Archive for the ‘LGBT youth’ Category

>Christmas eve eve

December 23, 2010

>As Christmas approaches a lot of good stuff appears on the internet.

Well, a lot of crappy stuff does too.

Some of you are on Facebook. Here’s a graphic where you might find yourself.

Here are a couple of videos that I wouldn’t have seen if not for the internet. The first one is “A Social Network Christmas,” produced by Igniter Media and portrays how the Christmas story might have played out on Facebook, had it been around back then. Very creative.

Many of us have suffered loss during the past few months. The holiday season is known for being difficult for people who have lost a loved one. My family is dealing with this right now.

Remember the news reports of gay teens taking their own lives after being bullied or harassed that were so prevalent earlier this year? Such deaths are still going on, but the media has tired of that story I guess. But each of those kids represents a family that was shocked to find that their love one was so distraught that they saw no way out. Those families are dealing with the memories and the guilt, and the absence of their loved one right now. Let’s not forget that Christmas can be a horrible time for some who previously thought it was the best day of the year.

LeAnn Rimes joined the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles last week, and honored those young people who are no longer with us with this song.

Be nice this Christmas. And be strong.

Peace.

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>Bullied

November 30, 2010

>Tonight is a free film screening of the documentary Bullied followed by a panel discussion. The film is being presented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and is sponsored by the UAB Safe Zone and Co sponsored by the UAB Gay/Straight student alliance, the Alliance for LGBT Equality at UAB, UAB Chi Sigma Iota, and Alabama Safe Schools Coalition.

The film will be shown at Hill University Center Auditorium at UAB, 1400 University Blvd, at 7:00 PM November 30 (today).

Here’s the trailer to the film.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see this important film. It should be shown in every school, and Southern Poverty Law Center will see that you get a copy for your school.

>Suicide prevention events

November 5, 2010

>On Sunday the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold their fifth annual “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” at Heardmont Park in Shelby County.

Last year the walk raised $90,000 and was the fifth best in the nation, with 690 participants.

This year they hope to raise $100,000 with 800 – 1,000 participants.

Registration begins at 1:30 and the walk begins at 3:00.

With the recent interest in teen suicide including LGBT suicides Equality Alabama is supporting the event and asking their members to wear the purple Spirit Day t-shirt or their Equality Alabama t-shirt. Equality Alabama believes this is an opportunity to educate others about the specifics of anti-gay bullying and its relation to teen suicide.

More information about Equality Alabama’s support can be found on their event page.

More information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this particular event and their LGBT initiative can be found at AFSP.

Here you can watch a panel discussion on bullying and suicide with emphasis on LGBT “bullycides”.

Of course suicide is not limited to teens or to LGBT persons. Suicides occur among people with untreated or under treated clinical depression. Suicide among the elderly is another problem which occurs more often than you may think.

This event is important to everyone, because a suicide can occur in any family without advance notice. This event raises money for research, prevention and educational programs.

Please join this effort, either with Equality Alabama or not, and help with the efforts to prevent the taking of lives.

Tre’Juan Figures

Tre’Juan Figures was a 12 year old boy from Anniston, AL who took his own life in October 2009 after being bullied because he would not join a gang.

There will be a vigil on November 20 at 2:00 pm at Zinn Park in Anniston to remember Trey and to raise awareness for anti-bullying.

Here is an article
about Tre’Juan’s death.

Here is a more recent article from the Anniston Star about bullying and anti-bullying efforts and Jason Childs, whose organization Center for Progress in Alabama is sponsoring the vigil.

Equality Alabama will also be present at this event. Please join us at this event also.

>Don’t mix your hatred with your free speech

October 29, 2010

>This is a free country and thanks to the First Amendment we have freedom of speech.

We have freedom to hate also.

But when a person mixes their hatred with their speech problems arise.

Take Clint McCance. He’s the School Board member for the Midland School District in Arkansas that earlier this week urged gay kids to commit suicide and stated that he would totally disown his own kids if they were gay.

He was responding to Spirit Day on which people wore purple in support of safe schools and in honor of LGBT young people who have committed suicide due to bullying and harassment.

He was publicly shamed and will resign from his position, after apologizing.

Anderson Cooper interviewed McCance, where he announced his resignation.

