Eric Mohat, 17 (OH)
Seth Walsh, 13 (CA)
Asher Brown, 13 (TX)
Justin Aaberg, 15(MN)
Billy Lucas, 15 (IN)
These 5 boys died this school year. They took their own lives. They were bullied for their perceived sexual orientation. In at least one case, Eric Mohat, was taunted with “You should kill yourself.” The schools of each of the boys all deny responsibility. National conservative religious groups continue to argue that it would be a denial of their religious rights to outlaw bullying over sexual orientation. Politicians play political games with these kids lives with each day that the issue remains unaddressed by state and federal lawmakers. Parents claim boys will be boys to excuse bullying. Some parents attempted to get something done about the bullying of their children. Others did not know. These 5 boys died from community neglect, religious hatred, parental permissiveness on the part of the bullies, administrative duplicity from the school districts and teachers, and fear.
Fear. I remember that fear. I nearly committed suicide myself when I was 15. I was afraid, deeply afraid, that nothing was ever going to change. I grew up with physical and mental abuse at home. I was molested when I was 7 by a female relative and six months later by a 14 year old boy. I was a loner, for the most part, preferring few friends. I was extremely tall for my age all through elementary and junior high and even high school compared to my fellow students. I was thin as a stick with a longer than average neck. I was smart but refused to participate in school, I wouldn’t do homework, go to events or anything else at all social.
All I could see was that my life was shit and it didn’t look like it was going to change. Time dragged on and on and on. A month seemed an eternity. A school day was just an eon of hell. I was somewhat fortunate that I was mostly left alone at school. The few taunts of fag, faggot and homo slid right past me. I genuinely didn’t care what they called me or what they thought of me. No one wanted to get physical with me once I hit about six feet tall. I ignored gossip. I read constantly to insulate myself from the outer world. It was my refuge and my peace.
My home life hit that extreme edge that I couldn’t take any more. I was tired of hurting, physically and emotionally. I was tired of being called stupid and jackass and son of a bitch. I was tired of worrying about my 3 year old sister getting in the way of what was coming my way. I was tired trying to hold in my anger and despair and pain. I was sick of coming home to fights and accusations of all kinds. I knew I couldn’t make it on my own, so running away wasn’t an option. I really felt I was better off dead. That the world didn’t need me, didn’t want me, that I didn’t really belong here if that was all it was going to be.
I tried to cut my wrist one morning as I walked to school. I had missed the bus and mom wouldn’t drive me. It was my responsibility to get to the school which was about 11 0r 12 miles away. So, I started walking. As I walked, I fumed and then sank into depression. A piece of glass caught my eye near the train tracks I was about to cross. It was a sizeable sliver. I picked it up and stuck the point into my wrist until it punctured the skin. I tried to pull it up my arm but my hand wouldn’t move. I stood there with the glass in my skin for several minutes, willing my hand to pull through my skin. Nothing. Something in me wouldn’t let me do it. My frustration climbed and eventually I gave up. I tossed the glass down and resumed walking to school.
In that moment I was willing to die. I wanted to. It didn’t happen. I suppose I am grateful now that it didn’t. I have done things since then I am proud of . I got a book of poetry published. I am about to get a novel published and will finish my second one soon. I took care of kids for 3 families and made a difference in their lives. I saved one child from drowning when he was 3. I found my husband and have been with him for 16 years. My relationship with my mother has improved beyond all imagining. I even, amazingly, received an apology from one of the people that picked on me in high school. 20 years later, but still an honest apology. I have mentored gay teens.
I have been working on an anthology for about 3 years now. This anthology focuses on how we discover our sexuality as LGB and how did we come to accept it. I wanted to create a resource for gay teens so that they would know that we all figured out the same thing, with individual experiences and feelings and acceptance of the situations. That we all survived it. That things can get better and that things don’t always stay horrible. Change comes with life.
With each news article this school year, my heart bled a little more. Another life lost. Another person who was told they had no worth and were abused to the point of giving up everything. Another person that never had the chance to find out who they were and where love could lead them. Friends and family that would never have the chance to support them and love them and offer help. It is what I was hoping to prevent. I failed.
The anthology remains unfinished and unpublished. I am short of the number I need to finish it properly. Many committed, far fewer followed through. I don’t really blame them. It is not easy to open your life up to the world. It is not easy to try to express your experiences for others. I could have pushed harder. I could have looked for replacements. I didn’t. So, though logically not true, I feel a sense of responsibility each time another person dies. What might have changed if I managed to finish this project? Is it possible to make a difference? Until I get this done, I won’t know. I can hope though. I can hope.
Edit: Eric Mohat actually died in 2007.
In 2009: Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, 11 (MA), Jaheem Herrera, 11 (GA). Both 11 year olds received bullying because of perceived sexual orientation. Tyler Lee Long, 17 (GA) was called gay as part of his bullying before his suicide.
Related: Tyler Wilson, 11 (OH) got his arm broken by bullies because he joined a cheerleading squad.