Friday, December 30, 2011

Story of The Year!!!

To me, at least, this is definitely the story of the year.  And, it delivers the MESSAGE of the year:  eliminate hate-filled language.  Not just in schools, for they're only repeating what they've learned from adults.  Indeed, hate speech needs to be dealt with swiftly and harshly, no matter if it's Michele Bachmann or Mr. Johnson from down the street.

This story isn't new.  It went viral August 16th.  See, "Amelia" has a 6-year-old son who just happened to tell her that he likes kissing boys!  In an innocence that only a 6-year-old can provide, he told his mother that it's quite possible that he's gay.  Thinking it was cute coming from her 6-year-old son, which it was, she wanted to share that with a couple of online friends.  Overnight, it went viral.  Why would something so cute and innocent, and personal, go viral overnight?  There are two very basic reasons why.

People connected with it easily because we could all relate.  Well, most of us. (those who said they couldn't lie to themselves)  See, everyone one of us, if we're honest with ourselves, knew when we were in that age group which gender made us happy on the inside.  And, it's the ones who make us happy on the inside that we are attracted to, whether it's in childhood or adulthood.  I knew when I was 7.  And, every single gay friend I've ever had has said the same thing.  Conversely, every single straight friend I've ever had knew that the opposite sex pushed their internal buttons.  It's only natural!  See, we're not talking sex here.  We're talking attraction.  We're talking about who makes us feel happy inside.  Isn't that what love's really about?

"Amelia" not only accepted her son's words at face value (knowing full well that, at age 6, those words were definitely not set in stone), she embraced him.  She encouraged him.  Guess what happens when he "comes out" at such an early age AND the most important person in your world embraces and encourages you?  Your self-esteem has no choice but to soar.  Which brings me to the obvious second reason people connected so quickly to this story.

People with Michele Bachmannitis were APPALLED that she would encourage such deviant behavior!  "He is much too young to know about sex", they argued.  Huh?  I think I missed that part of the story.  See, the Michele Bachmanns of the world would have the exact opposite effect on this boy:  his self-esteem would be ruined.  He'd be chastised for his "unnatural" feelings and, probably, sent off to be "cured".  That's what "they" do.  And, in just a few years, we'd run the risk of having another suicide victim on our hands.

"Amelia" sat up and took notice.  And, from her observations, for every Michele Bachmann who commented, there were "multiple messages" saying that they, too, knew when they were very young which gender tickled their fancy.  We all do!  Of course, at age 6, we don't put a label on it.  We don't learn that everyone has to fit into a category until later on in life.  But, I knew in 1st grade that Keith made my heart flutter while Debora was just pretty to look at.

The other thing that "Amelia" noticed was how extremely dangerous the hate speech was to not only her 6-year-old son, but to ALL young people!  And, indeed it is.  As I've been saying, it's damaging on both ends:  your bullies learned to hate from somewhere.  Enough said.  Likewise, however, far-too-many of these young suicide victims "learn" from their Michele Bachmannesque parents that they are "abnormal", "freaks", "deviant", "sick" and worse.  They learn that they are defective, that they need to be "fixed".  I don't feel I need to say anything about what this does to their young self-esteem.  Let's just say that we read about them far too frequently and once it's far too late.

My favorite part of the story, though, is where "Amelia" reached the point where she said "Enough Is Enough!!!"  She made a stand.  She vowed to protect her children from the Michele Bachmanns of the world because THEY spread hate as if they have a license to do so.

Ever ask yourself why is it so important to these hate mongers that everyone HAS to think as they do, act in accordance to what THEY think is right?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

With Help Comes Hope

I finally found it!  Call me slow, I guess.  Earlier in the month, facebook advertised that they were joining the fight against suicides by launching a new page that would be linked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Until tonight, however, all I could ever find were ARTICLES telling about it.  Determined, I tracked it down, finally.

This is a link EVERYONE needs to have handy in case of emergency.  Copy and paste it somewhere.  Then, write the phone number down somewhere where it's easily accessible.

I'm very happy to report that Joshua is doing much better, thanks to the overwhelming support he's gotten from around the world!  He even started therapy.  So, kudos to all of you who read about him here and reached out to him.  And, for those of you who didn't, you still can send him a friend request.  He's accepting all.

When you check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and read down the page,  you'll see several opportunities for you to reach out, send messages, and embrace these emotionally wounded people as they struggle through a very tough period of their lives.  A couple who jumped off the age at me were GaryLucas Love Wang, and Chloe Strand.  They're both contemplating at this very moment.  Just as we all reached out and pulled Joshua back from the edge, these two people now need that same support.  With help comes hope.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

By a Thin Thread

I was talking to a friend last night.  In fact, she is a very dear friend whom I met since embarking on this life's journey of trying to save lives.  She's right there on the frontline with me...and, many others.  Last night's conversation was sparked by a young man who was posting suicidal comments to his facebook page.  He's fine.  At least for now.  As she was about to sign off, she told me about another person who was now posting suicidal comments.  This one seemed urgent.

Joshua hasn't been a teenager since 1999.  Then again, we're not JUST about trying to save teen's lives.  Any suicide we can help prevent is a job well done.  I don't know the circumstances that has led Joshua to feel so hopeless right now. And, frankly, it just doesn't even matter.  What matters right now is building a wall of support around him to keep him from falling to that place where he won't be able to get up.  The wall was erected very quickly.

According to his facebook comments, Joshua was hanging on by the thinnest of threads.  Whatever is going on with him has really hit him hard.  The good news is he's still here.  He went to work today.  He's now home from work and communicating on his facebook page.

See, I don't believe for a second that Joshua wants to die.  I don't think that any suicide victims REALLY want to die.  They want the pain to stop.  They want to feel whole again.  I believe that's the case with Joshua, as well.  The great think here is that he is freely accepting friend requests on his facebook page right now!  That says to me that he WANTS someone to hold him up until he regains his strength.  And, that's where we all come in.  That's what our mission is, right?  Saving at a time?  You can go, right now!, to Joshua's facebook page, send him a friend request, he'll accept it.  I guarantee it.  Right now, he's hanging on by a thin thread.  What's most important, however, is that he's hanging on.

Fed Up People Are Making a Difference!!!!

Tennessee awarded the family of a special needs student who had been severely bullied over $300,000.  And, even though Maryland dropped the ball when they had a chance to send a clear "ZERO TOLERANCE" message when they released the school administrators of responsibility in a similar suit, other states are making great progress in toughening their anti-bullying laws.  That's great news going forward.

The recent suicide of Jacob Rogers, also in Tennessee, has sparked town hall meetings to push their lawmakers to toughen their laws.  Also, over 1,700 people have signed an online petition to force their local government to toughen its laws.  That's taking action!!!!  Hopefully, every time we see one of these petitions, everyone will sign it.  You don't have to live in Cheatham County.  You only have to have a burning desire to see things change.  That said, here's the link again.

In Iowa, a group called the Eychaner Foundation has launched an anti-bullying website for the state of Iowa.  All incidences of bullying can be reported here, with the information sent to school administrators.  Anyone can report an incident as it's occurring.  That's a great tool.  At the very least, it's a huge step in the right direction.  Now, we need to see a similar website for every state.

One thing we know for certain:  If nothing changes, nothing changes.  I think we're beginning to see changes.  It's a welcomed sight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sing a Song; Light a Candle

Tomorrow at 1:00pm, the family and friends of Colton Wilson will say goodbye to the boy they only had the pleasure of knowing for a short 13 years but will love forever.  Tomorrow, at 1:00pm, say a prayer, sing a song, light a candle.  Anything. Just do something to say goodbye to the young man most of us never knew but will always remember as yet another life that ended far too soon.

For those of you who would like to leave online condolences for the family, there is a facebook page set up in his memory.  I'm sure that they would love to hear from you all.

I read recently that suicides for 2011 were at a 40 year low.  I find that hard to believe but am ecstatic if it's true.  And, yet, to the family and friends of young Colton and the myriad other suicide victims of 2011, that number is completely meaningless.  The goal, my prayer, is to get the number of teen suicides down to zero in 2012.  Perhaps that's unrealistic, but if we keep that as our goal and work feverishly towards that goal, we will see the number drop significantly in the coming year.  That means less families and friends who have to suffer an excruciating pain.  That means less young lives lost because of suicide.  Now, THAT'S a New Year's resolution!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Each One Teach One

This morning, I received an email from a family member of Colton Wilson, a recent suicide victim.  In it, she thanked me profusely for caring and for sharing her brother's and her family's story with everyone.  It touched me like no other email I've ever received.  Young Colton's funeral is coming up Wednesday at 1:00pm.  I will play a song for him that day, for sure.  And, I'll undoubtedly shed a tear for a boy I never knew.

