Stop the Yelling!

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

I am upset, as I’m sure you all are. I’m sure many of you have heard of the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi. His thoughtless roommate videotaped him having sex with another guy and outed him by broadcasting it over the internet. This outing and humiliation drove him over the edge causing him to commit suicide.

This is truly tragic to lose of one our of gay youth! I can only imagine the grief that his parents, family and friends are going through. And as this is now a national story – we are all grieving.

The question is, what do we do with that grief. At first I was furious.My first instinct was to go after his roommate. How stupid could he have been, how short sighted to not see any consequences to their actions.

This seems to be the reaction most have. I have seen web pages, Facebook groups, and even local political leaders come out pushing for manslaughter charges. Even Equality Forum released a statement focusing their energy on making sure he is sent to prison. He should be punished, no one doubts that, but is this where we should be focusing our energy?

Revenge is never the answer. It feels good, it sounds good, it makes a great Lifetime movie of the week, but in the end, what does it solve?

We SHOULD be focusing our energy on making sure this never happens again. Out gay youth are more vulnerable then ever. Sit back as this will shock you:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses
  • For every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made
  • More than 1/3 of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt
  • Questioning youth who are less certain of their sexual orientation report even higher levels of substance abuse and depressed thoughts than their openly LGBT-identified peers
  • Nine out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school; 3/5 felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about 1/2 skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
    (Trevor Project Statistics)

Just reading that makes me want to throw up! Is this the world we are creating for our kids? Where they feel so hated, so unloved, that suicide is the only answer! And when suicide does happen, we turn towards anger and revenge – turn towards the perpetrator rather then the victim.

With the culture war ramping up once again, we will see our values, our rights and our lives at risk once again. In a culture that can easily forgive an Atlanta minister who had molested parishioners yet feels that simply being gay makes you a threat to our armed services – we need to do more to make ourselves a visible force to protect those that can not stand up for themselves.

Our youth are under attack. So quickly does the right wing condemn us with the "think about the children" mantra that we forget, it’s OUR children who are are dying at the proverbial hands of the right wing.

Recently, Focus on the Family, a radical right wing group, took aim at an anti-bulling booklet aimed at the superintendent of schools. The theme was to inform educators about the truth about sexual orientation to end the abuse and bullying of their students for being gay. When right wing groups like this can’t even take the basic step of agreeing that NO child should be attacked, harassed and bullies because of their sexual orientation, we have a problem

So where DO we put our energy?

As we are often told – Think about the children. There are dozens of great organization you can donate your time and money to that focus on our youth, both national and locally:

  • Attic Youth Center (Philadelphia) – Provides counseling and case management to gay youth age 14-21
  • Bridges Project (Philadelphia) – coordinate existing resources, enhance services and develop new services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth.
  • Educational Justice Coalition ( Philadelphia) – create safe spaces for LGBTQ Youth through access to quality educational resources and social support services.
  • HAVEN (Lehigh Valley) – provide a safe, supportive environment, provide positive role models and peer & sponsor social and recreational activities for ages 14-20.
  • Main Line Youth Alliance (Wayne) – encourage healthy relationships with peers, family and community.
  • Prysm Youth Center of Delaware County (Upper Darby) – provide a safe place for the youth to be themselves and not worry about what someone else will say or do to them.
  • Rainbow Room (Doylestown) – Support, education, socializing and advocacy
  • Youth Health Empowerment Project (Y-HEP) (Philadelphia) – works with young people ages 13 to 24 to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, heterophobia and classism

  • Trevor Project (National) – The Trevor Project is a nonprofit endeavor established to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, and to aid in suicide prevention among that group.
  • Give a Damn (National) – National straight allies come out and give a damn about LGBT suicide.
  • It Gets Better (National) – A grassroots video campaign about how life gets better for LGBT youth.

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