Anderson asked him about his statement that he would disown his kids if they were gay and that they would not be welcome in his home or in the vicinity. He did not deny that he still has those feelings, saying that he does not know what he would do yet, that “time will tell.”

In part 2, Anderson brings and David and Amy Truong, parents of 13 year old Asher Brown, one of the recent bullying related suicides, into the conversation.

Part 2.

Or consider Texas NBC affiliate KETK which aired a segment in which their viewers were asked to weigh in on the question, “Will the acceptance of homosexuality be the fall of this country?” Radio station KTBB host Garth Maier aired the question and it was simulcast on the TV news.

After the rest of the nation heard about it and watched the clip on YouTube the radio station heard from thousands and has apologized. Here is the apology from KTBB Radio president Paul L. Gleiser.

The Talkback question that aired on KTBB Radio and was simulcast on KETK NBC 56 television in Tyler on Wednesday, October 27 was unfortunate in its wording and unfortunate in the perception that it created among a large number of thoughtful individuals. The question, “Will the acceptance of homosexuality lead to the fall of America?” is poorly worded at best and inappropriate altogether at worst. For that, we apologize.

There are many issues surrounding homosexuality that are fair game for discussion in the media and in opinion journalism. The proper role, if any, for openly gay individuals in the military, the legitimacy of same-sex marriages and the public behavior by some individuals at gay and lesbian events held outdoors in public view are among topics about which reasonable people may disagree. These and other topics surrounding homosexuality are topics that talk radio hosts and opinion journalists may legitimately pose to their respective audiences.

With that said, the way our Talkback question was posed might be seen as asking, “Do homosexuals, by their very existence, threaten to bring down America?” We believe that such a question, posed in such a manner, is likely to generate more heat than light.

I understand how those who either heard, or heard about, KTBB’s Talkback question on Wednesday might have been offended. For the offense that was taken, we sincerely apologize.

Paul L. Gleiser, President
KTBB Radio

KETK general manager Dave Tillery has also responded to Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD) concern and will be issuing an on-air statement confirming that such a segment has no place on programming of a reputable news organization. GLAAD has also suggested they ask Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns to do an interview with the station.

My suggestion to people who hold such hatred in their hearts is to keep it there unless you can do something about it, such as educating yourself or getting counseling to deal with whatever issues are causing you to have those feelings.

>The bad news

October 22, 2010

>Two more young gay people have taken their lives this week. There is so much hatred directed toward these kids that they cannot see the love and support that the LGBT community and our allies have been sending their way over the last few weeks (actually all long, it’s just been more publicized over the last few weeks).

Corey Jackson was one of the boys. Corey was 19 years old, and a student at Oakland University. He hanged himself on Tuesday.

“Corey lived to please people; he lived to make everyone around him happy,” his friend Justine Roy said. “He gave off this positive aura, this positive vibe that you couldn’t help but be happy and smile.”

The president of Corey’s fraternity, TKE, Nick McCormick, said “I think the bullying may have something to do with it; maybe it was some negative support he may have gotten. If I had to give it a guess, the perception of his lifestyle might have had an effect on him.”

Other published reports say bullying did not play a role, but I can see where officials would try to sweep that under the rug. The family says bullying is to blame.

The other young man was Terrel Williams, a 17 year old student from Beverly Hills. He left a suicide note.

“I’m sorry to my immediate loved ones, but I feel suicide is the only way out. I felt coming out, and being happy with Daric, was the best thing I could’ve ever done. But I didn’t think it would lead to my death at an early age.

“Today, was the record worst day of my life, some kids at school stole some of my stuff that I got from people I really cared about, and that really pushed me over the top, next to being shoved into a wall, and my ribs being broken.”

His mother released this statement after an errant picture and some errant information was released.

So I am not posting a picture of Terrel.

Two thirds of Americans believe churches contribute to gay suicides. Obviously.

President Obama has come on board to tell young people “It Gets Better.

>Still waiting on a phone call

October 21, 2010

>I hope the Bessemer Board of Education realizes I’m serious.

I went by there yesterday, wearing my purple “Port St. Joe” t-shirt, to follow up on the letter I sent last week, and to get a copy of the Bessemer bullying policy.