Reading that email made me understand that this blog is really making a difference in its own little way.  If I'm touching someone's life, that's what it's all about.  If I'm helping to save a life, that's REALLY what it's all about!!  Inspired by the suicide death of Jamie Hubley, I've set out on a mission that will not end until I take my last breath.  And, that mission is to make a difference somewhere in this world and to start doing my part, small as it may be, to try to prevent some young person from committing suicide.  It's a daunting task, I've since learned.

Writing about it isn't hardly enough.  I tried that before, writing about it in some of my songs.  Not enough people were listening.  Fair enough.  Then, in October, I read about Jamie in Ottawa, and my life changed forever.  I knew then that I had to get deeper involved.  And, I have.  This blog is being read by over 100 people daily, with more readers coming in almost daily.  Easily, this blog has more of an audience than my music ever had, and I write good music!

So, now, the mission is to take this to the next level.  Writing about it is good.  People are connecting.  People are relating.  And, people are healing.  But, how do we go about making a serious change in our social landscape?  How do we begin to turn the tide so that teen suicide, be they gay, straight, or Martian, becomes a thing of the past?  The answer, to me at least, is a very obvious one:  the #1 place to start is a total re-education of our society as a whole.  That's a monumental task!  People are set in their ways.  People, including and maybe especially the young, live the way they're taught.  So, how do you climb that big mountain?  One step at a time.  That's the approach we need to take.

So, here's the challenge:  each one (who reads this) teach one.  This is a two-parter, actually.  First step, be kind to someone you don't know.  Show compassion and understanding to someone you don't know.  Everyday.  You never know how your kindness will affect someone.  That one person may be having the worst day of his/her life.  You could prevent something tragic from happening.  If nothing else, you'll put a smile on their face.  How can that be wrong?  The second part to the challenge is equally important:  teach ONE PERSON to do what you're doing.  BOTH parts!  That's called paying it forward.  If we can get that ball rolling, imagine the effect it will have in just a month's time!  If you need added motivation to get started on the challenge, I'll provide you with a few:

  • Jamey Rodemeyer
  • Jamie Hubley
  • Jasmine McClain
  • Cameron DeVeronica
  • Colton Wilson
  • Ashlynn Connor
  • Mason Carter
  • Jacob Rogers
All of these names are from teenagers who committed suicide just since September!!!!  And, there are many more.  Do I really need to go on?  Enough really is enough.  Let's start making a difference.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Taking Bullying to a Whole New Level

We've grown use, and perhaps desensitized, to hearing about bullying in our schools.  We've even coined a new term for the victims of it who commit suicide because of it:  bullycide.  We know that the effects of it can be devastating both the victims as well as the families and friends of the victims.  But, we don't expect to hear about a bullycide coming from our military.

Danny Chen was a 19-year-old Army soldier, fresh into the military.  He had only been in Afghanistan since August.  Sadly, his enemy wasn't the Taliban; it was his own fellow soldiers.  On October 3rd, Danny pulled the trigger on his young life.  He was taunted because of his race.  He was physically abused, even by his superiors.

Currently, 8 people are facing charges in Danny's death.  I think that's a great thing.  We are all aware of the dangers of going off to war.  We fully realize that there's at least a 50-50 chance that we'll never see our loved one again.  War is hell.  But, we expect the threat to come from the enemy, not those who wave the same flag.

This only serves to prove that we have a very deep societal issue.  See, it's not just the kids we have to be concerned about.  You've seen it written here, as well as other places I'm sure, that the only way we're going to begin to make a change in our culture and end the senseless bullying is by re-educating our people.  And, as perfectly illustrated here, and as I've said many time over, that re-education HAS to start with the adults.  See, it's not enough to tell the kids that they shouldn't be mean to others.  That they should treat all people with respect and kindness.  That they should accept all people for who they are.

Young people are far from stupid.  They reject the notion of "do as I say, not as I do!"  If they're seeing teachers stuff students into duffel bags, if they're seeing politicians condemn people because of their sexuality, if they're seeing the men who serve and protect our country bully one of their own because of his race, they're not going to listen to the message of kindness and acceptance.  Plain and simple.  They're going to follow the lead being provide to them by the people they learn from:  the adults.

The Army says they're "...taking this matter very seriously".  We'll have to wait and see by their actions.  Punishing those who are directly responsible for Danny Chen's death is a great start.  But, it's only a start.  In order to begin to truly work towards ending this epidemic, there HAS to be a re-education of our society as a whole.  That's a daunting task, but it isn't impossible.  The important thing is that it's clearly the only way we're going to start to see a change.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

T'was the Night Before Christmas

Here we are, just over two hours short of Christmas.  In some parts, it's already Christmas. (right Aaron?)  For many, this is a time to be with family.  To exchange gifts.  To see the sparkle in the eyes of the "good girls and boys" as they tear the wrappings off of "just what I wanted!!!!"  For some, it's the time to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus.

Unfortunately, there are far, far too many families who, right now, are hurting because they're celebrating this Christmas with one less family member.  A family member lost tragically to suicide.  And, it's to those families, and friends, that my heart really goes out to.  While we all gather around our Christmas trees with our families, our loved ones, our friends, keep these people close to your hearts.  I know I will.

So, right now, I just want to take time out to wish a very Merry Christmas to you, Jamey Rodemeyer.  And, to you Jasmine McClain.  And, you, too, Ashlynn Conner.  You, Roger Crouch.  Colton Wilson, Merry Christmas.  Also to you, Jacob Rogers.  Merry Christmas to you, Mason Carter.  And, to you, Isabelle Guyler.  Ben Lewis, you, too.  And, Cameron DeVeronica, Merry Christmas.

And, then there's Jamie Hubley.  I'm sure you're leading the choir right now singing beautiful Christmas carols.  You've probably even done a rousing rendition of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!!".  I'm sure they'll love it as much as we did here.  I singled you out, Jamie, because even though every single one of these suicides touched me profoundly, you have left a mark on me forever.  You changed my life.  So, to you my friend, very Merry Christmas.  And, never forget:  this blog and always will be inspired by you.

To the families and friends of these wonderful people, I wish you peace, love, and a very Merry Christmas.  If you can, take solace in knowing that your loved ones have a front row seat as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

To those of you who have been reading this blog, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, as well.  Thank you so much for continuing to read this blog, for getting involved, and for trying to make a difference.  There's no better gift we can give.

Student Stuffed in Duffel Bag by SCHOOL EMPLOYEES!!!

Ok, I don't think there's a way to spin this that could possibly justify tying a 4th-grader, or ANYBODY up in a duffel bad.  It happened in Louisville, KY.  Fourth-grader Christopher Baker, a special needs student with autism, was "jumping off the walls" according the school officials.  I guess their means of keeping him off the walls is by restraining him in a duffel bag.  That is not only wrong:  it's illegal.

It seems we're seeing a rash of stories of SCHOOL OFFICIALS bullying special needs students.  It's bad enough for them to have to worry about being bullied by other students.  No one should ever have to go through that.  It's a whole different ball of wax when the ones doing the bullying are the ones who are paid to educate and provide them with a safe learning environment.  The question that begs to be asked is "how can we expect the students to stop the bullying if they're seeing school officials doing it, themselves?"  The answer would be "we can't".  Do you ever remember me saying that, in order to bring about the necessary change, it's going to have to start with the adults?  This story drives home the point.

It is my opinion that the one(s) responsible for this shouldn't only be terminated immediately, they should face criminal charges.  In a surprising turn of events, the interim school superintendent cited confidentiality laws as the reason he couldn't comment on the situation.  However, after reading the article, I came away with a very clear understanding that the school officials feel that this boy got what he deserved.  It's the price you pay for "jumping off the walls".  Especially when you're a 10-year-old autistic student.

So, here's a definite call to action:  Lydia Brown, herself an 18-year-old autistic student at Georgetown University, started a petition online calling for change in Mercer County's handling of autistic students.  It, quite thoroughly, asks for the heads of the school officials responsible for this despicable act.  And, it goes further as to add measure to prevent it from ever happening to another student again.  I would like to encourage every follower of this blog to sign the petition.  Sign it, and pass this along to your own circle of friends and family.  We cannot expect to stop the kids from bullying if we allow the school administrators to get away with it. (are you listening, Maryland?)  Zero tolerance means absolutely that.

