So I don’t fear offending anyone when I say that suicide is really fucking horrible no matter what age the person is. But there’s something especially sad about young people taking their own lives. Feeling like, “Hey, 15 (or 13 or 10 or, my God, even younger than that) years is enough of this cruel world and I don’t see anything worth sticking around for.”
And everybody asks, “Why? Why did this child do this terrible thing?” We want there to be a reason. Something solid we can point at and say, “This.”
For all too many LGBT kids, the reason we turn to is bullying. Being called a faggot or a dyke or getting physically assaulted day in and day out while school authority figures look on (and all too often they do) can be a little much for a kid to handle.
Which is why anti-bullying legislation is such a hot topic these days. I mean, no one wants kids to be bullied in school. But these bills face strong opposition because they often include explicit protections for LGBT youth. This, of course, acknowledges a couple of things that make some people uncomfortable: that gay kids exist and that other kids — even straight, Christian ones — are making their lives a living hell.
Enter state Rep. Jeremy Faison speaking out against cyber-bullying legislation in Tennessee in late April.
“We can’t continue to legislate everything. We’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them,” he said.
According to the Tennessean, the “horrible things” that happened in “our state” he’s referring to are probably the January 2012 suicide of 14-year-old Phillip Parker and the December 2011 suicide of 18-year-old Jacob Rogers. Both boys killed themselves following prolonged antigay harassment.
So, if bullying didn’t cause these suicides, what did cause them, Faison?
“They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home,” he said.
Ah. Of course. Had their parents only done a better job teaching them to hold their heads high while people called them “faggot” and told them they were going to hell and nobody at their schools seemed to do much to protect them. Because, as we all know, teenagers are definitely emotionally stable and confident and not at all influenced by their peers.
So, yeah, according to Faison, your kid killing him- or herself isn’t something that has anything to do with him. It’s just a big Parenting FAIL.
Keep in mind that Tennessee is a state where Senate Republicans want to change “the state’s anti-bullying law to exempt condemnations of homosexuality based on religion,” according to the Huffington Post.
But don’t worry; Faison apologized.
“After reviewing my comments on the House floor today, I regret what was a poor choice of words,” he said. “My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy.”
Unless, of course, your kid is gay. Because that’s totally your fault.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world, she reviews rock ’n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister.