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.
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.
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.
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.