Oh, and if you have kids, tell them unless they like duffel bags, it's probably best they stay off the walls.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Maryland Jury Rules in Favor of School!!!

It's a known fact, for those who pay attention to these kinds of things, that when it comes to court cases, it doesn't matter what the facts are.  What matters is what can be proven.  A jury in Maryland ruled in favor of the school and school administrators in a high-profile bullying case of a 10-year-old special needs student.  In so doing, they cited that there wasn't enough evidence to support the claims of negligence on the administrators' parts.  Shame.  Shame.  Shame.

So, what's the lesson learned in this case?  Most importantly is that it really doesn't matter what the facts are, only what can be proven. (just ask O.J. Simpson.  I'm sure he'd agree.)  So, with that said, know that if you're ever faced with a similar situation, document EVERYTHING!  Take pictures.  Take videos, if possible.  Write, and sign, notes!  Keep a log of all phone calls.  Keep a log of the responses you get during these phone calls.  Leave no stone unturned. See, Ed and Shawna Sullivan didn't do this.  They didn't understand the significance of having solid proof.  They didn't understand the ramifications of NOT doing so.  They thought their word would be enough.  They were wrong.  And, now, because they didn't know, they will have the task of telling their 10-year-old son that the school administrators got away with not protecting him better.  He won't understand.  He's 10.

In a sense, the 10-year-old boy got bullied again yesterday by the legal system. Or, was he victimized by parents who didn't understand how the system works. As a 10-year-old, what he understands most is that he, and they, lost.

More on Colton Wilson

Police are still investigating the death of Colton Wilson.  His family is saying "it was an accident".  Bottom line here is that another young life has ended prematurely.

Rumors of bullycide started circulating almost immediately.  The truth is not every teen suicide is the result of bullying.  Take Jamie Hubley, for example.  Yes, he was bullied, and at least one time severely.  However, it wasn't bullying that led Jamie to take his own life.  It was depression.  A very deep depression.

By all accounts, young Colton wasn't the type who would "...allow himself to be bullied", which I read as saying he had a little bit of spunk to him.  Actually, that was refreshing to read.  Colton was a baseball player, a wrestler, a NASCAR enthusiast.  I read that as him being a bit scrappy...hardly the type who would be bullied.  Yet, something terrible happened.  Now, he's gone.  Now, with Christmas just 2 days away, Colton's family, including his twin brother, and friends are left to sort through this and try to carry on without him.

One heartwarming story is emerging from Colton's death.  His organs have been removed and are helping other young people to live.  When I suffered the loss of my dear friend so many years ago, we all were able to take solace in the fact that his death had helped others live.  Hopefully, the same will be true for Colton's family and friends.

Colton Wilson's family needs help with the funeral and burial costs.  At the bottom of the article, click the link, there's information on how you can contribute.  Christmas is the time for giving.  I can't think of a better gift to give at this moment.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It Happens Again: Rest In Peace Colton Wilson (13 years old)

I was posting my previous entry to one of the pages I usually post to.  There was an urgent post from a young girl, asking for prayers for a young man whom she didn't know but heard that he'd just attempted suicide and was in ICU.  I did a little checking, and my heart broke yet again.

Thirteen year old Colton Wilson ended his young life Tuesday, December 20th.  The details have not been released as the police are continuing an investigation.  Speculation is already circulating that it's yet another bullycide, but speculation is unfair to a family who is currently reeling from the loss of their 13-year-old son.  We may never know the true reason why.  What we do know is that the world has lost yet one more of its youth to suicide.  It hurts me to write this.  I can't even imagine how heavy the hearts of the family and friends are right now.  Pray for them.  Pray for the youth of our society.

Rest in Peace, Colton.

Judge Throws Out 9 of 13 Charges in Baltimore Bullying Case

In my Saturday, December 17th blog entry, "VICTORY!!!", I spoke briefly about a case in Baltimore where a 10-year-old special needs student had been bullied so severely, his parents were suing the school administrators and system.  I provided a link to the article.  Maybe you read it.  Maybe not.

The latest development in that case is the judge, today, through out nearly 3/4 of the charges brought against the school and its administrators.  An amazing 9 of the 13 charges were dropped, citing that they were "too vague".  Apparently, not everyone has adopted a ZERO TOLERANCE policy, yet. (the maddening thing is Maryland is MY state!!!)  If the school officials in this case get off with nothing more than a wrist slap, what message will that send?  What will that say to the family involved?  What does the kid, himself, get out that?  I'll tell you.  He, and they, will come away with a state-sanctioned message that kids getting bullied while on their watch really isn't a big concern of theirs.  Says the defense attorney in the case, "Not all fights...are bullying..."  I'm thinking the defense attorney doesn't have kids.

Let's set this straight:  bullying is NEVER ok!  And, when it happens at school or on school grounds, the school administrators are required, REQUIRED!, to take immediate and decisive action.  Anything less than that, and every child in that school system is at risk everyday that they are in school.

Maryland would do well to follow Tennessee's lead from earlier in the week.  There, the judge sent a clear-cut message the bullying was absolutely not tolerated there.  State-by-state, that same policy needs to be introduced and upheld.  Once implemented, any teacher or school administrator who doesn't follow the zero tolerance guidelines should be removed from a position where they are responsible for the safety, physically and emotionally, of young people.  Failure to follow the zero tolerance guidelines means that they are incapable of protecting YOUR children from vicious attacks.  And, if that's the case, they should have to pay.  Pay by losing their jobs.  And, as in the case in Baltimore, they should have to pay monetarily for the pain and suffering endured by the bullying.

Here's to hoping the jury makes the right decision.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's OK to be Different

The tide is changing.  I just read a remarkably refreshing story written by a first-grade school teacher.  She tells a story of how she deals with gender-variance issues in her classroom.  In the first-grade!

She was presented with an issue that needed to be addressed in order to a.) bring comfort to a student who was struggling with gender-based issues.  That's right, in the first-grade!  And, b.) create an environment where her students wouldn't follow the path of bullying because of perceived differences.  It's a brilliant story.  I don't want to say anything more about it.  I've provided a link to it.  Read it for yourself.

Teaching that it is ok to be different when it comes to gender-variation to first-grade students will certainly bring the ire "certain people".  But, it's those "certain people" who helps create the environment that tells kids that it's ok to show intolerance and even hatred to people who are "different".  Especially when it comes to sexuality.  I can just hear it now:  "they're trying to recruit our children!"  The first time I heard that nonsense, many years ago, I laughed until I nearly peed on myself!  That's insanity in its purest form.

Children that young may not be ready to identify themselves as gay, straight, or lesbian.  Nor should they be expected to.  However, children that young DO know that there's "something different" about them.  To a person, every one of my LGBT friends knew at a very young age that they were "different".  I did.  And, I acted on it for the very first time when I was in the first grade.  So, if they are aware enough to know that they have feelings that are different than the perceived norm, shouldn't it make sense to teach them in a way that makes them feel good about themselves.  Doesn't it make sense to foster a sense of self-confidence in the while they're still very young as opposed to teaching them that they're deviant or that they need help?  

I think the choice is clear:  1.) we can continue teaching that people who are "different" are to be treated as such.  And, in the process, we're teaching the "different" children that they are inferior or defective.  That they don't fit.  That they need to be "fixed".  And, in that same process, we're also teaching the kids who are NOT different, the "normal" kids, that it's alright to treat the "different" kids harshly.  After all, they deserve it.  They're freaks.  Make no mistake:  this battle has been fought many times throughout history.  Slaves were "different".  Jews were "different".  Blacks were "different".  Women were "different".  And, throughout history, members from each of those groups were harassed, beaten, and even killed.  Or, they killed themselves.

The second option makes much more sense.  We can follow Melissa Bollow Tempel's example by teaching them at a very early age that it's ok to be different, that you really DON'T have to fit into "the box".  Following her lead fosters self-confidence.  It builds self-confidence.  It takes away the potential future bully's most consistent tool:  the perception that their targeted victim is "different" from them.

Teaching acceptance on all levels to a first-grader is simply brilliant.  It certainly worked in Melissa Bollow Tempel's  first-grade class...  She's making a difference.  If we had more people like Melissa in this world, we'd be seeing much less incidences of bullying which means far fewer incidences of teen suicide.  And, that's our goal.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Brandon McInerney Sentenced to 21 Years for Killing Gay Classmate

Today, Brandon McInerney, who admitted to executing Lawrence King three years ago, will spend the majority of the next 21 years in state prison.  Lawrence King, who was openly gay, was shot 2 times in the head, execution-style by McInerney, who was 14 at the time.  Fourteen.  King was 15 at the time of his death.

