Tag Archive: suicide

Some schools have Gay-Straight Alliances or si...

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I don’t own a webcam, so I can’t make a video to share. I thought maybe if I wrote it out and posted it, it would find its way to the ‘It Gets Better‘ project. Things really hit the roof last year with the rash of suicides and media attention. I think you know what I’m talking about. My personal feelings are that there really ARE that many suicides due to anti-gay bullying that they do take their lives, but people don’t want to talk about it. And they don’t want to admit they might’ve been complicit for creating the atmosphere for someone to take their life.

I grew up bullied in school over my birth defects. Kids taunted me mercilessly because of my face, calling me horrible names, even hurting me. It took a toll on me emotionally and psychologically. By the time I was in middle school, I had convinced myself I was a monster and less than human. I believed that what the bullies said was true–I was a freak, my parents hated me, that I deserved to die, and no one would ever love me. I was antisocial, I preferred to be alone, and I occasionally had outbursts against other students. The name calling was the worst, I think. I’m not sure how graphic I should get, because I would like to see young people be able to read this and understand. A lot of the names were extremely vulgar, filled with obscenities and just downright cruel. No-nose is probably one of the tamer ones used on me. Or flat-face, retard, ugly, and stupid.

It was in middle school that my father enrolled me in karate classes taught by the high school math teacher. My father, who was also a teacher, found out that I was getting regularly hurt by the bullies in school, and he feared for my safety. He thought the martial arts would help me defend myself and give me the discipline he felt I needed. It was a good gesture, but I was already far down the path of depression. I was angry by the fact I had gone through so many reconstructive surgeries, having braces, not fitting in. Now I was being told I was depressed, and I refused to admit to it for a long time. It made counseling very difficult. I know my behavior drove my parents crazy, because all they wanted to do was help me. I was punched in the hallways, where I couldn’t see who it was because of all the other kids, had my locker door shut on my head as I got my books out of it several times. I used to be regularly targeted in gym class with balls, even though the teacher enforced no head shots. They did it anyhow. One incident I was struck in the head with a kickball at a distance of no less than three feet, thrown with full force. It hit the side of my face so hard it knocked the prosthetic lens I wore over my non-functioning left eye right out. This was in front of everyone. I’d never done anything to the kid who hit me. I avoided everyone, for that matter. I would’ve done everything to be invisible if I could, just to avoid attention. The kid got punished for that incident, but it didn’t deter others. No one should be made to live in fear like that, to worry every day what might happen to them.

When you’re bullied so much that you want to end it all, it means that you’re at the point where you don’t trust anyone for help, not even your own family. You don’t think there’s anything anyone can do to help you, because you’ve become accustomed to seeing everything in a negative light. It wasn’t until after high school I began self-injuring, to try and cope with my pain. I felt I deserved to be hurt, because I was a mistake, I was worthless, I didn’t deserve to be born. When I was in school growing up, bullying was just a part of surviving. You didn’t complain to the teacher about it, or you’d face even more abuse from bullies. You kept your mouth shut and your head down, praying they’d miss you. It wasn’t the epidemic it’s become nowadays, because people didn’t think bullying was that serious a matter.

I wasn’t bullied for being gay, I was bullied because I was different. I didn’t choose to be like this, I didn’t ask for a dozen surgeries or to be blind in one eye. It was how I was born, and if you think that’s a cruel twist, how about this? I’m an identical twin. My sister was born with no problems whatsoever. Because of me, she suffered the abuse of bullies too. She was taunted because she had a ‘retarded’ sister. My sister was the only one who ever defended me from the jerks.

