October 1, 2010, New York, NY – In the wake of four recent youth suicides caused by anti-gay bullying, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, extends our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the young men who took their lives, while urging the nation's media to investigate the anti-gay climate that contributes to putting young people in harm's way.
As media professionals shine a light on these tragic cases, GLAAD strongly encourages them to examine the impact of anti-gay rhetoric and commentary on young people. News reports that focus on the latest anti-gay and defamatory comments by politicians and high profile individuals often frame these incidents as isolated, leaving out how that dialogue impacts and hurts young people.
While these stories may grab the headlines and make great news, they also a send a dehumanizing message to young people. GLAAD urges the media to examine the impact of those messages on our nation's youth – in particular, those being bullied and harassed in their communities and the young people who bully. We remind media professionals to look back at these bullying stories and focus on impact and responsibility the next time they are covering anti-gay activists and their rhetoric.
"These senseless tragedies are a wake-up call about the immense hostility facing the youth across the nation," said GLAAD President, Jarrett Barrios. "We urge the media to investigate how dehumanizing anti-gay rhetoric in the national discourse affects vulnerable young people who feel they have nowhere to turn."
Over the last month, four teenagers have taken their own lives after facing bullying incidents:
-- 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a freshman at the Rutgers University New Brunswick/Piscataway Campus, jumped off of the George Washington Bridge after a classmate secretly filmed him kissing another man and then posted it to the internet.
-- 13-year-old Asher Brown, a student at Hamilton Middle School in Cypress, Texas, shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant anti-gay harassment.
-- 13-year-old Seth Walsh, a student at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi, Calif., hanged himself from a tree after classmates taunted him repeatedly for being gay. He initially survived the attempt, but he died after ten days on life support.
-- 15-year-old Billy Lucas, a freshman at Greensburg High School in Greensburg, Ind., hanged himself the day his friends say he was suspended from school for fighting back against the bullies who abused him constantly. The harassment was often directed at what the aggressors presumed about his sexual orientation.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), The Trevor Project, and Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) issued a joint statement in response to these bullying tragedies and offered key resources to parents, educators, students and the media:
"The horrible instances of school bullying that have led young people to take their own lives reflect the growing need for a change in our culture to value the differences of our youth," the groups said. "That cultural shift must begin now, in communities, schools, and at home by recognizing and addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth and letting them know they are not alone. It is now up to all of us to make sure it happens."
GLAAD continues to keep a close eye on all the latest coverage of these stories to ensure fair, accurate and inclusive reporting, while providing background information and experts to speak about the effects of bullying.
For complete resources on this topic, please consult the organizations listed below.