McInerney, who is straight, hit a breaking point after King had allegedly  hit on him and a couple other straight boys.  So, instead of confronting King about this, telling him that you disapproved of his advances and wanted him to stop, you aimed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger.  Twice.

This is a tragedy for all parties.  It goes without saying that life will never be the same for the family and friends of Lawrence King.  His life was snuffed out after only 15 years.  Intolerance.  Hatred.  Lack of understanding.  At the same time, Brandon McInerney's family also lost their son on that day.  He will spend a good part of his early adulthood in a prison cell.  When he returns to society, he will not be the same person.  So, in effect, two young lives ended that day.

I'm not suggesting sympathy for Brandon by any stretch of the imagination.  He most certainly deserved to be punished severely for the crime he committed.  Zero tolerance.  What I am suggesting, however, is something I've been saying all along.  The real issue is with the adults in Brandon's life when he was 14 years old.  Where did he learn to hate at that level?  Or, at all!!??  Where were the school administrators when this tension was intensifying?  Where was the intervention?  Where on Earth did 14-year-old Brandon McInerney get a loaded gun from?  Sadly, if these simple questions could've been answered 3 years ago, Lawrence King would be in college right now.  And, Brandon McInerney wouldn't be heading off to a world unlike anything he's ever known.

Religion, Homosexuality, and Suicide

I just finished reading an entry from a fellow blogger that moved me to tears.  And, I strongly suggest that everyone reads this story.  See, religion nearly cost him his son.  Thank God he didn't succeed.  Ironic, huh?

I promised myself from the beginning of this blogging venture that I would do my damnedest to keep religion out of this.  It's hard.  When you see people like Michele Bachmann constantly ranting in the media against gays, (and, today's story is a doozy!!!), it becomes increasingly harder.  People of her ilk are extremely dangerous because they've become so consumed with their belief and ideology that there's no room for anything other than what they believe.  That's a dangerous place to be.  Life is so many shades of gray.  Kept out of the limelight as this woman runs for the highest office in the entire free world is the fact that her husband runs one of those "clinics" that "cures" gays.  Where was he last week when I had a cold?  These "clinics have been known to drive people to suicide.  And, the scary part about that is that "they're" ok with that.  In the eyes, in the heart (sic) and soul of these "believers", if you're gay or lesbian, you SHOULD burn. (did I say she wanted to become our President?)

I relate to this lunacy completely.  I was born into one of those 5-day-a-week church-going families.  I was also born gay.  Once my mother passed away, the rest of the family effectively died, as well.  I have a sister who lives literally 5 minutes away from where I'm sitting this very moment, and 15 minutes away from where I live.  I have not seen my mother's daughter since Thanksgiving 1985!  All of my aunts and uncles and cousins also soundly rejected me, as well.  Orphaned.  HATED, in the name of the Lord.  I survived.

Here's the real deal, and you're free to agree or disagree with me.  Either way, my view here is unflappable.  Today, there are people who disguise themselves as Christians who are as dangerous to the mental and emotional well-being, not to mention safety, of members of our society as any terrorist could ever be.  When you have a pastor ordering his congregation (Grace Fellowship Church in Fruitland, TN) to beat a gay couple trying to enter the church; when you have Westboro Baptist Church, pastor and congregation, carrying out their mission of hatred; when you have a Presidential candidate pushing anti-gay rhetoric so fiercely that the rate of gay teen suicides in the district she represents is greatly higher than in any other part of the state, you know that we have a deep problem.  Fruitland?  Heh heh heh.

It's okay if these people don't "accept" me.  I couldn't care less.  I accept me, and I know that God accepts me.  And, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs.  Supposedly, that's one of the beauties of living in the United States of America.  Supposedly.  However, when these people start attempting to ram their beliefs down our collective throats, when these people start committing acts of violence against us, when these people start showing up at our funerals as we mourn and say goodbye to our loved ones, the line has to be definitively drawn.  Enough hatred!

The irony here is that God is love.  That's what I was taught.  These people, disguised as Christians, are preaching exactly the opposite.  They're spreading hatred and intolerance in the name of the Lord. (who REALLY needs to fear Judgment Day?)  I'm reminded of a quote from Gandhi:  "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians.  They are so unlike Christ."  Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Don't Drink the Water in Ohio

It has to be something in the water.  Within a span of 2 months, the Ohio public school system was on the wrong side of a major news story involving young people, bullying, and the school system's inability to do anything about it.  Or, was it a lack of caring?

On October 17th, openly gay teenage student Zach Huston was brutally attacked while the whole episode was caught on a cellphone video camera.  If you haven't seen it, do so.  It's beyond bullying, actually.  It's a clear-cut case of premeditated first-degree assault.  And, as a punishment, the perpetrator received a 3-day suspension.  Unbelievable!

The silver lining of the incident is that a.) the video quickly went viral on youtube (exposing to the world Union-Scioto High School officials' inability to protect their students); and, b.) the ACLU has taken this case and is pushing to have the perpetrator brought up on hate-crime charges.  While they're at it, they should charge the person who filmed it, since they obviously knew what was about to transpire, as well as the school administrators who told young Zach, when he complained repeatedly to them about the bullying and abuse, that "boys will be boys".  Really?  Is that the best you can offer your students?

Then, on November 28th, Brittany Tucker ended up in ICU after enduring far too much bullying.  She, too, had gone to the school officials.  They didn't respond.  Brittany just returned to school this past week, Monday the 12th.  And, the bullying returned, as well.  Again, Brittany went to the school's administrators.  THEY DIDN'T RESPOND!!  Brittany reached her breaking point and reacted to the bullies.  Brittany was expelled!!  In my blog entry, "URGENT CALL TO ACTION!!", there are some contacts for every single person who reads this to contact and expose the injustice and inability of Brittany's school's administrators to protect her.  Not only did they not protect her, they allowed it to go on so long, she felt no other way out but suicide. (thank God it was a failed attempt)  Not only did they not protect her, they expelled HER for lashing out at the same bullies THEY didn't address in the first place.

Get those links.  Let your voices be heard...loudly and clearly.  Brittany's school administrator's actions were unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  ZERO TOLERANCE!  Oh, and if you ever visit Ohio, don't drink the water.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


It seems that most of the things I post are doom and gloom.  Then again, a battlefield is never a very happy place.  So, I love it when I'm able to share some good news, the periodic victory.

In the news just this week is a story about a bullied special needs student in Baltimore.  The parents of that boy can take heart in this story.

Jacob Gentry is and was a special needs student in Tennessee.  He was so badly bullied, he lost an eye to the violence against him.  What was worse, as in far too many cases, the teacher did nothing to intervene.  The school administrators did nothing to make it better.  Well, perhaps this will start making these administrators realize that zero tolerance means zero tolerance.  Failing to intervene or failing to provide a safe place for these teenagers to go to get an education makes the school administrators just as culpable as the actual perpetrators.  A judge in Tennessee ruled this week that the school district was, indeed, as culpable and awarded the boy over a quarter of a million dollars!!!  That won't replace Jacob's vision.  It'll only make a dent into the medical bills and lawyer fees.  But, it sure does send a very clear message that enough really is enough.  Zero tolerance means zero tolerance.


On November 29th, I posted a blog entry about 14-year-old Brittany who'd just attempted suicide and was in ICU.  Brittany not only survived her attempt, she returned to school this past Monday.  And, therein lies the problem.

The bullying returned with her return to school.  More alarming is that the school administrators refuse to do anything to intervene or to end the situation.  REFUSED!!  Brittany snapped at her aggressor(s), and SHE got expelled!!!  There's nothing right with this case.  The aggressor(s) are getting away with nearly causing someone to kill herself.  The Principal is guilty of neglect at the very least.  Zero tolerance.

So, here's a call to action!  Since the school in unable to assist Brittany, perhaps taking the story to the media will make them change their mind.  Here are a few of the media outlets in Brittany's immediate area:  the Huber Heights Courier; WKEF ABC22; WHIO-TV(; and, the online news link

LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!!!  Let's make sure that Brittany and Crystal Tucker knows that they are not alone in this battle.

Never Quit

One of the tools necessary for combating this escalating epidemic of bullying and teen suicides is to report every incident.  If your teen is being victimized by bullying, it is imperative that it's reported immediately.  We've learned that, unfortunately, oft times reporting it to school officials is fruitless.  With the increased and increasing awareness, however, that climate is bound to change.  Regardless, if the immediate school official(s) fail to act, immediately and decisively, then it's important to go over their head and onto the next level of administrators.  Repeat the process as many times as is necessary to get satisfactory results.  If your own child isn't being victimized but you and/or your child knows of someone who IS, it's still just as important.  Adopt a policy of "zero tolerance".

The statistics for gay teen bullying are staggering.  It's reported that 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have been bullied because of their orientation.  Nine out of ten!  The report doesn't even give a statistic for how many of that 90% goes on to commit suicide.  Any number over zero is too many.

But, what if the bullying is occurring at home?  What if the child or teen is being victimized by their own family?  What if the LGBT teen has the misfortune of being born into an intolerant, non-supportive, unaccepting family?  There are ways to deal with that, as well.  Identifying the situation can be hard, but it's doable.  Knowing your teens' friends helps.  Being supportive of an at-risk youth can go a very long way.

Remember what's at stake:  saving young lives.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Knowledge Really is Power

Did you know that, according to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 8 out of every 100,000 teenagers committed suicide in 2000?(that was 11 years ago, for those keeping count.  I'm sure that number has risen.)  Did you know that for every ONE teen suicide, there were 10 other attempts!?  Again, 2000 statistics.  Did you know that 8 out of 10 teens who commit suicide try to ask for help, in their own way, before committing suicide?

In every one of my blog entries, I provide links.  In some cases, they're links to articles about a bullycide or something else that's pertinent to whatever I'm writing about at the time.  In most cases, however, the links will take the reader to some useful information.  If you haven't been clicking the links, I highly recommend to every reader to click this one.  There is a plethora of valuable information contained therein.  And, knowledge really is power.

It is imperative that, in combating this epidemic, everyone has as much knowledge of the situation as humanly possible.  I don't think there can be too much information as far as this is concerned.  Do you?  For instance, do you know what depression looks like if you have or are in contact with a teenager?  You'll learn it here.  The more we know, the better our chances are of diffusing volatile situations before they spin out of control.  And, most importantly, the better chance we have of saving some lives.  That's what it's all about.

What IS The Answer?

A short while ago, I posted yet another story about yet another young person who’d ended their life far too early.  Hours before, I, along with several others, worked feverishly for an hour or so helping another young man who was at-risk and in a very bad place.  Earlier in the day, someone sent me an article about yet another teen who’d ended HIS life too early.  That’s a staggering rate of carnage.  It leaves me to wonder just what IS the answer? 
Is more laws and stiffer penalties for bullying really the answer?  Well, that’s a mixed bag.  On the one hand, yes, it certainly is at least part of the answer.  See, kids today have a sense of carte blanche when it comes to trampling on the emotions of other, more vulnerable youth.  We watch a video of a teenaged thug who waits for his victim at the classroom door and, when his target arrives, proceeds to pummel the poor boy, causing physical damage and unimaginable emotional and psychological harm.  His punishment?  A three-day suspension.  A THREE-DAY SUSPENSION for savagely beating a boy because he is gay.  That’s called first-degree assault.  And, first-degree assault is punishable by years of incarceration.  Yet, lawmakers across the country are hesitant to stiffen the laws to protect these young people from being attacked, be it verbally, emotionally, or physically.  Worse, far too often, the school officials are reluctant to act at all.  One of my favorite quotes came from a year ago and Asher Brown’s bullying and consequent suicide.  His parents were told “if he didn’t act [gay], he wouldn’t be bullied.”  Really?  So, because he acted “like he was gay”, it was alright for him to be bullied?  No charges were pressed against anyone in this case, which is a tragedy in itself.  Certainly, stiffer laws and stronger penalties are needed to protect these young people from attacks.  ”Boys will be boys” is no longer acceptable.  What’s needed is a zero-tolerance policy for bullying or any acts of intolerance and hatred.  But, that’s still not THE answer. 
Are we seeing the results of a media feeding frenzy when it comes to teen-aged suicides?  Quite possibly.  I found it incredibly unnerving when two beautiful 10-year-old girls hanged themselves within two weeks of each other.  It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the thought of a 10-year-old being so distraught that she feels no other recourse but to end her life.  When I was 10, I didn’t even know what suicide was, let alone have a concept of how to commit it.  But, we won’t go there because then we’d have to discuss things like the Wright Brothers, the Model T, and black-and-white televisions.  When I was 10, however, there was no such thing as 24-hour cable news channels (or, CABLE, for that matter), or the Internet.  I didn’t have immediate access to what was going on RIGHT NOW in the world.  I didn’t get to know that a boy in Arkansas shot himself or a girl in Spokane took an overdose of pills.  Suicide, in fact, wasn’t even part of our vernacular.  Today’s youth are inundated with very graphic details about what’s going on in the world, both good and bad.  So, when a very young child hears or reads about another very young child, somewhere in a whole different part of the country or world, being so distraught from being bullied that she ended up taking their very young life, do you not think that that leaves an imprint on that young person’s psyche?  Well, of course it does.  The problem here is that there’s no way to stop the media machine.  They make their living by reporting the news, and unfortunately sex and death, and everything related to both!, sells!!!!!  Although the media machine can’t be controlled, the information received by these young people CAN.  And, that my third point.
I very strongly believe that this war has to be won in the homes first and foremost.  The bullies are, in many if not most cases, learning their behaviors at home.  Some are most likely bullied or abused at home by one or both of their parents or older (or just bigger) siblings.  Some learn their intolerance and hatred from listening to the rhetoric of their intolerant, possibly bigoted parents.  That’s not to make an excuse for either group.  Rather, it’s to underscore the reality that the frontline in this battle is definitely in the home.  Similarly, the at-risk youth need to be re-educated to report any and all acts of bullying and discrimination to a trusted adult, preferably their parents, absolutely must be done.  And, it must be done in the home.  Teachers, and other school administrators, need to be more proactive, and interactive, as opposed to reactive, in the schools.   Conversely, if they're not 100% reactive after an incident has occurred, if they are unwilling to hold the person or people accountable, then they, too, must be held accountable.  Zero tolerance.

Another Bullycide: Rest in Peace Mason Carter - Age 13

It's coming to the point where everyday when you look at your computer screen, there's yet another story about a young teen ending his/her life because of bullying.  Today is no different.  

Mason Carter was 13 years old.  Just 13.  Life hadn't even begun to unfold for him.  Now, it's over.  According the Mason's step-father, he's positive that bullying played a huge factor in his stepson's suicide.  Mason was an Honor Roll student and "a brilliant kid", according t0 his stepfather.  Tuesday, he was found with a .45 caliber Glock nearby, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

It's not enough to continue the dialogue about ending the epidemic of bullying and the teen suicides it often leads to.  What's needed at this very moment in our history is iron-clad action.  We need a plan.  We need action.  Talking about changing things is not working.  Legislating it will do little, although tougher laws and definitive penalties are needed.  It is my strong opinion that we need a total re-education, starting with the adults.  What are we teaching our kids, directly or indirectly, when far too many of them feel that it's totally ok for them to treat other fellow human beings with such malice and disregard that the victim feel their only recourse, their only escape is to end their lives?  

For those who haven't realized it yet, we're in crisis mode.  The carnage is piling up by the day.  The time to take action is now.  Sadly, taking action now won't return Mason Carter to his family and friends.

May you rest in peace, Mason.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MORE Jonah Madness!!!

At some point, you have to say "enough".  ENOUGH!!!  I've said this several times previously, and the events of last night simply proved my point.  Ok, let's set the record straight once and for all:  This isn't just about Jonah Mowry

Jonah Mowry is a wonderful, courageous 14 year old boy.  Four months ago, he bravely recorded a video exposing his pure fear and pain from being a gay teen, from having been bullied, and from having to face a new school year with only one of his closest friends.  It was a heart wrenching video.  And, the world -- THE WORLD!! -- responded!  In overabundance.  Far, far too many people made this issue all about Jonah rather than the real issue at hand.  See, the true message of that first video was "yeah, I'm scared.  Yeah, this hurts.  But, I'm gonna make it.  I'm gonna be alright."  And, according to most of the responses I read, most people missed the fine print.  Okay, so fine.  Put Jonah's face on the cover if you must. Make Jonah the poster boy.  But, never lose sight of the fact that there are literally millions of Jonahs out there RIGHT NOW who need that same support.  This isn't just about Jonah Mowry.

From the frenzy created by the release of that first video earlier this month, no less that 130 "support" pages for Jonah popped up on facebook.  One of them, "Jonah Mowry, we support you", was prominently featured on a national news broadcast!!  Right there on the green screen, anyone who watched that broadcast or the subsequent repostings of it could clearly see where all the action was.  Free publicity!  The page reached a "membership" of over 36,000!!!! Better yet, more that 40,000 people were "talking about it", which carries a lot of weight on facebook.  Young people were going there to express their kinship with Jonah.  Perfect.  That's what it was supposed to be about.  Former bullies were going there to express their remorse for having put people like Jonah through that and vowing to never do it again.  PERFECT!!  That's what it was supposed to be about.

Last night, the creator of the page blew it up!  Gutted it.  Vanished.  The reason?  Well, I'll keep that under my own hat.  No sense in fanning that flame.  Not only was the page blown up, in its final moments he lashed out verbally at Jonah, posting things that I didn't get the chance to see.  However, from what I understand, and according to some of the reactions that I did get the chance to read, it was really harsh.  I'm not going to speculate.  Again, no sense in fanning that flame.

The real tragedy of it is that the focus was lost.  It's what I've been trying to get across.  See, I know from first-hand experience that this issue of bullying, violence against gay teens, and gay teen suicide is nothing new at all and certainly was NEVER just about Jonah.  Far too many people wanted to make this Jonah's struggle.  It never was.  Now, the hundreds, maybe thousands!, of young people - from both ends of the bully spectrum - have been alienated.  In the end, the page became a mockery of Jonah, himself.  In a culture that was already fragile at best, this is reprehensible.  Daily, there were teens like Jonah who were posting how they could relate to him because, as one boy put it, "we are the same".  Conversely, as one former bully put it "watching your video made me momentarily hate myself".  Watching Jonah's video made him feel remorse for his actions.  And, there were others expressing the same sentiment.  They all found comfort there.  And, with comfort comes healing.  And, from the healing comes growth.  That process was stunted last night.

"Jonah Mowry, we support you" is no more.  That's sad.  However, out of the ruins has emerged the support group Global Bully Awareness.  And, this one isn't about Jonah or any one person in particular.  Rather, it focuses on the issue at hand:  bullying and it's effects.  It has quickly grown to 392 "members".  That's a little more that 1% of what was in the original community.  Hopefully, it won't take too long to get those numbers back up.  It's about reaching out.  It's about providing a safe place for at-risk youth to come and comfortably voice their concerns and issues.  It's about trying to save lives.  Click the link.  "Like" the page.  Then, share it.  There are lives in the balance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lady Gaga Bringing Her Anti-Bullying Campaign to Maryland!!??

Maryland Governor, Martin O'Malley has invited pop icon Lady Gaga to Maryland to speak on eliminating bullying in Maryland.  So, what does that mean?  To me, it means that this issue is finally getting the attention that it's deserved for years.  It means that people in powerful places are now taking notice and making an effort.

I can tell you this much:  If our Governor can pull this off, I will be right there in attendance when Gaga comes to Maryland.  And, if it does happen, I will be on the front line (what's new?) attempting to rally more people to attend, take notice, and make a difference.  Either way, kudos to you, Mr. Governor, for even making the attempt.  It's definitely a step in the right direction.

In another piece of fantastic, positive news, facebook has launched its own suicide prevention chat service!  With just over 1/10th of the world's population being on the social networking giant, that's potentially a massive tool!  I know from my own brief experience at this that, whereas funneling these people to the right professional so that they can get the help they desperately need, being able to have somebody to chat with it their moment of crisis has proven over and over to be so vital.  So, thank you, facebook, for stepping up your efforts.

I  want to acknowledge my very dear friend and fellow front-line warrior is this battle against bullying and to prevent teen suicide, Maureen.  Thanks for posting this information.  You're the best!

When Does it End!!!?? REST IN PEACE Isabelle Guyler (AGE 12!!!)

This time, the story comes from the U.K.  No less devastating.  This time, there are conflicting reports as to whether there was bullying involved or not.    It does not matter.  What matters is the world has lost yet another young person to suicide.  Isabelle Guyler was found hanged in her home in Nottingham Friday.

The police say that their "...investigation found no evidence..." of bullying.  However,  one of the memorial pages set up on facebook strongly suggests otherwise.  These are friends and family of the young girl.  And, some are naming names.  I will revisit that in days to come.  Now is not the time.  Right now is the time to mourn yet one more young life lost to bullycide.  I'm going to take the family and friends word over the police.

I saw a picture of her.  I could only look once and for a short period.  She's far too beautiful, far too young to be gone.  Rest in peace, Isabelle Guyler.

A Sense of Hopelessness

Since I've started down this path of trying raise awareness to the troubles and issues dealing with teen/gay-teen suicide and bullying, I've come across quite a few young people who, for lack of a better term, exuded a sense of sheer hopelessness.  I have a problem with that.

When you're 18, 19, 20 years old and feel hopeless, there's a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.  With some, I'm sure that depression plays a huge role.  As adults, and as parents to these young people, it is imperative that we not only know what depression looks like, but know exactly what to do when we see it.    We can never lose sight of the fact that teen-aged depression is at the root of many of the teen suicides.

Today, on three separate occasions, I heard from young people who sounded thoroughly defeat.  None of them were over the age of 21.  One quote was "what's the point?".  Another defeatist remark was "whatever happens, happens...I've grown tired and careless."  Is it just me, or is there a deep-seeded problem here?

I've said this several times before, and I'm sure I'll say it many more:  it's the adults, THE PARENTS, who need to be educated first and foremost.  In two of the three "cases" I mentioned, I know that the home environment is hostile at best.  One, an 18-year-old, is making plans for just leaving home and trying to make it on his own.  Not necessarily a bad idea, all things considered.  In another case, the youngster is constantly "bullied" by his parents, belittled and even laughed at because he's gay.  When I was in my deepest depression, following the sudden death of my closest friend at the time, the best my mother could offer me was "get over it."  That doesn't work. (and, again, thank God that I'm a resilient person.  Even though it took a couple decades, literally, for me to honestly be at peace with the loss, I did survive)  When there's little-to-no home stability, when there's no support system in the home, when taking it to the streets as a means of rescuing oneself, the issue is clearly that of the adults in their lives or, more specifically, THE PARENTS.

What's at stake, clearly, is the lives of thousands of young lives each year.  With their emotional stability in the balance, it's foolish to think that we can begin to lower the number of teen/gay teen suicides without also addressing the home environment and the parents.  There has been cases where the teen was fully supported and greatly loved by his parents and family, and he still committed suicide.  So, what, then, is the risk factor for the teens who live in hostile or non-supportive (which is equally damaging) home environments, who has parents who range from just not giving a damn to being actually emotionally abusive?  Where does that leave them?  That's an easy answer:  It leaves them with a sense of hopelessness.  And, out of that sense of hopelessness, rarely does anything good come.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Passing of the Baton

On November 28th, the world lost one of its strongest leaders in the campaign against bullying and for gay-teen suicide prevention.  Any teen suicide, for that matter.  Roger Crouch's work affected many people all around the world.  One can't help but think that he was just really getting started.  His loss has reverberated around the globe.

A year earlier, Roger's gay teen son, Dominic, committed suicide.  He was yet another victim of what is now known as bullycide.  Apparently, Dom had taken a dare, kissed a boy, and was severely ridiculed for it.  Roger, and his lovely wife Paola, turned the tragedy, and sheer heartbreak, into positive action.  Roger campaigned vigorously to change the climate of hate, to end the bullying, and to prevent more teens, gay and straight alike, from committing suicide.  And, his work was recognized around the world.

Now, a leader is gone.  The baton has to be passed on.  I believe that there are emerging warriors in the battle who are ready and able to share the baton and continue Roger's work.  I believe firmly that if each person does everything in their power, in whatever capacity they're capable of, to fight this terrible epidemic, change will come.

Today, Roger's grief-stricken wife posted this message on a facebook page dedicated to Dominic.  The question now is "who is ready to take on the call to action?"

"Please do believe in all young people as individuals and support them in whatever way you can. Sometimes, a couple of words is all it needs. The day Domi died, no one spoke to him. It breaks my heart. Teenage suicide through bullying is preventable; remember that! Never forget it. Roger's legacy is a massive push against hatred and bigotry. It is not banter if it is aimed at one, isolated target. Please teach children in your school to have the tools to deal with these situations when they arise. Dom' problem was that apparently bullying did not exist in his school and therefore there was no support system in place. Disgraceful, even after the suicide of another girl nine months before. I will never forgive them because they have not had the decency to hold their hands up and say 'we have a problem here, a bad problem, let's deal with it'. Stonewall offered to go in and support them and they declined the offer.
What breaks my heart further is that Roger was doing such a good job of getting the message across, reaching very influential people. I simply do not have the expertise to carry on. I am hoping against hope that colleagues who knew Roger will understand what he was trying to achieve and will take up the baton. The war is not yet won."