I was unable to meet with the person I had sent the letter to, and was told he would give me a call, but I haven’t heard anything. I’ll go back today, and every day, until I get to speak to someone, and until we see a change in the policy.

Update: I went back this morning and was still unable to anyone. I was, however, told that I needed to speak with Mr. Foster, the superintendent. He is who I mailed the letter to, so he knows why I am trying to contact him. In fact, in the letter, I told him I would.

Why am I pursuing this? Because the Bessemer policy has not been updated since 2008. The Student Harassment Prevention Act was passed in 2009, and required the policy to be updated by July 2010.

The Board knows this. I mean, even if they didn’t get word from the State Department of Education, surely they had seen my column in the Western Tribune (you know, that weekly newspaper that used to be), where I mentioned it in a story about gay kids getting a break.

The model policy developed by the state lists the following personal characteristics regarding harassment: race, sex, religion, national origin and disability.

Bessemer does not even do this. There is no list.

The law states “Based upon experience, a local board of education may add, but not remove, characteristics from the list. The additional characteristics or perceived characteristics that cause harassment shall be identified by the local board on a case-by-case basis and added to the local board policy. The list shall be included in the code of conduct policy of each local board.”

And from Fort Worth

You’ve seen the video of Fort Worth council person Joel Burns delivering his emotional message at the city council meeting.

Joel and his husband, political consultant J. D. Angle, were on the Lawrence O’Donnell show yesterday.

If you haven’t heard the part of Burns’ speech that describes him popping the question it’s included in this video. Nice.

If you haven’t seen the entire 12 minutes of Joel’s speech, watch this. Watching the full 12 minutes is much different than watching the 30 seconds or so that we’ve seen on the news. You can use a few minutes of your time to watch this. Heck, you’re surfing the internet anyway. Slow down and watch.

I’m just wondering if we live in a community where elected officials would feel comfortable speaking out like this. Will the leaders in Bessemer, the new council and the new school board, step up to the plate and move this city forward, helping to make it into a city, and a school system, that values all of its citizens and students and provides a safe environment for learning?

Time will tell.

>It Gets Purple (and purple is better)

October 20, 2010

>This is a colorful blog. We’ve turned pink for the month of October (and turning pink has messed up our format a bit, the videos overload some if the sidebar items, but that’s OK, for a while. If you’re new, Bessemer Opinions is normally not this sloppy looking).

And for today, we are purple, to bring awareness to the problem of bullying in schools.

We are getting ready for fall around here. More pictures below.

If you’ve kept up with this blog for the past couple of weeks, you already know how concerned we are about the bullying problem. Well over 200 people have sent letters to their state Senators and lots of people are wearing purple today. If you haven’t sent a letter, please go here, add a personal note to the suggested text, and send it away. We do the work. We print out your letter and deliver it to the senator.

The employees of Google say that it gets better.

I’ve not reported much on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell developments, one reason being is that by the time I write something and you see it, other new developments have occurred. But this is neat. Dan Choi has re-enlisted in the army as an openly gay man.

Now, we all love Hillary. She’s joined in with those making “It Gets Better” videos. From the heart, and compassionately, she makes the case. and sounds very presidential in doing so. Ahem.

I’ve added a new blog to My Blog List on the sidebar. Shadetree Theology is the reflections of a man who is still recovering, if I may, from being a minister in a “charismatic/Pentecostal” denomination, and having to break through that cloud when he came out as a gay man. He is going through a lot of what I did with his family, and he reveals a lot of the unfairness of the process of divorce and trying to do so amicably. Been there. There are hundreds if not thousands of such stories, but Trey is local. Trey, I can offer you this: It does get better.

Today I am visiting the Bessemer School Board. This could be interesting. If you are a Bessemer student, read this.

I think there are going to be some stories about Bessemer in the next two weeks, but for now, things are calm and cool. Martha would be proud of my fall decor.

>Deep Purple

October 19, 2010

>Tomorrow I’m going to be purple.

You should too.

Wear purple on Wednesday as a way of demanding safe schools. Let people know why you are wearing purple. Teens gotta feel safe.

Specifically, in Alabama, the Student Harassment Prevention Act which was signed into law last year neglected to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression while offering protection for such things as race and religion as characteristics about which students should not be harassed or bullied. In other words, kids can get away with calling fellow students fag or queer or pansy until that kid begins to skip school or harms them self. But use a racial slur, or challenge someone’s disability, and it stops right there.

