Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rather Have a Gay Child than a Dead Child?

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 ostracised 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 pray to homophobic attacks and more likely to attempt suicide and succeed.

Luckily, many Gay Community Centres 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 counselling 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 Centres 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 Centres 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.

Till next time...

20 comments:

Todd M Dobson said...

Hello My Friend,

Exceptional post that is very emotional and to the right points. I know he was a gentle soul and that he was reaching out for help...you and others like you who place yourselves in view of the rest of the world can spread the word as you've so eloquently done here, but please make sure you don't take responsibility for the actions of this young man.

I know that is a difficult thing to read, but I've been in your shoes since I've been blogging. I have answered the call of help by many who stumble during the coming out process. I've tried to help those who are twisted and turned around through the fear they feel and the hate that is preceived and actual. Because of the work we do, we must be prepared with resource names, phone numbers of those places like Gay Youth Centers and others that can truly help the individuals and in some cases the families.

In my years of supporting the gay and lesbian world, I have learned a very harsh lesson...save the ones you can save and mourn the tragic loss of those you are unable too.

I will say that it might help you with some closure if in the coming months you reach out to his family. Try to help comfort them in the way they may not have for their son. Help them to understand their fear, shame and lack of love and support while they get to know the part of their son they did not. Their actions may have been the final straw to their son. You must be gentle with them, because they may be blaming themselves and deserve our support. Also be prepared that they may take their internalized anger, greif and blame out on you.

It truly is sad given all of the pain that is brought about by fear and ignorance....or HATE! Remember that each of us must take responsibility for ending HATE in those surrounding us.

Sending you much love - Todd

Pierre said...

Thanks Todd for your wise words. I know we can't save everyone but we can sure do our best to try.

I believe tragedies like this happens for a reason. Although it's painful for all involved and like you pointed out especially for his family, we must all try and take something positive from this. Sometimes it's hard to find that one positive life lesson, but it's there.

For me, my own bias for blaming his family is my lesson and forgiveness of their ignorance is what will help me grow.

On a larger scale I hope everyone will take a little more time to reach out to others, time to educate people and time spread tolerance.

Larissa said...

I am so sorry for your loss and the loss of others who cared for him.

nothingprofound said...

Suicide is such a sad and baffling thing, and I don't think we'll ever get to the bottom of it. Why one person has that fighting spirit to endure, and another succumbs to despair and hopelessness. I'm sure this young man's family had no inkling of the magnitude of his inner conflicts, couldn't see that he was dangling over the precipice by a thread. One can only imagine how distressed and shocked they must be by the extremity of his action.

Pierre said...

@ Larissa, thank you!

@ nothingprofound, human beings are such complicated creatures and the human psyche even more so. It truly is a sad state of affairs and tragic that this happened. Like I said and don't even think we can start to imagine in what pain his family must be in.

Michael Rivers said...

What a very very sad story. And senseless. My best thoughts go to those who loved him.

Pierre said...

Michael, thanks. This type of thing happens far too often. Young lives ended prematurely. It just goes to show intolerance truly kills!

ChrisJ said...

I'm so sorry. What a waste of a young, burgeoning life.

Pierre said...

ChrisJ, it truly is. And not to mention all the other souls we loose each year.

Anonymous said...

I just can't say anything...Im speechless. He truly was called to become an Angel because his life in this realm was NOT right !! May God keep him safe now !!

Marcia Silva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
notoutofreach said...

that is indeed a very tragic story. thanks for the post. i would be extremely careful however to blame anyone prematurely, especially the parents. i mean, what if your impression is wrong - how painful it must be for them to not only lose a son, but then to have others blame them for it? as a parent, i could not imagine the incredible devastation of it...

swkpboy said...

Pierre.. I love the fact that you are not afraid to put a face to a story. I hate how we live in a society were a lot of stuff still gets covered up. Thank you for caring. Johan

Pierre said...

@ notoutofreach, I agree that blame should not be cast on anyone prematurely. However, it's a natural reaction to want to blame someone or something when something like this happens. However, regardless of that no matter what happened I think the most important thing is that people learn from this experience.

@ swkpboy, thank you. People should be less afraid of exposing things like this. By covering up unpleasant events, situations or circumstances only makes it worse. If nobody knows about a problem, nobody will do anything about it.

Sam Sall said...

What a sad story, I JUST CANT understand why such a young life can be brought the end this way , was he very depressed?.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that all of our young gay society, has to turn to taking there own lives. I remember growing up pretending to be straight to my family and friends... when I came out of the closet, I lost most of my friends I hungout with in highschool, because I was gay. I beleive we adults, who are gay, need to step up to the plate, and set good examples and be role models to our young gay society. If we are to help all young gay men and women, who are not sure how to cope with family and friends disowning them, we can come together and help them...
I am very sorry for your loss, and my prayers are with you and his family. take care my friend.

sincerly,
Ryan Noa

Marcia Silva said...

That is so sad!!! I am shocked!! If I had a child that is gay I would not care!! The only thing that matters it to be a good person!!! Why can't people live and let live!!???

Pierre said...

@ Sam Sall, no one can understand it. From what I understand he wasn't depressed.

@ Anonymous, I couldn't agree more. We as a community should do more to reach out to the GLBT youth. We need more role models, more gay people openly showing we live happy and healthy lives. Show gay teens what their lives can be like. Give them HOPE.

@ Marcia Silva, some people are blinded by their own ignorance and fear. That's the way they were raised and the communities they live in. Much work needs to be done to change this. All we can hope is that with time things will change.

oursentiments said...

Very nicely stated, I am sorry for everyone's loss. What a great thought provoking posting.

Pierre said...

Oursentiments, thank you. Like I commented on here Gay Teen Suicide is a serious matter, not to be taken lightly or made a mockery off.

I learned on Friday this whole thing was one sick hoax on Facebook. I and thousands of other people are outraged!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Personally, this whole thing caused me emotional distress, embarrassment and anger!!!

What sick mind could conceive such an atrocious and vulgar deception? Hundreds of GLBT teens commit suicide every week, millions of GLBT youth suffer each day just to make it through school and college. How one person or a group of people could conceive and idea of creating this hoax is beyond my comprehension.

The only positive thing that came from this is it again brought the issue of gay teen suicide to the knowledge of the public. I don't appreciate the manner in which this was done and categorically denounce it - there are real lives to be saved: Real people on the edge of despair, real people contemplating suicide and GLBT people facing very real threats to their lifes. We must open up our eyes, identify these individuals and try to help them.

So for everyone reading my blog I apologize! I was hideously deceived. Made to look the fool. Have egg on my face, and am embarrassed for being gullible. Regardless of my personal embarrassment I still want to urge everyone to please pay closer attention to our GLBT brothers and sisters. Guard over their well being, support each other and most importantly never stop caring!

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