News

Coming Out Day Marked by More Gay Teen Suicides

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Oct 12, 2010
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For GLBTs, Oct. 11 was something of a holiday. Every year, the day is marked as National Coming Out Day, an occasion for support and acknowledgement of GLBTs who struggle not only for full legal and social equality, but also often for the wherewithal simply to acknowledge who they really are.

But the pressures on teens--gay teens especially--are unrelenting, and in recent weeks an ongoing crisis of teen suicides has shaken the country. News of still more teen suicides reached the media even as those observing National Coming Out Day were dedicating the occasion to the memory of young victims who had killed themselves after enduring anti-gay abuse at school.

In Marin County, Calif., a second teen suicide in two weeks was reported by local newspaper the Marin Independent Journal. The Oct. 11 news article noted the apparent suicide of an eighth-grade student at Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael. The boy was found dead in "an exposed public area along... a street in Marinwood," said Lt. Barry Heyong, with the sheriff’s department. "Investigators have not found a note or determined a motive," Heyong added. The cause of the boy’s death had not yet been determined when the article was written, but it appeared to be the case that he died Sunday night or early Monday morning.

The boy’s death happened only a week after a 14-year-old student at another area school, Terra Linda High. The article did not specify whether either of the two students were GLBT.

"There may be students who are aware of things, but are not moving forward to an adult," Assistant Marin County Superintendent of Schools Luke McCann said. "Teachers, administrators and parents need to be paying attention. We need to make sure there is good communication, and that people know what’s going on."

News channel KTVU reported on Oct. 12 that the youth was spotted hanging from a tree by a passerby on the morning of Oct. 11. Though no motives are as yet known, the article said, residents feared that bullying might have played a part in the boy’s death.

Elsewhere in California, a transgender teen took her own life, reported Fresno talk radio station KMJN. Chloe Lacey was born Justin Lacey and seemed to her parents to be "all boy" until, at age 16, she announced to her family that she was transgendered. Though it was not evident to those around her, Chloe explained that even in kindergarten she had identified as a girl, the article said.

Chloe kept her identity a closely held secret while attending Buchanan High School, the article said. "Justin did not allow ’Chloe’ to come out at Buchanan at all," said Chloe’s mother, Allison Murphy, who described her child’s "feeling like you don’t... can’t talk about it to anybody because nobody will understand."

The article said that Chloe was not bullied, but that she suffered depression and anxiety because of pressure to "fit in" according to preexisting social expectations. Chloe sought treatment from mental health professionals, but refused the drugs that her therapists recommended.

After high school, Chloe found a measure of acceptance and happiness, her stepfather, Sean Dempsey, told the media. "There was friendship, there was peace, there some happiness, and she loved that."

But Chloe began to despair that she would never fully realize her own identity, feeling "like there is no way this is ever going to happen for me, so why am I here," Murphy said. Chloe committed suicide on Sept. 24.

Though the image of teens that are suicidal centers around high school, younger children have also been known to kill themselves. In 2009, several pre-teens committed suicide after suffering anti-gay abuse at school--and not all victims of anti-gay harassment are actually gay.

But it’s also the case that GLBT college students suffer harassment and struggle with suicidal impulses. An Oct. 11 article at LezGetReal memorialized 19-year-old Aiyisha Hassan, a lesbian who had been a student at Howard College before taking her own life. College acquaintance Lauren Morris recalled of Hassan, "She was having a lot of trouble with a lot of different things," Morris says, "but mainly her sexual identity and just trying to express that."

Howard College students observed a vigil for Hassan on Oct. 7, reported student publication The Hilltop on the following day.

Sterling Washington, who co-founded Howard’s GLBT group CASCADE, told the media that anti-gay messaged in the general culture--such as the ban on openly gay soldiers in the military--contribute to the suicides of GLBT youths, even if they have not been personally bullied or harassed. "What happens in a large group trickles down to the junior members," Washington said, "so in this case it’s members of society so it affects youth in general.

"Those straight-identified youth who already had a proclivity, who already had from their parents, their socialization, this idea that gays are less than, it sort of gives them permission and facilities this whole bullying thing so that those that are most vulnerable to it sometimes see suicide as an out," Washington added.

Aiyisha was the daughter of Makini Hassan, who serves as the executive director at Marin City Community Development Corporation.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2010-10-12 17:38:57

