Monday, October 4, 2010

Suicides Put Light on Pressures of Gay Teenagers


When Seth Walsh was in the sixth grade, he turned to his mother one day and told her he had something to say.

“I was folding clothes, and he said, ‘Mom, I’m gay,’ ” said Wendy Walsh, a hairstylist and single mother of four. “I said, ‘O.K., sweetheart, I love you no matter what.’ ”

But last month, Seth went into the backyard of his home in the desert town of Tehachapi, Calif., and hanged himself, apparently unable to bear a relentless barrage of taunting, bullying and other abuse at the hands of his peers. After a little more than a week on life support, he died last Tuesday. He was 13.

The case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a sexual encounter with another man was broadcast online, has shocked many. But his death is just one of several suicides in recent weeks by young gay teenagers who had been harassed by classmates, both in person and online.

The list includes Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old from Greensburg, Ind., who hanged himself on Sept. 9 after what classmates reportedly called a constant stream of invective against him at school.

Less than two weeks later, Asher Brown, a 13-year-old from the Houston suburbs, shot himself after coming out. He, too, had reported being taunted at his middle school, according to The Houston Chronicle. His family has blamed school officials as failing to take action after they complained, something the school district has denied.

The deaths have set off an impassioned — and sometimes angry — response from gay activists and caught the attention of federal officials, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who on Friday called the suicides “unnecessary tragedies” brought on by “the trauma of being bullied.”

“This is a moment where every one of us — parents, teachers, students, elected officials and all people of conscience — needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms,” Mr. Duncan said.

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/us/04suicide.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=globaleua29

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