Michele Bachmann Still Silent on Local Suicides

Last week, I posted an article about Tea Party Nation’s Rich Swier and his dangerous position on the bullying of LGBT youth. I didn’t think anything could upset me as much as reading his interviews, but obviously, I was wrong. For those who read this blog regularly, you know that advocating for gay…make that human rights is one of the things I speak most passionately about. The only thing that makes me angrier than small-minded people belittling any minority is when they target that minority’s youth. We spend so much time arguing on these issues that sometimes we forget that this fight isn’t just affecting the adults in this world, but also our children.

 I have always said that as adults, it’s our duty to protect our nation’s youth. There are enough things to fear in this world without having to deal with being terrorized at school as well. In the last two years there have been nine suicides in Minnesota’s biggest school district, which also happens to be Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s district. All nine of these students were either gay or perceived to be gay and all nine had dealt with relentless bullying. Michele Bachmann isn’t the only one who’s remained silent on this matter. This is one of the districts that has enacted the “don’t say gay” rule, which means that teachers and counselors aren’t allowed to bring up homosexuality in the school. They call it a “neutrality” policy, but unfortunately this policy protects those that bully more than those who are the victims of bullying.

The Departments of Justice and Education have opened a federal investigation into the overwhelming number of student suicides in that district in recent years. The situation has gotten so bad that state public health officials have deemed the district a “suicide contagion” area, but it’s not clear yet whether or not the district’s neutrality policy will play a part in the investigation. As I stated previously, Michele Bachmann has yet to utter one word on the recent deaths. She has been an anti-gay advocate for her entire career. She signed a pledge earlier this month stating that homosexuality is a choice despite all the scientific studies that have proven the contrary. In fact, she owns a Christian counseling center with her husband that allegedly performs reparative therapy. A member of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit that fights anti-gay religious extremism, went under cover in the clinic to show some of the services that are offered.

 

 I don’t understand how in this day and age anyone can still have this archaic view. Even if she doesn’t believe in equality for all, how can she consistently put our youth at risk like this? She has, time after time, rejected anti-bullying laws. In 2006, she said that passing a bill that prevents bullying “wasn’t worth the time.” (Saving those nine lives wasn’t worth the time?)

 She was also quoted as saying: “I think for all of us, our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies. Always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to the point of zero tolerance… What does it mean? … Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”

We’ll never get to the point of zero tolerance if we don’t start somewhere. Ignoring the problem is just as dangerous an attitude to take, as Rich Swier thinking bullying is “healthy.” There are children dying next door to her and she still refuses to speak out.

Numerous studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth do have a higher rate of suicide attempts than heterosexual youth. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that between 30% and 40% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide. More than 34,000 people die by suicide each year making it the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds, with LGBTQ youth attempting suicide up to four times more than their heterosexual peers. Those numbers are terrifying themselves, but even worse is that at least three of the children who have committed suicide in the last couple of years were only thirteen years old!

For a perfect example of how dangerous bullying really is, take a look at Seth Walsh, a thirteen year old who took his life in September of last year. According to friends at school, the day he died, he was bullied by classmates who told him “the world doesn’t need another queer. You should go home and hang yourself”…and he did. How can anyone claim that this type of behavior isn’t dangerous? It’s been going on long enough.

 

 Something needs to change and it needs to happen quickly before any more lives are lost. I think the “neutrality” policies in these schools are just as dangerous as the bullying itself. Bullying is a result of ignorance and if we aren’t allowed to educate these kids, they’ll never learn and the same mistakes will keep being made. I’ve talked about a few of my favorite non-profits recently, such as the HRC and the Trevor Project, but I want to mention another one that’s close to my heart.

 The only thing that I’m more passionate about than LGBT rights is the rights of LGBTQ youth. A 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment in school. The GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes towards creating a more vibrant and diverse community.

As with most non-profits, the GLSEN depends on donations and volunteers, so please consider helping out if you can by clicking on the image below

 

 I’m a big advocate of the It Gets Better Project and I support all they are trying to accomplish, but sometimes just the message that it does get better isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to act to make things better. One voice can start a revolution, and that revolution needs to happen now.

 So please, reach out, get involved…and remember the next time you think bullying is a harmless prank…a child’s life might be on the line.

 

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The Trevor Project: Saving Lives

Today I want to discuss an organization that’s dear to my heart, the Trevor Project. You’ll notice on the left of this screen, there’s a link to their webpage. I encourage everyone to check them out, donate, volunteer; the littlest bit can make the biggest difference. They are truly an inspiring group and they save so many lives every day.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Trevor Project, it was established by writer James Lecesne, director/producer Peggy Rajski and producer Randy Stone who created the 1994 Academy Award-winning short film, Trevor.

Set in 1981, Trevor is told through a series of diary entries following a gay 13-year-old boy named Trevor, who seeks his parents’ attention and support by frequently faking his own death by suicide. To his delight, Trevor is befriended by hunky school athlete, Pinky Faraday, upon whom he develops a crush. When he confesses how he feels about Pinky to his best friend, Walter Stiltman, not realizing anything is unusual about his feelings, his friend turns on him and word spreads at school that Trevor is gay. Shortly thereafter, a confused Trevor is ostracized by his entire school, and in his ensuing pain goes to such lengths as to give himself electric shock therapy to reverse his apparent homosexuality, runaway from home, and ultimately attempt suicide while lip-syncing to the Diana Ross song, “Endless Love.” When Trevor awakes in the hospital he meets Jack, a young candy-striper with a supportive demeanor. Jack’s friendship and advice, along with an offer to see Diana Ross live in concert, inspires Trevor to live. The film closes with a buoyant Trevor dancing up the sidewalk to his parents’ house while singing Diana Ross’s song, “I’m Coming Out.”