It does get better, believe it or not. It may take a long time. It’s also a choice. You can choose to stay miserable, wallow in your pain, even take your life, if that’s what you think is the right solution. I don’t think those will be particularly beneficial methods. You can make the conscious effort to get better, though. It’s a brutal road, full of potholes and obstacles, but if you are determined to show the bullies up, you will succeed. I am still fighting this battle, even now. It doesn’t matter what one’s ‘difference’ is. You don’t even have to be GLBT to be bullied; you could be in my situation and get hassled. You could be of an ethnic group that’s not common to a small town and get bullied because you don’t fit into the community. You could have a major disability and be ridiculed for it. You could be non-Christian and be threatened because you don’t attend the churches everyone in town adheres to. In regards to that one, go look up Tempest Smith. It’s a heartbreaking case that is no different than the bullying sweeping the nation over the past year, and that took place a number of years ago.

What you need to remember is that for things to get better, you need to fight for it. You have to fight back tooth and nail, because you deserve to be here on this earth as much as any other. You are someone’s loved one, a daughter, son, brother or sister. No one has the right to say you don’t deserve to be here, because they don’t know what they’re saying. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from proving the haters wrong, and it’s better than any kind of food or drink. They tried to break you, tear you down and you’re still here. You’re thriving, succeeding, knowing you have every right to exist. No one can take that from you ever. In closing, I’d like to say to all of you who are hurting, you’re not alone. You have friends, you have people who care so much about you. Don’t ever give up.


This has to stop


Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love...

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For the past week or so, I have been reading in the papers, online, and on TV about the rash of suicides across this country. The young men who took their lives were also identified as being gay, or accused of it. They were harassed to the point where they felt no one could help them and their only solution, most likely done in the height of extreme emotion, was to take their own lives.

They absolutely did NOT have to die. What I find even more despicable is the atttitude of people in response of all of this. Oh, it was the kid’s fault he killed himself, nobody else’s. Are you serious? So he made all of it up? All the attacks, the hateful diatribes against them, the threats, the alienation was fake? Not long ago, I was browsing the TWLOHA Facebook page and read one of the organizations latest posts on the suicides, and this one girl proudly declared that a boy named Asher Brown was in hell. Not only for taking his life, but because he was gay. Any of you know what To Write Love On Her Arms is about? It’s about suicide prevention, helping young people get help for depression, addictions. Of all places, someone has to make a statement like that? I don’t care if it goes against your religion, show some compassion and mercy, for crying out loud!  Then there’s Tyler Clementi, who took his life after some stupid kids decided to invade his private life and make it available to everyone. Bad enough if it happened to a straight couple, but because Tyler was gay, it made everything worse. We still have that ingrained horror of anyone gay trying to have their own lives. I cannot even imagine the grief his family is experiencing over his loss. No words I can offer could make the Clementi family regain their son. All I have is this rage at the cruelty done to this gifted young man, and what his loss has done to his family. Some others to mention here: Billy Lucas. Seth Walsh, who hung himself and finally passed away a week later. Do you really want me to add to that list?

See, this is where part of the problem lies. Religion, for most of us, has shaped our lives and our views on the world. Many still consider homosexuality an abomination, and waste no time to denounce it at every opportunity. They feel THEY are being discriminated when they are told they can’t make hateful speeches against gays and drag the whole freedom of speech bit into the mess. The fact is, that religion is not the rule of law in America. We have something called the Constitution and Bill of Rights that shape the rules. So which is more important? Religion or rule of law?

The fact that there are people in this country who are hell-bent on making gays an illegal species is frightening. They don’t see them as human beings, and have no qualms in regards to hate crimes or even murder. Recall the charming words of Virginia Foxxe? She declared that the murder of Matthew Shepard was a ‘hoax’. Shepard’s mother was sitting right behind this foolish woman. People think it’s perfectly acceptable to express that level of hatred against another person, that it’s their Constitutional right to do so under the First Amendment. Maybe it’s free speech in their eyes, but it’s in enormously poor taste and aimed to hurt others. They believe the GLBT community does not have the right to exist as human beings. If they were classified as human, that means they are entitled to equal rights, and in their religious views, that goes against God. Apparently their bible trumps the laws of this nation as well.