Thank you, Paola.  And, thank you Roger Crouch.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tyler Clementi's Tormenter Opts for Trial

Dharun Ravi, the young man who, last year, thought it would be cute to secretly videotape 18-year-old Tyler Clementi as he had sex with another young man then post it to the Internet Friday rejected a plea deal that would've kept him out of prison AND help prevent his deportation back to his native India.  Really?  He'd rather go to trial in February, where he won't get any deals from the State.  And, I think that's appropriate.  His foolish actions cost the life of an 18-year-old just starting to find his way in life.  Tyler Clementi had just started his college career at Rutgers, as had Ravi.  Ravi's decision to expose Tyler, shame him, instead costed his life.  If we're to send the message that we will have zero-tolerance for bullying, I don't think he SHOULD get anything but the stiffest penalties allowable by law.  Make no mistake:  many of these young people who bully understand that the worst that will happen to them is a slap on the wrist.  Big deal.  "Three days detention"!?  Not a problem.  Complete expulsion and jail time?  They'd think twice before bullying these young, vulnerable people.

Dharun Ravi deserves to pay for his actions.  Tyler Clementi paid because of them.

My Own Suicide Attempt(s)

I was talking with a friend last night when he confided that he'd attempted suicide back when he was a younger man.  That prompted me to confide in him, as well, that I had also attempted suicide...several times.  He was quite surprised to learn that.  Until that revelation, he thought that I was "...just an observer."  No, Scott, I'm not just an observer.  I've got a personal stake in this battle.  Two, actually.  I was brutally beaten in a gay bashing at age 12, too.  So, I know where I'm coming from with these writings.  I've been there, done that.  And, I've lived to tell about try and help others who are struggling.  See, according to my doctors at the time, I shouldn't even be here right now.  I was, according to them, only supposed to leave that hospital one a slab with a toe tag.  I'm so glad, now, that they gave my family bad information.

The 80s were a tumultuous time for me, to put it mildly.  I should've known that it was going to be a long decade when my closest friend, at that time, was violently snatched away from me on a cold February night.  Got out of my car at 6; gone forever by 7.  It took me until just within the past year to be able to put that in its proper place and move on.  A part of me died that day, as well.

The middle 80s were not so pretty, either.  I lost my mother in 1984.  From there, things just spiraled straight downward.  The summer of '85, well let's just say that I wouldn't wish that on anyone!  So, I'd reached my breaking point.  The only way I could see to end the decade-long pain and hurt was to check out. I saw no reason whatsoever for me to stay on this planet.  However, I've always been a pretty smart guy, I guess.  I knew that I didn't want to make some half-ass attempt and end up in ICU at a local hospital.  That would only make things ten times worse.  No.  I had to make sure that the attempt was thorough enough to not be an attempt, but a success.

I called the local Poison Control Center.  Feigning distress over "my friend" who had just taken a whole bottle of pills and was passed out, I was able to learn from the person on the other end that my "friend", who just happened to be the exact same size as myself, hadn't taken enough to kill "him".  "However, you should get him to a hospital as soon as possible so they can pump his stomach."  I also was able to find out that, for a person "his" size, it would take TWICE the amount that "he'd" taken.  Bingo!  So, I hung up, went to the store and bought the second bottle of pills.  ICU was NOT an option.  Two days later, I woke up, indeed in ICU.  My family told me that there was " way [I'd] make it through this...", that I "had enough poison in [me] to kill a horse."  God had other plans.

The second attempt was just a couple weeks later.  I bought even more pills to go along with the amount that was supposed to be lethal in the first place!  Same result.

Now very determined, I made my third attempt.  I took a tie, made a noose, went to the closet to die.  The tie broke.  I regained consciousness on the closet floor.

Drowning myself didn't work, either.  Attempting to fill ones lungs with water is quite painful, indeed.  I aborted that one very quickly.

My fifth and final attempt was something I'd seen on television and in movies that was guaranteed to work.  I found myself a syringe and shot an air ball into my veins.  Nothing.  I shot again.  Same results.  And, a third time.  All that came from that was a badly bruised and painful arm.  And, that's when it dawned on me:  God's in control.  I accepted that it just wasn't my time to leave here, that there was something(s) left for me to do.  So, I surrendered.  I didn't know WHAT it was that I was supposed to do, or learn, or whatever.  I only knew, without a doubt, that I should've been dead several times over.  But, I wasn't.  And, I'm not.

I worked my way through all of the troubles that were mounted before me a little bit at a time.  Not very long after my final suicide attempt, I saw someone who inspired me to pick up a guitar and learn to play it.  That evolved into me eventually releasing my first CD, "Better Late Than Never", which is now being listened to around the world.  I'm currently working on a second CD, with a third one to be recorded with my band shortly thereafter.

But, that wasn't enough.  That was something that was part of the bigger picture, the book that would be my life, but it wasn't enough.  There was something more I was supposed to be doing.

I've always been a writer.  Poems and short stories from an early age; lyrics as I grew older.  And, my writing has always gotten attention.

I've always been greatly concerned about the issue of gay teen suicide.  It's nothing new to me.  I'd seen it as a younger man.  Of course, it was never listed as a "gay teen suicide".  Wrong era for that.  But, I could tell.  I could read between the carefully crafted lines of the news article and be able to see that our community had lost yet another one.  I started writing about it in some of the songs I would write.  No one outside of my fan base really paid attention to them.

In October of this year, something happened that changed my life forever.  I found my true voice!  I found out why He didn't take me away when I so desperately wanted and tried to 26 years ago.  Sadly, it took the suicide of Jamie Hubley, a gay youth whom I never knew, to awaken me to my true purpose here:  to use my voice, through my writing, to try and save some lives.  To be on the frontline in this army to bring about change.

I've learned a lot through this journey.  I've learned that I'm not going to reach everybody.  For all of my efforts, somewhere in the world we've lost another one since I started writing this entry.  I've learned that the buzzword for today's gay youth really is true:  It DOES Get Better.  We just have to allow ourselves time to live it.  I've learned that life isn't always fair.  It can be awful brutal at time.  But, it's a spectacular ride.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How Can We Bring Change?

I've been doing a lot of talking, and listening, to people, young and old, about the issue of bullying and teen suicide.  Many are wondering "what can we do to stop this?"  Some, especially the younger ones, are saying "I just don't think it's ever going to change."  Sadly, a lot of the younger ones recognize that there are a lot of people saying a lot of good things, but there's no ACTION being taken.  There are steps that we can take RIGHT NOW to start changing the atmosphere of bullying and, by extension, teen and gay-teen suicide.

Of course, the young people need to be educated.  They need to be taught that everyone is equal and a human being, that no one deserves to be taken advantage of, looked down upon, or certainly victimized.  But, it's far deeper than just educating the young.  Educate THE ADULTS! At in that age bracket, the young is only mimicking behaviors they've been taught or have seen. Also, in many cases, it mirrors the home atmosphere. So, the bottom line is that it HAS to start at home. But, it doesn't stop there. In the schools, teachers and administrators need to be much better trained to 1.) recognize it; and, 2.) intervene immediately. The punishments in school should be swift and severe. This is a winnable war. Everyone just needs to do their part.

On facebook, there's a wonderful group of young people with a page, "Students Speak Up".  It's an anti-bullying page, and they've set up a "posse" for people who wants to get deeper involved.  I highly encourage everyone who's serious about bringing change to our society to check them out and join the "posse".  They also have a web page separate of their facebook page:

There's other organizations.  "Stand Together" is a group started by Sirdeaner Walker, mother of an 11 year old suicide victim.  I signed up for that one today the moment I learned about it.  There's not much on the website, itself, for you to engage in.  However, by signing up, you're adding one more name to a petition that Sirdeaner is hand-delivering to Congress to force them to pay attention and make changes.  That's vital.  With four states having very little on their books to protect kids from bullying; with one State trying (and, failing!) to push through legislature that would condone bullying if it was done for religious or moral reasons; and, with one State having a Presidential candidate who happens to have a gay teen suicide epidemic in the district she currently represents (her policies on gays having EVERYTHING to do with it), Congress is a very good place to go with this.

