Pierre's blog states that it is about "The delightful and dreary sides of gay life. The views and experiences of a thirty something guy trying to navigate his way through life. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always entertaining." It is an excellent blog and quite well written and I follow it daily. At times, it is serious, fun and entertaining at other times. Either way, go take a look and see Pierre's blog, Warfare: The Delightful and Dreay Sides of Gay Life.
This past weekend tragedy struck. I was informed early Monday morning that a friend with whom I had occasional contact committed suicide. He decided to Come Out to his parents and family on Sunday and this was not well received. He then wrote a poem and published it on Facebook expressing his anguish. Later, Sunday evening he wrote a farewell message to all his friends, and at the age of 18 he killed himself. I am not sure exactly what transpired between him and his family that caused this heartbreak, but it begs the question all parents of gay teens should ask themselves - Would you rather have a gay child or a dead child?
Admittedly when I received this sad news I had many questions. However, I soon realized that "would haves" and "could haves" will not bring him back to life and "what if's" will not turn back the clock. Many people say that suicide is a cowardly act, but I think until you have been to the edge of despair and imprisoned in the dark cloud of hopelessness none of us can judge. Yes, I admit that I blame his parents. Their reaction and/or intolerance could have been the final catalyst that pushed him over the edge. However, none of us know the true course of events preceding his death and the pain his parents and family must be experiencing none of us can begin to fathom. This wound will scar his family for many years to come, but let's hope something positive will emerge from this, even if it's just a lesson or a wakeup call for other families.
Sadly, suicides amongst gay teens aren't uncommon. Gay youths are 2-4 times more likely to take their own lives than their heterosexual counterparts. There are many reasons for this but the top ranking reason is Family Rejection: Being still dependent on their families for both emotional and physical support, being rejected by their primary support structure could be devastating. The actual or imagined threat of being disowned, left homeless or being physically harmed by a family member could further discourage gay youths to reveal their sexual orientation; when they then do Come Out and any of these fears materializes the result could be fatal. Furthermore, the added stress of living in a society that is homophobic also place further stress on both the gay teen and their family and discrimination and ignorance underlies many instances where gay youths committed suicide.
On a social level gay teens also face several other challenges that could seem insurmountable. Apart from running the risk of being ostracized by their friends, becoming victims of bullying and/or hate crimes, even in their own religious community they may face discrimination that legitimizes homophobia. All these factors make the Coming Out process more treacherous and unappealing, forcing these teens to hide their sexual orientation from people around them. For those gay teens that have traits stereotypically associated with homosexuality hiding their sexual orientation becomes even more difficult and they are most at risk to fall prey to homophobic attacks and more likely to attempt suicide and succeed.
Luckily, many Gay Community Centers have been established to support gay people of all ages dealing with issues ranging from Coming Out to Mental Health Issues. In several countries there are also hotlines that can be phoned that provides free counseling and support not only for troubled gay teen but also for their families. However, like I have experienced this week for some help comes too late and who is to blame for this?
With my friend's suicide I can't help but wonder why a young man at the age of 18, about to enter the prime of his life would end it so abruptly. Yes, he may have faced some, maybe all or even more of the challenges I mentioned here. But having had access to Gay Community Centers and friends why did he not reach out and cried for help? Some would argue the poem he wrote was just that - a cry for help! Many people did see it as such and appealed for assistance which they received, yet none of it saved him. He slipped through all the proverbial cracks in what I now believe to be the flawed GLBT support structures. Maybe we have become to reliant on Community Centers to do all the work in our communities for us, maybe we have become too self-involved that a simple kind gesture of reaching out to our fellow human beings (gay and straight) have become too much of an effort, maybe we have lost our sense of empathy and humanity, just maybe all of us are to blame.
The world has lost a gentle soul. His death is a tragic one and leaves us with many unanswered questions. Questions that may never be answered, but on their reflection might just improve each and every one of us, enlighten others, help save lives and guarantee that one person's untimely departure may leave a positive and lasting change.