So, is bullying covered under free speech? Do any of you know what it’s like to be bullied? To be so afraid that you don’t even want to go to school?  To be reminded by bullies day after day that you are worthless, unwanted, hated, that you’re better off dead? Because you don’t fit in? And we have people saying those boys who committed suicide were selfish cowards who couldn’t stand up to a bit of teasing. Teasing is goosedown compared to bullying. Bullying is designed to destroy the victim, to break down every fragment of self-worth the victim ever had, with no chance of recovery. I’m sick to death of people blaming liberals and Democrats for making ‘wimpy’ kids. I’m fed up with people bashing teachers because they’re indoctrinating students to be weak. It’s total BS. It is NOT a rite of passage for children to suffer that kind of abuse. It is NOT acceptable behavior and kids should just ‘get over it’. It is absolute garbage. I was bullied from kindergarten all the way through high school. It wasn’t until I reached middle school that I began to have suicidal thoughts. I was bullied because kids thought I was retarded, because I was odd-looking due to my birth defects. I got called horrible names, but I was also physically assaulted by bullies as well. If I dared complain about it, it would only make things worse. Just picture getting up each day, wondering what will happen to you in the hallways. I would get hit, sucker punched in the back or arms, tripped, slammed into the walls. I had my lockers door shut on my hands many times when getting books out of my locker. Another time they slammed it on my head. Put another kid in my place, and it just so happens they’re gay. I’ll bet you it would be exactly the same. My dad put me in karate classes when he found out about my being beat up. At that point though, most of the damage was done. I hated my life, I hated what happened to me, I hated everyone around me. I was convinced I was a freak, that I was a monster, and that no one would ever love me. I wasn’t teased over sexuality, I was terrorized for being disabled, yet that fear is the same.

This has to stop. Is this what it’s going to take, to make a solid effort to declare that bullying is downright wrong and inappropriate? How many more young lives have to end before we say enough is enough? Go to To Write Love On Her Arms website, send them e-mails about how you feel about this tragedy. Let the founder, Jamie Tworkowski know how much this upsets you and what you can do to help prevent the loss of more young lives. Go to the Human Rights Campaign website and there’s a petition you can sign to urge Washington to take immediate action about this problem. I am doing this blog post because this is an issue that hits far too close to home for me, and I want to do something about it. Heck, if you read this and then check out the sites, maybe mention this blog! We cannot afford to lose our future in these young people.

Maybe this is just me, but it makes me scratch my head and have a WTF moment. Why is it that some people out there think if someone is a little different, they’re suddenly unqualified for a position? Prime example of this is the moronic DADT policy in the military. The moment someone is found out to be gay, it immediately designates them as inferior and unqualified for whatever position they held. So, let’s say a soldier is a valued and highly skilled linguist, regarded for their extreme accuracy in translation. Then it gets out that this soldier is gay and now they are considered unfit and incapable of serving as a translator. See, this is where the confusion sets in for me. HOW does one’s private life have ANY kind of bearing on one’s ability to translate? Or for that matter, serve as a medic, a pilot, or whatever position held? I’m supposed to accept that a poorly trained translator who is straight is eminently more qualified than a highly trained trnslator who happens to be gay?

I just don’t get it. It boggles my mind that there are these huge gaps of logic in making these kinds of decisions. Of course, there’s a lot of raging homophobia amongst the old guard and rabid evangelicals in the military, and because they know how to throw their weight around, they are able to enforce their discrimination. I could be mistaken, because I have never served in the armed forces (little something called a visual disability). I honestly would have, if I hadn’t any medical problems.

