Gay Canadian Teen Latest Casualty of Bullying

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 17, 2011

A 15-year-old Canadian youth has killed himself after enduring bullying and posting messages online in which he talked about his struggles and his pain.

Jamie Hubley, the son of a city councilor for Kanata South, Canada, wrote on Tumblr about being openly gay, a status that marked him for harassment at school, numerous online reports said.

"Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 and disproportionately affects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth," said an Oct. 17 article published by the Ottawa Citizen.

The newspaper reported that the blog Jamie wrote online "documented the final month of his life in heartbreaking and painful detail."

A friend told the newspaper that Jamie longed to have a relationship. Jamie said as much in a posting at his blog in which he wrote, "I wish I could be happy, I try, I try, I try ... I just want to feel special to someone." The Ottawa Citizen reported that the young man had struggled with depression.

"I hate being the only open gay guy in my school," Jamie wrote. "It fucking sucks, I really want to end it." Jamie also wrote about being harassed by other students who hurled anti-gay epithets at him.

The night before he killed himself, Jamie posted on more message at Tumblr and titled it "Suicide Note," Unicorn Booty reported.

"Im a casualty of love," Jamie wrote. "Well, Im tired of life really. Its so hard, Im sorry, I cant take it anymore."

The young man gave a shout-out to his friends, and then continued, "Being sad is sad," before adding, "I'v been like this for way to long. I cant stand school, I cant stand earth, I cant stand society, I cant stand the scars on my arms, I cant fucking stand any fucking thing."

Media reports said that Jamie had cut himself on previous occasions, even slicing the word "love" into his arm.

"I dont want my parents to think this is their fault either," the young man wrote. "I love my mom and dad : ) Its just too hard. I dont want to wait 3 more years, this hurts too much. How do you even know It will get better? Its not."

News reports noted the reference to the "It Gets Better" project, an online collection of video messages in which celebrities and everyday people alike encourage teens not to take their own lives. The messages acknowledge that being in high school and being a teenager are difficult, but offer the hope that as gay youths grow up and head into the world on their own they will find acceptance and love.

"I hit rock fucking bottom, fell through a crack, now im stuck," Jamie added.

"well You know who you are, But to the people who didnt like me (many) A big fuck you, Go ride a unicorn," the young man wrote. "But w/e I love you anyway."

"Jamie's last month of blog post include numerous photos of his scars from self-cutting, quotes about how ugly and worthless he felt, and screenshots of victims contemplating suicide after being attacked by bullies," Unicorn Booty reported.

Jamie's suicide took place a month after that of Jamie Rodemeyer, a gay teen who lived near Buffalo, New York. Rodemeyer was 14 when he killed himself after making a video for the "IT Gets Better" project. His parents found his body on Sept. 19.

Like Jamie Hubley, Rodemeyer had blogged about being openly gay and being bullied because of it.

"I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens," Rodemeyer posted on Sept. 9. "What do I have to do so people will listen to me?"

His parents told local newspaper the Buffalo News that the taunts and harassment Rodemeyer endured at school and online 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 newspaper. "But lately, he's been blowing them off, or at least we thought he was."

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.

That finding indicates that it is the social stigma that drives gay teens to kill themselves, not being gay in and of itself. But despite media attention and greater public awareness of the destructive effects anti-gay bullying has, the problem persists. Moreover, anti-gay sentiment is so pervasive and ugly that in Rodemeyer's case, the fact that the youth was driven to kill himself was not enough for his tormenters: Rodemeyer's sister was shocked to hear students from Rodemeyer's school declare themselves happy that he was dead.

Film and television star Zachary Quinto, known for his role as Sylar on "Heroes" and for playing Spock in the new version of "Star Trek," came out as gay over the weekend, and cited Jamie Rodemeyer when he made the disclosure.

"When I found out that Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself--I felt deeply troubled," Quinto wrote on his blog on Oct. 16. "But when I found out that Jamey Rodemeyer had made an 'It Gets Better' video only months before taking his own life--I felt indescribable despair."

The tragedy prompted Quinto to speak up, and speak out.

"I also made an 'It Gets Better' video last year in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time," Quinto added. "But in light of Jamey's death, it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality."

One complication to the issue of teen suicide is that other teens can copy a peer who has killed him- or herself, a Sept. 20 Associated Press article noted.

"If we portray it as something that is admirable and very sympathetic, vulnerable youth may hear that as, 'Look at the attention this case is getting and everyone is feeling sorry and praising this individual,' and it can form a narrative that can be compelling," Ann Haas of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention told the AP.

But the frequency with which gay teens and even pre-teens kill themselves may have little to do with media exposure. The media began to take note of gay youth suicides in 2010. A rash of media coverage brought to light the ongoing problem of gay youth committing suicide, but observers noted that the media was only beginning to report a problem that was ongoing.

A number of gay youths committed suicide in the summer and fall of 2010, including Justin Aaberg, a student in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, which lies in the district of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

The rash of suicides in recent years in Anoka-Hennepin has drawn attention from the Justice Dept. Despite the problem--and in the face of two lawsuits alleging that the district allows anti-gay bullying to take place--a parents' group recently submitted a petition to the Anoka-Hennepin school board to retain as so-called "neutrality policy" that critics say has left teachers and administrators unsure of how, or whether, they may respond to anti-gay bullying, even when it happens right in front of them.

The district also paid out a handsome settlement to a young straight man who was harassed by two teachers who targeted him for anti-gay bullying.

The suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi just over one year ago galvanized the nation and led to New Jersey lawmakers adopting a comprehensive anti-bullying law that has been hailed as the toughest in the nation, though its critics say that the law is unwieldy and resource-intensive.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. 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.

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