It’s been a terrible month for hope.
September 2010 saw the suicides of four teenage boys who were bullied for their perceived sexual orientation or gender expression: Tyler Clemente, 18; Billy Lucas, 15; Seth Walsh, 13; and Asher Brown, 13.
The online community that I belong to, made up of parents of gender non-conforming kids, has been reeling with a collective sense of loss, horror, and brokenheartedness. Gloria Iorillo (a courageous parent who I’ve written about before, pseudonymously), wrote:
It just breaks my heart thinking of those kids who felt they were hopeless, helpless, lost, with no other recourse but to take their lives, leaving their families and friends devastated.
We have a responsibility to break this cycle of hate and intolerance. The only way is by teaching our children not only tolerance but acceptance for those different from us, and by taking a stand for those kids who are struggling, letting them know they are not alone, they have us, to help them, protect them, and to fight intolerance whenever we encounter it.
Our mere existence is a form of activism. Every time our kids go out the door defying conventionalisms, every time we talk to someone about our experience with our non-conforming kids, we are pushing the envelope.
Our job—our responsibility—is to talk to people. Within the bounds of safety, we need to speak to our families, friends, neighbors, schools, synagogues, churches, the press. We’ve got to share our stories, our sons’ stories, our families’ stories.
By talking we can help people contemplate: what if my child were so bullied he felt the best thing to do was to take his own life? What if my child tortured another child to the point of driving them to suicide? What would I do if I were a child so brutally treated by my classmates?
Jews say of their dead, “May their memory be for a blessing.” I have always loved the expression, the way it conveys both respect for the deceased and the hope that something good will come of their life, if not the terribleness of their passing.
May the memories of Tyler, Billy, Seth, and Asher be for a blessing.