“Oh, the gays are screaming again about a perceived problem that really doesn’t exist,” you might say.

A survey by the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition of Alabama high school students revealed some startling facts.

59% have been verbally harassed at school (called a derogatory word)

22% have been physically harassed

58% have had mean rumors or lies spread by other students

Remember, these are Alabama students. These actions have consequences.

34% felt unsafe at school

18% have skipped school because of harassment

60% report they have been unable to concentrate in classes

36% report they have had lower grades because of harassment

43% report they have had thoughts of suicide

These are students in our schools. 43% are thinking of suicide.

Harassment and bullying is affecting their grades.

And the problem is not just with other students.

29% felt that they had been treated unfairly by their teachers or administrators.

Over 50% reported problems with anger, self esteem issues, and increased problems interacting with peers. Significant numbers also report feelings of spiritual isolation, eating disorders and headaches.

It could be your kids, or your grand kids, or your niece or nephew being harassed. and it affects all the kids, not just the gay ones.

So do this.

First, go here to send a message to your state Senator. Over 180 messages have already been generated, including a good number from Bessemer. Priscilla Dunn will be getting the message, but I am 100% sure that she is already on the right side of this issue. But we want the Alabama Senators to know that they can fix this problem by passing an “upgrade” to the bill to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression..

2. Wear purple on Wednesday, and tell people why.

Now, you don’t have to go this far. This Brit boy turned his whole self purple.

Now I am about to make a major upgrade to my laptop. So I may come back here tomorrow very happy, or I may not come back at all. But regardless, I’ll be (wearing) purple.

And, I’m reminded of my favorite Deep Purple song from the days in my parent’s basement when there was a smoky haze in the air. You might be more familiar with the Tina Turner version, or even Celine Dion, but this is the original, and the instrumentals at about the 3:00 mark are unbelievable.

River Deep Mountain High

>Deaths

October 12, 2010

>

It’s one thing to read statistics or opinions on blogs about kids killing themselves.

It’s something altogether different when you put a face to the name and realize that yes, this is a real person who will never know love, will never have a career, will never get to have his or her own family, will never get to pet another cat or dog, will never see a sunrise, will never get to take state boards, will never get to meet a celebrity, will never give a surprise birthday party, will never open a Christmas present from someone special and will never eat an extra piece of red velvet cake even though they don’t need it.

Here are the known LGBT suicides over the past few weeks. There are probably more. There will be more unless attitudes and policies in our country change.

13 year old Asher Brown of Cypress Texas shot himself in the head on Sept. 23, 2010 after enduring constant harassment at school according to his parents. Complaints to the school went unheard. He looks so happy in this picture.

Asher

13 year old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi California died on September 28 from injuries resulting from hanging himself from a tree on September 19. He was tormented and school officials would not address the problem.

Seth

15 year old Justin Aaberg of Anoka, Minnesota died on July 9, 2010 of hanging after being bullied at school.

Justin

He was an accomplished cello player. He wrote and played the background music in this memorial video for him.

At his high school 5 kids have killed themselves in the last year. Three of those are tied to sexual identity issues. That school chooses to “remain neutral” on the subject.

Raymond Chase was 19 years old and was a student at Johnson and Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. He hung himself in his dorm room. He had an interest in culinary arts, but will never get to use the skills he was developing.

Raymond

Tyler Clementi was a student at Rutgers and a 2010 Festival of Young Performers Scholarship recipient when he jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River on September 22, after his roommate and another person broadcast webcam footage of Tyler in an intimate moment with another man. He was an intensely devoted musician who was described as sweet and shy.

Tyler

15 year old Billy Lucas of Greensburg, Indiana, hung himself in their barn on September 9 after enduring torment at a school that did nothing. He was called “fag” one too many times.


Billy

Billy loved horses. That he hung himself in the barn around the animals he loved is touching. I’m pretty sure he felt he was loved by his horses, I understand the human animal bond. He was surrounded by love. Here is Billy with one of his horses, Nic.

Billy and Nic

Hate messages have been left on his memorial page.

