August 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay man’s death ruled suicide

The D.C. Medical Examiner’s office disclosed Monday that Mark Gower, the 26-year-old gay man found dead in his apartment in the city’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood last month, took his own life.

“The cause is suffocation and the manner is suicide,” Beverly Fields, a spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s office, told the Blade.

Fields said her office could not release any further details other than that Gower’s body has been released to his family.

Police found Gower’s body in his apartment July 22, two weeks after friends and family members were unable to reach him. A police spokesperson said there were no outward signs of injuries or a violent act.

Gower, a native of Oregon, worked as an employee of the Sephora cosmetics store in Reston, Va. and was a part-time dancer at Secrets, a D.C. gay nightclub.

During an Aug. 6 memorial service held at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters, friends described Gower as a bright, deeply caring and complex person who always seemed to put the feelings and concerns of others before his own.

Two friends noted that Gower had been suffering from depression, but many people did not know that because of his outwardly bright and cheery personality.

“He was fun, he was quirky. There were many Marks,” said Tim White, a friend who organized the memorial service.

Friends and family members said Gower graduated from Portland State University at age 19 through an accelerated studies program. He began his career as a government loan officer in Hawaii, friends said, and worked in D.C. in the personnel field at an executive search firm before joining the staff of Sephora cosmetics.

His job at Secrets was described as a lark by some of his friends, who said it was part of his fun-loving and adventurous side.

“He was one of the most complex, kind people I’ve ever met,” said Dustin Hawthorne, a fellow Secrets dancer. “Other people’s feelings always came first. To his family, thank you for giving us Mark.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • This is so terribly sad. It is so important that folks suffering from depression get early treatment. If friends knew that he was depressed, did they recommend and make sure that he received necessary medical treatment? This is such a waste and a tragedy.

  • My heart goes out to this young man’s family and friends. I know personally oh so well the effects of depression. There is hope though, I just wished this young man had recieved help before doing this to himself. From what the report reads it sounds as if was a very sweet person.

  • I’m so sorry to read this story. I didn’t know Mark, but I have known other gay men–young and not so young–weighed down by depression. It’s such a tragedy for a young person to feel he has nowhere to turn when he finds himself at the edge of what he can bear alone. I’m glad Mark made such a good impression on his friends and family. May he live on in their memories, and rest in eternal peace. My condolences to Mark’s friends and family.

  • Many in the gay community suffer from depression that is foisted upon them by their own sense of worthlessness created by the heterocentrism of American life. Through all of the messaging of the church, the media, and many straight heterocentrist people one meets on a daily basis, one can become fatally depressed. It is a symptom of the kind of world LGBTs are forced to live in day in and day out. I blame this on them.

  • mykelb, i think your opinion is hostile and way off.

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