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National Media Dedicates Time to Address Anti-Gay Bullying

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By GLAAD |
October 5, 2010

Many national news outlets and talk shows are dedicating airtime this week to discussions of anti-bullying initiatives in middle and high schools as a response to the suicides of the past month.

Anderson Cooper 360 is dedicating time in each of its shows this week to general teen bullying, culminating with a Town Hall meeting on Friday to address the issue. One student he interviewed spoke about a bully who would call him “fa**ot, emo, gay, stuff like that … just because I was different from him,” speculating that maybe the harassment was due to his intelligence or his taste in music.

Various other attempts are also being made to address and understand the causes of these deaths. One commentary on the Huffington Post suggests that bullies are taking cues from adults that refuse to acknowledge the persistence of homophobia in our larger society.  Another encourages affirming people of faith not to let anti-gay religious rhetoric prevent them from taking action. A Los Angeles Times article examines the negative impact of online social networks and other technology on interactions in the real world.

But the mainstream media is still lacking in its coverage of Raymond Chase, a student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, who on Sept. 29, hanged himself in a residence hall at his university. Chase is the most recent young LGBT person to commit suicide. Chase is the most recent young LGBT person to commit suicide, by hanging himself in a residence hall of his college on September 29.

Raymond’s death comes at a difficult time, as it reflects the continued epidemic of suicide among young LGBT-identified people.  And despite its equal significance only LGBT outlets like the Windy City Times, the Advocate, EDGE Boston, and the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News have any substantial coverage of Raymond’s story as of this morning. National news have hardly reached out at all to follow up on this tragedy and include his memory. For example, although the New York Times reported extensively on the death of Tyler Clementi, a search of the website for Raymond yields no results. The Washington Post also has very little on Raymond’s death

This lack of coverage is especially disappointing as it continues to cast stories of LGBT people of color into the shadows. Often the stories of LGBT people of color are left out of the media.  GLAAD’s Senior Director of Media Programs, Rashad Robinson, recently published an editorial piece on the charges surrounding Bishop Eddie Long, touching upon the particular struggles of African Americans who identify as LGBT.

Furthermore, the media is not always bringing enough professional opinion and advice into its coverage. Although editorials have been written on the difficulties in the lives of LGBT teenagers, the same articles do not always include resources to guide troubled teenagers towards help. And while a segment on Larry King Live yesterday did include a brief interview with the mother of Justin Aaberg, a gay young man from Minnesota who committed suicide on July 9, the overwhelming majority of guests were celebrities like Lance Bass and Kathy Griffin. Although celebrities are a great way to draw attention to this issue, expert voices are also vitally important to this conversation.

But overall we applaud Larry King Live for shining a bright spotlight on anti-gay bullying, and directing young people in crisis to the Trevor Project numerous times throughout the broadcast.

GLAAD supports media efforts to address the anti-LGBT sentiments that contributed to  the deaths of Justin Aaberg, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, Raymond Chase, and the many other young people who suffer  from thoughts of depression or suicide. GLAAD will continue to monitor and report on this coverage to ensure fair representations of the victims and to encourage positive social change.

** Daryl Hannah, GLAAD's Media Field Strategist, and Angela Dallara, GLAAD's National News/Transgender Advocacy Fellow, contributed to this report.