The thing is, that it’s not just the military who has this perception. How many other groups were targeted like this, deemed unfit for one reason or another? Women were once considered too weak to do certain jobs, or enough intelligence for others. Women were expected to be housewives, secretaries and baby machines. Blacks at one point were owned like cattle, abused by fellow human beings and considered nothing more than working beasts because of their skin color. They were segregated from whites, discriminated, harassed, murdered. It took the government to tell the American people they were citizens too. Now the latest groups to face bias are the GLBT community and immigrants. Should we forget the murder of Matthew Shepard, or the story of Tempest Smith? Don’t know the names? May I suggest you Google them and find out for yourself. People are up in arms over Elena Kagan, because they fear she’s gay and she’ll destroy the Supreme Court. What of the transgendered? I knew several over the years, and I felt a kinship in them because we both were ostracized for being different. People think once transgendered, that person is no longer capable of doing their job. So a person has a serious, gut-wrenching decision to change their gender, and now they’re suddenly incompetent? WHO comes up with this stuff? Load of bollocks, I say. Under all the changes, at their core they are HUMAN, and so many people forget that fact.

I’m different too; I have some mild disabilities. Should that immediately make me less capable of doing a job? I just cannot fathom the level of knee-jerk stupidity that infests the minds of a portion of this country. Who gives a CRAP about what one’s private life if that private life has absolutely NO bearing on the job duties? Get the frakk over it, you’re big boys and girls now. Get the Moron Minority out of governmental decisions and focus on the job. If this is what the top brass are so obsessed about, I’d rather trust a trained chimp to run the Pentagon than those bozos. Not to mention the millions wasted on hunting down gays in the ranks and the destruction of careers and lives as a result. Now there’s this asinine survey dispatched by the Pentagon about DADT, and it makes me wonder who came up with it, what is its purpose, and who it was sent to. It’s blatantly provocative, it’s meant to stir up feelings and fear, and I don’t think it does anyone justice.

This past week, there have been several suicides of young people because they were, or were perceived to be gay. The one that has gotten the most media attention is of Tyler Clementi, who took his life after an ugly prank played by his roommate. He was only 18. There were other cases too, some of the suicides as young as 12 years old. The organization To Write Love On Her Arms has been going full tilt because of this getting out the message of suicide prevention and awareness. The Human Rights Campaign has a petition making the rounds asking those in D.C. to invest more into preventing such discrimination that leads to these tragic deaths. Something needs to be done about this. Not in six months, not in a year from now. It needs to take action NOW. Nobody wants to talk about these things because of the stranglehold the Religious Right has over swaths of the population. People still feel they have the right to discriminate and demonize a group of people based on religious doctrine. Fine. Object all you want, but don’t object so that it leads to people taking their lives because you don’t think they have the right to exist. I would like to say I gladly stand with the GLBT community in this, because NO ONE deserves to be treated in such a monstrous manner. No one deserves to be bullied to death over sexual orientation, religion, race or gender. Or a million other stupid, petty reasons. I won’t let this go, because the whole existence of bullying is far too personal for me to ignore. I was bullied because of my disabilities, not sexual preference. It made me feel like wanting to commit suicide as well, many times, because I felt I didn’t deserve to be even considered a human being. Not anymore. I am not going to let this issue dwindle into obscurity. If you read this, I hope it compels you to take action as well about this. This is NOT some isolated event. It is happening across the map, and if you laugh it off, you are not living in reality.

This country needs to stop living in the Dark Ages, where the church ruled by fear and violence. Americans are of every color, culture, religion, and lifestyle. No one has to agree with it all, but NO ONE has the right to restrict and discriminate over willful hatred of anyone who is different. It’s the 21st century, sweethearts. Get with the program.

The power of a postcard

That’s how it started. It began with an anonymous postcard sent to Postsecret, and it apparently struck a nerve with the people who operate the site. This is what the card said. “I have lived in San Fransisco since I was young. I am illegal. I am not wanted here. I don’t belong anywhere. This summer I plan to jump off the Golden Gate.”

Just reading those words breaks my heart. It broke hearts around the world, once word of this got out. No one knows who wrote it, or even if it’s genuine. It doesn’t matter, honestly, because that pain is far too real for so many out in the world. Take out the word ‘illegal’ and replace it with something else, like ‘I’m hopeless’, ‘I lost my job, my girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband’. It could be ‘I’m gay’ or ‘I’m Muslim’ or ‘I’m unpopular’, or ‘I’m being bullied and I can’t take it anymore’. So many reasons why. So many young lives cut short because they had no one to go to for help.

