At least five young members of the LGBT community across the nation have committed suicide in recent weeks. Those are just the ones we know about. There are many more young people who have either taken their own lives or are silently living in hell because society continues to refuse to respond in a clarion way to those who refuse to accept that God made us all the way we are.
A recent report from the Office of State Superintendant of Education in the District of Columbia shows that in the past three years incidents of bullying have increased.
Who gets the blame when a young boy or girl commits suicide? Is it the overtly homophobic bigots, the religious fanatics, parents, or those who for political expediency continue to define us as less than equal? They all contribute to crushing the spirit of young boys and girls who are trying to deal with the fact that they were born gay or lesbian. These young people, struggling to accept themselves and come to terms with who they are often face a society that tells them that because of how they were born they aren’t whole, aren’t loved, and will not have an equal chance in life to succeed or be loved.
While we may always have to fight the bigots and religious zealots I think the time has come that we call to account politicians like our president. Too many of our supporters claim they want us to have equal rights, acknowledge that we are born the way we are, but still refuse to demand for us those equal rights such as civil marriage equality.
Don’t they understand the mixed messages they send to those young LGBT boys and girls across the nation? They are saying to them, “I want equality for you but you are not really equal and I don’t fully support you. You may grow up with some rights but don’t go believing that you deserve and are entitled to the same rights and love I am. You are still different!”
Many political and community leaders often talk the talk, but then don’t walk the walk. When push comes to shove they won’t support either a trans-inclusive ENDA or the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or immediate repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” They find all kinds of excuses to avoid doing what they say is right. I haven’t figured out whether it is a lack of moral courage or just political spinelessness, but the result is the same. Their action or lack of it continues to preserve the climate in which young LGBT men and women must face attacks, either open or subversive, often on their own.
I don’t know whether the two young people whose actions apparently led to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, were stupid, insensitive to another person’s feelings or hateful. But whatever it was, they can be held up as examples of what is wrong in our society today. No one should have to suffer in this new world where a person’s inhumane actions toward another human being are now magnified by the Internet. Where what once may have been an embarrassment contained within a small group is now broadcast to millions. As Kathleen Parker wrote recently in the Washington Post with regard to that incident, maybe we need to just “try friending decency”.
The nation must react to this in the strongest possible way. We should demand that our faith leaders, political leaders and community leaders respond because we see that these actions, whether motivated by meanness, hate or just stupidity can be a matter of life and death.
President Obama hosted a beer summit at the White House for an adult who was mistreated by police. Where is the statement from the White House over these suicides? Where is the teaching moment for a society that must stop hating and stop making anyone feel that they are less than what God made them? Where are the YouTube videos from our political leaders saying, “Part of the reason you sometimes live in fear is my fault. I promise you I will do better. I will fight for all your rights. Your life is just as good and valuable as mine!”
I recognize that we can’t ask the president to do everything. But if there is time to talk about jobs, climate control, planting gardens, and health care, there must a moment to talk to the nation about an epidemic of suicides occurring because we marginalize young people and still make them feel that they have no right to a full and happy life.