I'm sure you've heard by now of the senseless deaths by students over the last month.
A thirteen year old eighth grader, Asher Brown, committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied at school for being gay.
Eighteen year old college student Tyler Clementi, committed suicide the day after two fellow students secretly recorded him having homosexual relations with a guy in his dorm room and broadcast it over the internet. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge.
Eleven year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover used an extension cord around his neck and hanged himself last April because he was a victim of bullying at school. And, William and Janis Mohat of Ohio, have filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that their son, Eric Mohat, 17 was called "gay, " "fag," "queer" and "homo" in front of his teachers; now accused of failing to protect him.
Clearly the hardship for gays and other disenfranchised groups in the United States has hit close to home in our Children. Thank God for Judy Shepard! Fighting since the brutal murder of her son Matthew to "replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance"; Judy has spoken out on this issue saying, "…young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect."
I had the pleasure of seeing Judy speak last week at the Center on Halsted; and to talk with her afterward. Her presentation was out of this world and very moving. In preparation for the lecture I picked up her book The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed. The 273 pages were breathtaking to read! In The Meaning of Matthew the reader gets to know Matt Shepard, a cute, brace-wearing gay boy who never lets his short frame stand in the way of standing up for what's right or prevent him from saying hello.
Very different from the angelic icon "Matthew Shepard"; Matt was an ambitious, outgoing kid; who was learning about himself and experiencing all that life could offer. Those experiences; both bad and good brought him to a place that you and I could relate to him. I think I would have liked Matt Shepard and I'm thankful that his Mom and Dad have allowed the world to know every part of him.
Matt was lucky to have parents that loved and accepted him as he was. I too have been so fortunate to enjoy that steadfast love and acceptance from my Parents! It is in those family relationships that kids can learn to have the strength to stand up to the bullies and hate that are in the world. It is also through our support and encouragement as friends, teachers, and mentors that we can protect those who are being persecuted. I've got a number of friends who've not received support at home. It's my job as a friend to be that support!
If you are a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning youth thinking about suicide or other destructive act; please reach out to The Trevor Project, 24 hours a day, at 866-4-U-TREVOR [866-488-7386].