When this film was scheduled to air on HBO in 1998, the filmmakers realized that some of their young viewers might be facing the same crisis as Trevor and began searching for the appropriate support line to promote during the airing. However, when they discovered there were none, they dedicated themselves to creating what they considered a much needed resource: an organization that promotes understanding and acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth, and aides in crisis and suicide prevention among this group. Thus, the Trevor Project was born, and through seed funding by the Colin Higgins Foundation, the Trevor Lifeline was formed, becoming the first ever 24 hour suicide prevention hotline aimed at LGBTQ youth.

The Trevor Project has also sponsored some other campaigns in an effort to further promote understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth, one of which is the “It Gets Better Project.”

In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author, Dan Savage recorded a YouTube video with his partner, Terry, aimed at inspiring hope among LGBTQ youth facing harassment. In response to an overwhelming number of suicides in recent months due to bullying, they wanted to offer a personal way for supporters to let these young people know that it does, in fact, get better.

Two months later, the “It Gets Better” project had become a worldwide movement with over 10,000 videos having been viewed 35 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, politicians, organizations, activists, and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee,” Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the personnel of the Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more.

The Trevor Project is a vital organization for our nation’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. A recent study showed that gay adolescents are 2-6 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. The most common cause of this is the amount of anti-gay bullying that goes on in our schools. This has been an ongoing problem, but the number of new cases coming to light is horrifying. In September 2010, ten new cases caught the public eye.

–          Billy Lucas (15); September 9, 2010; Indiana; Billy hanged himself in his barn after alleged bullying and harassment at school. Jade Sansing told reporters that she heard the bullies call him “gay and tell him to go kill himself.”

–          Cody J. Barker (17); September 13, 2010; Wisconsin; Cody was an openly gay teenager who had recently attended a seminar aimed at helping him establish a gay-straight student alliance at his school. He was a passionate advocate especially for those ostracized for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

–          Seth Walsh (13); September 19, 2010; California; Even before Seth came out, he was constantly picked on for his mannerisms and way of dressing. On September 19, his mother found him unconscious. He had tried to hang himself. He hung on for ten days on life support before succumbing to his injuries.

–          Tyler Clementi (18); September 22, 2010; New Jersey; Tyler was outed in a gay sex tape secretly recorded by his roommate and a friend. He jumped off the GW Bridge.

–          Asher Brown (13); September 23, 2010; Texas; Asher was the victim of constant bullying at school. His parents claim he was “bullied to death.” He was picked on for his small size, his religion and because he didn’t wear designer clothes. His schoolmates also accused him of being gay and when he couldn’t take it anymore, he found his father’s gun and shot himself.

–          Harrison Chase Brown (15); September 25, 2010; Colorado; Some of Harrison’s friends told blogger, Perez Hilton that he killed himself because he was bullied. No more information is available about his death.

–          Zach Harrington (19); September 28, 2010; Oklahoma; In one of the most disturbing stories to date, Zach took his own life after attending a city council meeting and hearing city council members making disparaging, anti-gay remarks.

–          Raymond Chase (19); September 29, 2010; Rhode Island; Raymond was an openly gay sophomore at Johnson & Wales University. He hung himself in his dorm room. Details surrounding the reason behind his suicide are unknown.

–          Felix Sacco (17) September 29, 2010; Massachusetts; Classmate, Megan Ascolese says she witnessed Felix being bullied. He jumped off of an overpass.

–          Caleb Nolt (14); September 30, 2010; Indiana; While circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear, classmates have alluded to the fact that he was bullied.

In most bullying cases that are unrelated to sexual orientation, the children being harassed can seek out counselors, teachers or parents. Unfortunately, when it comes to gay youth, the majority of them isn’t out to anybody yet, and therefore, has no one to whom they can turn. This is why it’s important to not only provide a lifeline for adolescents on the edge, but also to foster understanding throughout the community and their peers, so they can comprehend the consequences of their actions. In response to the September 2010 suicides, Texas Congressman Joel Burns made an impassioned “It Gets Better” video during a city council meeting, where he opened up about his own difficulties growing up as a gay teen and alleged to having had suicidal thoughts of his own.

 

As stated on their website, The Trevor Project offers several different services, the most well-known being the Trevor Lifeline – an around the clock crisis and suicide prevention hotline. The Trevor Lifeline is a free and confidential service with counselors that offers hope and someone to talk to. Each year, tens of thousands of calls are fielded from young people all around the country. The Trevor Lifeline is accredited as an exemplary crisis intervention program by the American Association for Suicidology (AAS). So, please, if you or anyone you know is in need of help, before you do anything else, call 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.

Dear Trevor is an online, non time-sensitive question and answer resource for young people with questions surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.

TrevorChat is a free and confidential messaging service that provides live help through its website. This service is only intended for people not at risk for suicide. TrevorChat is available on Fridays between 1pm Pacific (4pm Eastern) to 9pm Pacific (12am Eastern).

These three services have saved so many lives and I cannot express my appreciation enough for the Trevor Project and all they do. The sad truth is that every five hours an LGBT teen takes his or her life and for every one that succeeds, there are twenty more who try.

I encourage everyone to get involved with this great organization. Whether it’s donating time or money, our future generation deserves our protection. Every little bit helps.

A word from the 2011 Trevor Hero Award winner: