Even After Filming Video, It Got So Much Worse for Bullied Buffalo Gay Teen That He Killed Himself

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday September 21, 2011

14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer blogged about being the target of homophobic bullies who harassed him online, complaining that when he tried to tell adults about the problem nothing happened, JoeMyGod and other LGBT news outlets reported on Sept. 20. The young man had made a video for the "It Gets Better" project last spring, but on Sept. 19 his parents found Jamey's body.

"I promise you, it will get better," Jamey had said in the video message. The "It Gets Better" project is dedicated to offering words of encouragement to LGBT youth who might be driven to suicide by anti-gay messages they receive from bullies at school or from society at large. The project features thousands of messages made by celebrities and everyday people alike, both gay and straight, and was begun in response to the media attention last year that shined a spotlight on the problem of gay teen suicide.

Studies have shown that GLBT youth are more than five times as likely as heterosexual teens to engage in suicidal behavior. What's more, researchers have found evidence that the labeling of teens as being gay is the source of the emotional pain that drives them toward suicide; actual sexual conduct does not seem to have a bearing. One study showed that teens who thought of themselves as heterosexual even though they had sex with people of the same gender were no more likely than teens who only had sex with partners of the opposite gender to commit suicide.

Despite his words of encouragement to other gay teens, Jamey apparently took his own life.

"It Gets Better" creator Dan Savage took to his own blog at The Stranger on Sept. 20 to write about Jamey's death.

"It sounds like Jamey had help -- he was seeing a therapist and a social worker and his family was supportive -- but it wasn't enough," Savage wrote. "Whatever help Jamey was getting clearly wasn't enough to counteract the hatred and abuse that he had endured since the fifth grade, according to reports, or Jamey's fears of having to face down a whole new set of bullies when he started high school next year."

Savage went on to note, "The point of the 'It Gets Better' project is to give kids like Jamey Rodemeyer hope for their futures. But sometimes hope isn't enough. Sometimes the damage done by hate and by haters is simply too great. Sometimes the future seems too remote."

The Buffalo, New York, teen had "had long complained of vicious homophobic bullying at the hands of his classmates," the JoeMyGod article said.

"His death followed not only taping his own 'It Gets Better' video, but also blogging on Tumblr about the bullying at school that just wouldn't stop," reported Advocate.com on Sept. 20.

"I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens," Jamey posted on Sept. 9, local newspaper the Buffalo News reported. "What do I have to do so people will listen to me?"

Viewers who logged in to see Jamey's life-affirming message at YouTube left heartfelt notes addressed to the young man.

'Whatever help Jamey was getting clearly wasn't enough to counteract the hatred and abuse that he had endured since the fifth grade, or fears of having to face down a whole new set of bullies when he started high school next year.'

"I'm literally crying right now," posted one viewer. "Jamey RIP, you're so amazing. I wish I would've known you better. I can't believe we lost such an amazing person."

Wrote another, "Never knew you, but I miss you and I love you. Too valuable to lose."

At Tumblr, too, there were lamentations, Advocte.com noted.

"Jamey Rodemeyer is dead?" one individual who had followed his postings at the site wrote. "I can't believe this. I don't even know what to say. Although I didn't know him in real life, it's hard to cope with his suicide."

Similar outpourings were left by readers at JoeMyGod.

"I can't stop crying," posted one reader. "I WISH I WOULD HAVE HAD THE OPPURTUNITY to fly to this young man and just HUGGED him..these ANTI-GAY people HAVE GOT TO STOP!!"

In postings before his death, Jamey quoted song lyrics that seemed to refer to death and dying, and gave a shout-out to Lady Gaga, whom he had named an inspiration for standing up to hostility such as what some individuals offered the teen online.

"JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT AND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!" one anonymous post at Formspring read, the Buffalo News reported.

"I wouldn't care if you died," another person posted. "No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier!"

"Rodemeyer said her son had questioned his sexuality for the last year or so, and some of his classmates used those issues as an excuse to say horrible and malicious things about him," the Buffalo News article said.

His parents told the newspaper that the taunts and harassment had been a source of anger and sadness for the young man for some time, but that shortly before his death Jamey seemed happier. They chalked it up to him ignoring the bullying comments that had troubled him earlier.

"He used to cry about it, be sad and angry," Jamey's mother told the Buffalo News. "But lately, he's been blowing them off, or at least we thought he was."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.