    Sucides put a Nation In Peril By Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy www.missionstsergius.org Franklin MA I am truly saddened by the direction this Nation seems to be headed. A Once great National Political party often called THE GRAND OLD PARTY seems to have been taken over by racially and homophobic hate filled vengeful individuals who have promoted violence and even caused the death of young innocent people. Many of the candidates like Paladino in New York, Linda McMahon in Conn, Sean Bielet in Massachusetts, Sarah Palan nationally and others, all of whom are running on the once Grand Old Party ticket, they and media personalities like Matt Barber, Ann Coulter and others have decided that the best way to gain votes is to not only use the tried and tested ways of outright lies and innuendo, but that promoting hatred, bigotry, discrimination and appeal to the lesser values that made this a great nation. All of the above and their compatriots, by their un Christian and vitriolic rhetoric, have undone the seams of the fabric that made America great and resorted to the baser values of human nature. So many running in these mid term elections have used outright lies, promoted violence against gays and reverted back to the days before the Civil Rights acts to promote discrimination and divide people over nationality and race. Some of the great former leaders of THE GRAND OLD PARTY like Ronald Regan, Ed Brook, Maggie Heckler, Dwight Eisenhower and yes, even Richard Nixon must be disgusted by what their party has resorted to. In the last few weeks the actions of some of those running for political office and the extremist media personal has resulted in the deaths of Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas and the beating of many others because of their hate filled, homophobic rhetoric used in their campaigns and by the media people who promote and support their bigoted positions with more bigoted statements. Even sadder about all this is the fact that they have done so claiming to be Christians or Jews who believe in God. Their actions and rhetoric is so far from being Christian that it almost could be considered Satanic since it has lead to events that must have had Old Lucifer and all his followers dancing with joy. The kind of political rhetoric that is being used by so many of the once great political party is so like that used in the 30’s and 40’s by Hitler and Mussolini and we all know the results of that and how many lost their lives in gas chambers because of it. Hitler began by recruiting the laborers and non college and university trained people and this time a recent poll has found that the Tea Party ( which is what those on the extreme position of the Grand Old Party call themselves) is attracting non college educated people just as Hitler did in the 30’s. If any of the candidates who are running with bigoted and homophobic and discriminatory adds and positions do get elected they will achieve a major split in this country much like that of the 1800’s and the time of the Civil War. Every God fearing follower of Christ and all those that desire equality and justice for every person on the face of the earth. All those who want an end to poverty, homelessness, and provide affordable medical care for all must do everything in their power to prevent those hate mongers who would return this country to one of it’s darkest times from being elected. This country was founded upon the concept of Justice and equality for all and the founders of this country declared their independence from an oppressive government with these words; "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." To allow any candidate, of any party to gain control of the seat of our government that promotes injustice, inequality, and discrimination of any kind will surely lead to the demise of this great country and cause much greater pain and suffering for a huge number of people especially the poor, sick, aged and homeless. According to statistics those who earn more than $300,000 a year count for only 10% of our population while those who earn or receive less than 20,000 a year account for 55% of the population. The so called middle class account for 35% of the population. Why should 10% of the population control what the other 90% think and do? We need to look to the values that Christ taught us and share our gifts with those who have less, we need to watch out for the well being and safety of all our citizens and not promote anything that could cause any citizen harm, physically, mentally or spiritually. Let us reject those who use Hate and promote violence in attempts to gain votes and all so called Christian clergy like Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Fred Waldron Phelps and others who discredit the word of God by promoting discrimination and injustice and picket the funerals of Brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending the principals our country was founded upon. Let us begin by extending to everyone we meet as we journey along the path of the Love of God as Christ instructed when he preached "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Let us not allow people who promote prejudice, bigotry and hate to gain control of our great country or any nation but rather let us find ways to end war, poverty, injustice and let us strive to care for all of God’s creation as God asked us in Genesis 1: "And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, care for it using all its vast resources in the service of God and man; have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth." AMEN Fr. Bob Johnnene OFD Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus/Franciscans of Divine Mercy A Faith Community of the NAOCC Franklin, MA www.missionstsergius.org


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-13 14:52:23

    This site should respect Chloe’s memory by printing a picture of her as she wanted to be seen, and by not including the name she wished to leave behind.


  • Anonymous, 2011-01-02 14:41:40

    Mr. Melloy, you put Chloe’s name in quotes under her picture (which I agree should have been recent and true to her real self) as though it were a nickname, and throughout the article you refer to "anti-gay bullying" and "the pressures on teens--gay teens especially", which seems to completely forget the transphobia that drove Chloe Lacey to suicide (the "especially" line also ignores every other type of bigoted bullying, even all other types of gender identity-/gender expression-/sexual orientation-related bullying). This is all very disrespectful, regardless of your (probably) good intentions. @RevBobJ: Although I do not share your enthusiasm for the older incarnations of the GOP, and I also don’t hold the founding fathers in particularly high esteem, I love that you’re speaking out against the bigotry present in the right wing of American politics today. In other words, I do not agree that there’s any such thing as the good old days, but I do agree that our nation must abide by our stated principals.


  • Anonymous, 2012-09-11 22:39:49

    I am Allison Murphy, Chloe Anne Lacey’s Mother. Thank you for sharing her story. I would agree I’m sure she would appreciate showing the picture of her true identity and not the conforming picture you have shown. This is a learning process for many people, even me. I choose to remember her as Chloe Anne Lacey and the sweet girl she presented her true self to be shortly before she passed. God rest her soul. I am happy to be her continued voice in change, since she has silenced her own in deep pain. We will never forget. We must make change. Thank you so very much, Allison Murphy


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