Elton John said:  "if there's a God in Heaven, what's He waiting for?  If he can't hear the children, then He must see the war.  But, it seems to me that He leads His lambs, to the slaughterhouse, and not the Promised Land."("If There's A God in Heaven, Blue Moves, 1976)  I believe there's a God in Heaven.  I also believe, however, that He helps those who helps themselves.  We've gotta take this issue by the horn and wrestle it into submission.  It's a winnable war.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Jonah Speaks on Good Morning America

In case you missed it, and I did by mere minutes, Jonah and his wonderful family were on Good Morning America this morning speaking out publicly for the first time since the frenzy began last weekend.  Okay, let me first say to those who lashed out at my posts yesterday about Jonahmania that you're missing, completely, what I was saying.  Let me tell you that watching that raw video from August STILL makes me cry!  The 12-year-old boy inside of me who was savagely beaten in a gay bashing felt every single bit of Jonah's pain.  As he cried, I cried.  And, in the end, as he vowed to fight on, I, too, chose to fight on through it.  I'm so glad that I did.  He will be, too.

This doesn't mean, mind you, that I'm wavering one iota from my stance that, as we saw again this morning on GMA, Jonah is okay.  Better yet, he's going to BE okay.  My "rant", as it was called, remains intact:  share some of this now-overabundant love and support with some of the other, hidden, teens who are in the exact same boat that Jonah was in in August and let THEM know that there's hope for them.  Let THEM know that there's literally millions upon millions of people worldwide, thanks largely to Jonah's video, who are willing to be there for them, as well.  See, Jacob Rogers didn't feel that love and support.  Now, he's gone.  I'm not ready to move past that one yet.  He struggled in his final days while the world gushed over Jonah.  Not a knock on Jonah; a knock on us as a people.  You call it a rant; I call it the blinding truth.  Tomato, tomato.

In Jonah's interview, we get to see a healthy, happy Jonah along with his loving, supportive family.  Heartwarming.  Johan said that he's very happy that "the topic is getting the attention it needs to", finally.  That's his gift to us.  He encouraged other at-risk teens who are being bullied to "tell your parents...because keeping it in just makes it a lot harder." And, again, his unspoken message was, "I'm ok.  Things were really dark then, but I'm ok."

I embrace Jonah Mowry.  Undoubtedly, millions of other teens in the same boat do, as well.  It took unprecedented courage for him to make that early morning video last August.  We're a better people because he did.

Rest in Peace Cameron DeVeronica (14 Year Old Victim of Bullycide)

Eight days into the month, and I'm telling you about a 4th teen suicide that came at the hands of bullying.  Fourteen year old Cameron Lee DeVeronica committed suicide 11/29/2011.  Her friends say she was bullied.  The police are investigating "the extent to which bullying may have played a role in Cameron's death."  Really?

Meanwhile, hundreds of her schoolmates took to the streets with their own effort to end the madness and bring about change.  Said one student, "...there's so much that can be done, and there's so much that could've been done previously to prevent this...and, so much more that should be done."  We need more people like him, young and old, to start stepping up.

How many more young lives do we have to lose before everybody from the Highest Office on down see this for exactly what it is:  an epidemic.  The rollcall for this year's young lives lost to suicide is staggering.  And, the year isn't over.

Kudos to the students of Spencerport High School who joined the battle cry of "enough is enough" and took to the streets.  Rest when and if you need to, but never give this fight.  We need more warriors like you, more voices like Jonah Mowry's, and a more concerted effort by our leaders in order to bring about the changes that will matter.

Bullying should not be punished by detention.  Detention means they eventually get to go back to school.  Jamie Hubley, Ben Lewis, Jacob Rogers, and now Cameron DeVeronica, amongst too many others, will never get that opportunity again.  Bullying needs to be treated as the hate crime that it is.

There's been a facebook page set up in her honor.  A place for remembering, and for healing.  Follow the link, check it out, and "like" it.  Show your continued support for this effort.  Do everything you can think of doing, then do a little more.  Enough really is enough.

Rest in Peace, Cameron Lee DeVeronica.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Clearing the Air

I was heartbroken to read of Jacob Rogers' suicide.  Another young life...gone.  I was also a little more than "a little upset" to read that, in the end, Jacob felt ignored, that no one would help him, that no one "would listen and stand up for him".  I was a little more than upset because that's the message I've been trying to convey as the Jonahmania train sped away from the station.  I've been trying to get the point(s) across that 1.) Jonah told us 4 months again that he's ok, and he is; and, 2.) there are millions and millions more just like him all around the world, and some most likely right in our own backyards who could use just a fraction of the outpouring of love that Jonah has received.  Jacob Rogers was very obviously one such teen.

I voiced my opinion strongly in the blog entry about Jacob.  Not everyone agreed.  I accept that.  I actually applaud that.  But, I thought it would be a good idea to backtrack a step or two and clear the air.

  • First and foremost, I don't take anything away from Jonah Mowry.  I think he's a remarkable young man.  And, for the record, he really is doing just fine.  He's being a normal 14 year old goofball.  I know because I read his tweets every day.  The original video really was 4 months ago.
  • I truly am overjoyed that Jonah has put a living face on an issue that most of us had only heard about once it was too late.  And, to be sure, that was the magnet that drew millions to him.  Bravo to you, Jonah.  The issue of bullying and its effects now have a floodlight shining on it because of you.
  • I am, in fact, worn out from the continued gushing to Jonah.  And, that has nothing to do with Jonah and EVERYTHING to do with we as a people.  Perhaps people are still gushing because on some level it helps them shed the guilt of having turned a blind eye to this not-so-new epidemic we have until his video.  Perhaps there are folks who are feeling that, by doing this tremendous act of compassion (and, it truly is just that!), they are doing their part to change that culture.  They're not.  They're force-feeding someone who appetite has already been sated while ignoring millions right around him who are starving to death.
  • One hundred and thirty PLUS facebook Jonah support groups (at last count, which was 24 hours ago); 7,000,000+ views to the first video, and 900,000 MORE views of a copycat release of the same video, plus too many video responses for me to bother counting at this moment; 300,000+ comments to the original videos, MILLIONS of comments to the two subsequent ones, and another 19,000 on the copycat release, and a never-ending stream of brand new "supporters" for a 14 year old gay teen who told the world through haunting tears 4 months ago that he was hurting, he was scared, but that he was going to be alright amounts to overkill.
  • Don't shoot the messenger:  whereas this is wholeheartedly MY opinion, his own mother has gone on national news to say the same thing...THREE days ago!
To be clear, when I watched the video for the first time, I cried.  I cried painful tears.  I was Jonah.  I was beyond Jonah.  He's been called hurtful names.  As a 12 year old gay kid, I was beaten to a bloody pulp.  That video touched the heart of that broken 12 year old.  I understand the emotion of the video wholeheartedly.  And, I understand the support it received.  However, I also understand that this issue goes far, far beyond Jonah Mowry.  It's been here long before he was born and, unless and until we start demanding change, it will be here long after he's gone.  Jacob Rogers needed just a fraction of the support everyone rushed to give Jonah.  It would've kept him alive.

It would've kept him alive.

Apparently, Jacob came from an impoverished family who has already said that they can't afford to have a proper funeral for him.  You can make a difference. The link at the top of this article will lead you to the original news article about Jacob's suicide.  At the bottom of that article is information on how you can donate to help cover the cost of the funeral.  Now, THAT'S supporting the cause.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rest In Peace Jacob Rogers 12/07/2011 (Yet ANOTHER Victim of Bullycide!!)

This is the point I've been trying to get across as the world was engaging in Jonahmania.  While all of the attention and adoration is being thrust upon Jonah Mowry, there were still millions of struggling teens around the world who needed just a fraction of that attention.  Just a fraction.

Just a fraction may have saved Jacob Rogers' life.  Today, he ended that young life because he just couldn't deal with being bullied any more.  In fact, he'd already dropped out of his senior year of high school because it had become a nightmare for him.

According to his best friend, Jacob felt like he was ignored, that no one was helping him.  Left alone with his pain, he did what far too many young people before him has done:  he ended the torture himself.

My prayer is that we as a loving, caring people get past the Jonah mania and remember that there are millions of kids in the world who are struggling just like that 13 year old boy that the world fell in love with over the weekend of December 2nd.  That boy is now doing just fine.  However, we just lost another one who "felt ignored" and couldn't handle the bullying anymore.

Rest in peace, Jacob Rogers.  "If only I'd known your name..."