The message came too late

After a rash of suicides within the LGBTQ communities across America, columnist Dan Savage launched a new project aimed at speaking to the younger members of the gay and lesbian population.

After a rash of suicides within the LGBTQ communities across America, columnist Dan Savage launched a new project aimed at speaking to the younger members of the gay and lesbian population. The project provides messages of hope and support, but for a number of teens who hadn’t yet found such support, the messages have come too late.

Justin Aaberg was bullied as he attended Anoka High School in Minnesota. On July 9, his mom found him in his room after he had hanged himself. Two months later in Indiana, Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself with a horse lead from the rafters of his family’s barn in Indiana. Lucas was also the victim of bullying at his school.

Two days after Lucas took his own life, Cody Barker, 17, committed suicide on Sept. 13 in Shicoton, Wis. Seth Walsh, 13, also experienced several incidents of bullying but his cries for help were not heard by school officials at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi, Calif. Walsh died in the hospital after attempting to take his own life by hanging himself from a tree in his backyard—after days on life support, he passed away on Sept. 28.

Asher Brown, 13, was kicked down a flight of stairs in his Texas school shortly before coming out to his parents—Brown took his stepfather’s gun and committed suicide on Sept. 23. Nineteen-year-old Raymond Chase of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., committed suicide on Sept. 29 by hanging himself in his dorm room.

Most famously in the news, Tyler Clementi, 18, of Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22 after his roommate broadcast footage of Clementi’s encounter with another man over the Internet.

These seven boys who lost their lives in recent months must be remembered. It is for these seven boys and the hundreds, if not thousands before them that we as a culture must look inside ourselves and ask not what is wrong with them, but what is wrong with us?

It is 2010 and people are still being bullied to the point of taking their own lives because of their sexuality? Those who identify as LGBTQ are still people; they have always been people, and they always will be people. They deserve the same respect that we give all human beings.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where the phrase “That’s so gay” is used as an insult—a phrase that says more about the person making it than it does about the object or person it is directed at. It says, “I’m ignorant.”

Part of the problem, and certainly not the only problem, is that our peers use it and even some friends, too, and we think that it is okay to call something that is bad or wrong “gay.”

What we need to do is work on interrupting those who say it. When you hear someone say it, say something like “Wait, what did you mean by that?” And they’ll say something along the lines of that is bad, and then you ask them, “Why don’t you just say that that is bad?” It may not always go this way, and it is certainly difficult to do, but if everyone does their part to eliminate that phrase, that’s a step at least. After all, I fail to see what the sexuality of the object of that phrase has to do with anything.

“If we want our children to be safe, if we don’t want our children to be martyrs, we need to be proactive and reactive,” said Glenn Evart, Portland State sophomore and self-proclaimed activist.

Dan Savage’s project, titled “It Gets Better,” is based on its own YouTube channel. On the “It gets better” Facebook page, it is reported that nine out 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment, while gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide. The tag line for the project is a quote from Harvey Milk, “You gotta give ‘em hope.”

Organizations like this are so important for the LBGTQ community and those that support them. You can create your own YouTube video to tell people that it really does get better. Resources are important because everyone needs to have someone on their side and somewhere they can go to. If they do not have that at home or with their friends, they can look to organizations like this one, which has a whole slew of people preaching hope.

We need to reach out, treating everyone equally and with respect. After all, we are all human beings. ?