Any suicide carries a tragedy with it. A suicide which occurs because of the bigotry of others carries a double tragedy with itthe one that must be faced by the dead teenager and his or her loved ones, as well as the one which must be faced by society.
All around the world, there are young LGBT people who feel desperate in their environment. They feel alone. They feel sick. They feel ( and are ) persecuted. Here in Latvia, a psychologist had this to say in a 2006 magazine interview: "A great number of suicides occurs among teenagers with a homosexual orientation. They do not really understand what is happening with them and how to live with it. Public intolerance and negative attitudes drive people into powerful desperation, and suicide is seen as the only escape."
Latvia is, sadly, a country with institutionalized homophobia both in the church and in government. Fiercely and vulgarly homophobic commentary follows any discussion of LGBT issues on the Internet. In that same year of 2006, protesters at one of the country's first LGBT pride events threw sacks of human excrement at marchers, and the police did not intervene. A member of Parliament ( ! ) has referred to homosexuals as "shit-stirrers." I'm afraid that I can imagine a young man or woman looking at that environment and thinking "not for me." The escape valve in Latvia is free travel within the European Union. I know lots of LGBT people who have simply picked up sticks and moved to London or Copenhagen or some other place where bigotry is not supported by political and religious institutions. But that's not an option for someone in the sixth grade.
And yet what are we to say about America? A kid in California, a 13-year-old called Seth, hung himself from a tree recently. Did he not notice Judge Walker's ruling on Proposition 8? Did he not watch Glee last season and see a young gay man harassed to a certain extent but supported to a much greater extent? Did he not watch Modern Family or Will & Grace or any of the television shows on which LGBT people just go about their lives? Did Seth not see a future for himself in Bakersfield, California or, more particularly, beyond? Apparently not.
The police in Bakersfield talked to the kids who taunted Seth on the day that he tried to kill himself ( he lasted for nine days on life support before dying ) and found that no one committed any criminal offense. The local television station reported that some of the kids burst into tears. Well, I should bloody well hope that they burst into tears. I should bloody well hope that so did their parents and all of Bakersfield. And beyond.
I haven't lived in America for 20 years now, and I have watched with horrified amazement at the rise of the religious Reich in the country of my birththat hateful, bigoted, hostile movement which claims to be "Christian," but is anything but. It is gruesome to me that so many politicians have been prepared to pander before it. And it is sad, beyond sad to me that Americans have not come together to say that America's promise belongs to everyone. The United States presents itself as a beacon of all that is good in the world. It wasn't anything good for Seth in California. And it is just that little less good because of Seth's story than it would have been otherwise. Nowhere in the world should there be an environment in which an LGBT kid sees suicide as the only way out, not in Latvia, not in Uganda, and certainly not in the United States. What happened to Seth was a national disgrace.
Karlis Streips worked for Chicago's GayLife newspaper in the early 1980s. Since then he has worked as a television reporter in America, but for the last 20 years he has lived in his ancestral country of Latvia, where he hosts radio and television programs, teaches journalism at the University of Latvia, and works as a translator.
IN THIS ISSUE [ LINK HERE OR FROM THIS ISSUE'S MAIN INDEX ]
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Anti-suicide project reflects on cases
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php DePaul vigil remembers teen suicides
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kirk Williamson
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Tracy Baim
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Toni Weaver
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Amy Pirtle
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Bobby Pirtle
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Eric Marcus
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Alexandra Billings
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Caleb's Story
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by John R. Cepek
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Judy Shepard
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Lee Lynch
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kristi Keorkunian
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Joshua Plant
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Chris Hill
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Trevor Project Chicago events
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Stopping Bullies in Illinois
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Mother of Slain Teen Gwen Araujo Addresses LGBT Youth Suicide by Sylvia Guerrero
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Carl G. Streed Jr.
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Thom Bierdz
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kit Duffy
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Vernita Gray
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Wancy Young Cho