one of these stories full-on. These other kids have stories of their own and tragedies that led to their demises. I daresay most Americans probably don’t even know that there was more than one or two teen LGBT suicides recently.

    2) Speaking of media zeitgeist, are we only aware of these because for once the mainstream media has picked up on it? Is it possible that there are ALWAYS this many suicides among LGBT youth? Should we be more aware as a society? Should we be talking about this stuff more?

    3) A lot has been made of Tyler C’s privacy having been invaded. How come nobody’s talking about the other guy he was with? And could that somehow have contributed to his jump? He seemed to be more annoyed from his communications 15 hours or so before that last update. I feel just as bad for the other guy (as far as the privacy violation anyway), who probably knew even less about the situation, and maybe wasn’t even out.

    4) I also noticed that very few articles point people to the Trevor Project or offer any sort of pointers to any resources at all. I’m sure that would be the case in any situation, it’s just sad that, as a society, we only seem to care about the spectacle of the event itself and not enough about the underlying causes or what we can do to prevent tragedies like that.

  3. Searching the web on information about Felix Sacco and came across your blog. Felix was NOT gay! One of many reason he took his own life was because his long time girlfriend broke up with him. Please be responsible and remove his picture and name from your list of gay teens that took their own lives. His family has been through enough without coming across this. als, tried to email you and the email address that you list in the “about author” section doesn’t work..thank you for being so concern about the youth of today.

  4. thank you Matt, for your concern and compassion..I am hopeing all these children are safe in Gods arms…

  5. Austin Rodriguez in Wellsville, Ohio. He’s not dead, but comatose after his most recent attempt.

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