Someone decided to stand up for those anguishing, silent, invisible people, and let them know that they are most definitely wanted in this world. A woman by the name of Kimberly Furnell created ‘please don’t jump’ on Facebook, and the membership took off like wildfire. I’ve lost track of how many thousands of fans it has–it has become a phenomenon. It has people from all points on the globe coming together to say to those who are hurting to not give up their lives, to keep fighting, to keep living. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you look like, how you live your life; depression and suicide are not selective. I have been on the brink myself many times, and I guess I’m too stubborn to give up. It is a brutal, frustrating, painful struggle, but I am still here. Many folk on that page have said I must be here for a purpose and I first laughed it off. The thing is, maybe I do have a purpose, and that’s to help others see that there IS hope for them, despite their suffering. Sometimes the advice and affirmations are religious, but that really shouldn’t matter, to be honest.

We all deserve to be loved, we who are hurting so much we’re afraid to reach out for help. No one, let me repeat, NO ONE should EVER be told they are unwanted, unloved, hated for who and what they are. No one should EVER think they should die because of that. No one should EVER tell that to another person. I have felt like a freak for most of my life, and I wanted so desperately to end it because I felt no one could ever possibly show love for someone like me. I have had people from the other side of the world tell me MY life is important to them. Strangers I have never seen. There are others who can testify that they have been touched by others on that page, and given the strength to keep living. If you’re unwilling to involve yourself in keeping someone from taking their life, then you are not helping the situation. It’s not enough to say you support suicide prevention programs, or donate money. Can you picture yourself donating your time to talk to others about finding hope? Are you willing to be part of the solution to prevent these senseless deaths? I am willing. I have written this because this crisis has affected me on a deeply personal level.

On September 22, 2010, it will be officially ‘please don’t jump’ Day. There are people organizing events all across the country to promote the message of preventing suicide. There is the ‘Pick Up The Phone’ project, working with To Write Love On Her Arms, which I believe runs a national suicide hotline for people to call in crisis, which is operated by those who know all too well about it, being survivors. Too many young, beautiful lives have been lost because of this epidemic. It’s still a taboo subject, in some ways. People are afraid to admit that someone is suicidal or depressed, or they don’t want others to know of their problems. If we do not take this head on, we will lose those loved ones forever. I won’t let that happen. I lost a high school classmate to suicide; she jumped off a bridge. I still grieve over that loss, because she was such a beautiful person, inside and out. She was afraid to ask for help; I’ll never know why. I wanted to end my own life, because I felt I was a freak that no one could ever love. I hurt myself because I felt I deserved it for being so ugly. I was convinced that I was a monster. I have had a more difficult life than most people, being born with birth defects, undergoing a lot of reconstructive surgery as a child, being brutally bullied by cruel kids. Not just verbally, but physically as well. I managed to get through high school, graduate, go to college, even though it took me a bit longer because of my bouts of severe depression. I got my aasociate’s degree. I did that while being in the grip of some of my darkest moments of my life. Part of me, despite my intense self-hatred, still kept going. Part of me just did not want to give up. I am here to say it IS possible to overcome that misery that is depression and suicide. I have been blessed to find so many beautiful, genuine people that I’ve never met who share that passion to help others. I do not want to give up on any of them. I will not let this message fade into oblivion. I want people to know about this around the world. There are so many people in positions of wealth and influence that can help promote this cause. Hopefully they will do it because they care about those who are hurting, not for publicity and shameless self-promotion. We are not going away.

Check out the page on Facebook. Read the message, talk to the people there. Ask them why they are part of this group, what it means to them. Love is not a bystander. Love is not selective, nor biased, or judge based on certain criteria. I care because I love. I care because other people’s lives have now become a part of mine. We are all part of a greater family that transcends race, religion, politics, lifestyle, or gender. Our lives are too important to throw away over grief.

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