19 year old Aiyisha Hassan of Southern California took her life in her home on October 5. She was struggling with identity problems. She must have loved this little dog, speaking of the unconditional love our pets give us. They don’t care if we’re lesbian or gay, if we wear a dress, if we cut our hair in an odd way, if we sleep with a guy one week and a girl the next. Animals have a better outlook than many humans.

Aiyisha

Justin Lacey, 18 years old, recently began living as Chloe, a transgender woman, and after struggling with fears of harassment and abuse she shot herself in her Eureka California home on September 24, 2010.

Justin

Her mother was asked if it was hard to accept Chloe. “No, no. It’s hard to accept that she is gone,” she replied crying.

Chloe

Update: On the previous post I mentioned 19 year old Zach Harrington of Norman Oklahoma who killed himself a few days after attending a “toxic” city council meeting on September 28 where hateful individuals degraded the gay community. I watched a video of those proceedings. Part of what I heard was equal to what I and others have described as spiritual terrorism. I guess bullying occurs in places other than schools.

Zach

Will my community of Bessemer do something to protect the kids in our schools before something tragic happens? Will our school board pass an inclusive anti-bullying policy? We will soon find out.

What about the school board in your community?

>Remembering those who lost hope

October 8, 2010

>You have noticed that Bessemer Opinions is Pink, and of course, this is in support of Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.

I should be writing about breast cancer, and I will on another day. But my heart is still with the kids who are bullied, and who feel they have nowhere to turn.

Read yesterday’s post about Hope to understand more.

For years the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition has sought to ensure that our students can learn in environments that are free from discrimination, harassment and violence.

From their web site:

Students in Alabama schools are currently not protected by existing policies
from being discriminated against, harassed, or bullied because they are or are
perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Current policies
also do not prohibit discrimination against students who are perceived to be
“too masculine” or “too feminine” or students who associate with LGBT students
or who have parents or siblings who are LGBT.

In the past few weeks there have been several high profile suicides of young gay people because they were bullied, harassed or tormented. But in reality, 10 or more young people take their lives every day. Every day.

There will be candlelight vigils across the state on Sunday at 6:00 to raise awareness and to remember those who have taken their lives. (Info below)

Experts estimate that for every teen suicide there are 10 unsuccessful attempts.

Based on statistics from a few years ago, the facts are startling.

One young person (age 15-24) dies from suicide every 2 hours and 12 minutes.

That means that during the Alabama-South Carolina football game tomorrow, at least one young person will kill them self. The same goes for the Auburn-Kentucky game. Think about that while you’re watching football. The next time you go to see a movie, remember that during the time you are sitting in the theater, a young person has taken their life. While you are at work today, 4 young people will kill themselves. While you sleep, four more will enter eternal sleep.

Among the general population, a suicide occurs every 17 minutes, so young people are killing themselves at a greater rate than the rest of the population.

And lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

This is not just to raise awareness among the LGBT community. We know of the problem. We’ve lived through the problem. We want to raise awareness among the straight community, the school boards and the legislators and policy makers.

Listen to what this straight teacher has to say about her former students.

Invite your neighbors, your teachers, your school board members, and your legislators to the vigil.

And we don’t have to wait till one of our students takes his or her life before we address the problem. Actually, young gay people in our state have taken their lives going back decades. This vigil will be for them as well.

But decades ago there was no support system. No Internet. No openly gay supportive adults or role models.

This is 2010. There is absolutely no excuse for our state to not provide fully inclusive protections against bullying and harassment. No excuse.

This video was dedicated to kids who were bullied in school, and to their families.

I have to disagree with the man on one point. He says suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicide may be permanent, but it is not a solution. And it actually creates more problems. Believe me, I know.

In Birmingham, the vigil will be at Vulcan Park at 6:00 on Sunday. Please arrive early. And please respond on Facebook so we will know how many candles to bring.

In Huntsville the vigil will be at Spirit of the Cross Church on Saturday. Austin Jennings will be providing music beginning at 5:45. Please respond on Facebook.

In Montgomery the vigil will be on the Capitol Steps at 6:00 on Sunday. Please respond on Facebook.

If you can’t respond on Facebook, don’t let that stop you from coming.

And also important is this weekend’s Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer Research.

The Race for the Cure is Saturday, October 9 in Birmingham. Go here go here for details or to donate.