Before the first decade of the new millennium ended, school yard bullies had a new powerful weapon: social media, and an exponentially nastier era in gay bashing had begun. A combination of verbal and physical intimidation combined with multiple electronic ways of extreme humiliation with worldwide accessibility created an alarming escalation of deaths by suicide of gay youth that by 2010, #SpiritDay was created to bring the conversation to a national platform with awareness to the parents and resources for their children.
Harnessing the same social media and internet capabilities for good this time, the Trevor Project, a 24/7 text, chat and phone available suicide hotline connections portal and the “It Gets Better” Project: a collection of 50,000 plus videos from professional athletes, movie stars, people of all faiths, and even a couple of US Presidents that communicate messages of hope and validation of the difficulty of the journey to “Better Land” to those that need to hear it most and are afraid to ask about it anywhere else.
The bullying of gay youth in schools was and is nothing new but it had been largely kept under the radar by the same homophobia, shame and fear that helped give rise to it in the first place. When Carl Walker-Hoover’s mother discovered her eleven year old son had hanged himself with an extension cord when he could take the gay bashing at school no more, neither could she.
She came forward with her story in the hopes no other family would have to endure such heartbreak: the loss of a child not to accident or disease, but by their own hand. Mrs. Walker was not the last parent left to grieve but she was also not the last to speak out. They could not, and would not, be content with the silence on the needless deaths of their children.
Obscured in the annals of the less proud days of our great country is the fact that in the early 50’s, LGBT citizens, starting with federal employees, were offered up as ceremonial consolation prizes in the unsuccessful communist witch hunt of Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare. The proponents of the trickle down theory of government had it correct in this instance. Their persecutory message made it right down to Jane and John Q. Public and was accepted as fact.
Over hushed voices, from generation to generation since then, and often in addition to hateful rhetoric that can be found in all religions, there has been a taciturn approval for the sanctioning of LGBT people in general, and our youth in particular, as a socially acceptable boogey man, out to recruit children, threatening national security and dedicated to the destruction of the country’s morality. By looking the other way or ignoring it, this will continue to be passed along despite outward appearing societal shifts in visibility and toleration.
Mrs. Walker and all of the parents had something very unique in common; it was always one of ‘those’ kids until it became their kid. This cycle can be stopped in a very simple way: let the young people in your life know you will love them no matter what, no matter what – and mean what you say. #WeGiveADamn
My name is Harlan Yaffe.
I? ?w?a?s? ?a? ?b?u?l?l?i?e?d? ?k?i?d?
It Got Better!