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Life with Benny: Harassment of LGBT youth must stop

As I was scouring through “gay” news this morning looking for news tips to post in SDGLN’s "Causes" section, I came across two more heartbreaking stories of very young gay teenagers who have recently committed suicide, most likely as a result of anti-gay harassment.

I did not plan on writing about this topic in this week’s column, but I found myself practically lifeless at my desk, reading these articles with sadness, anger and a sense of wanting to wrap my arms around all LGBT youth and protect them for the big, bad world that we live in.

I then did a search on our own web site, SDGLN, and in our short 11-months of publishing, we too, have posted far too many stories about LGBT suicides – many of them about youth. LGBT youth have always had one of the highest suicide rates amongst at-risk populations and many of our youth continue to become a part of this statistic.

Just yesterday, SDGLN posted a story about a 13-year old in Tehachapi who hung himself a week ago and today we have yet another story about a 13-year old in Texas who shot himself last week.

Before their deaths, both boys reported repeated anti-gay harassment. Of course, in both cases (and in most others), the school districts, teachers, and administrators claim that they have no reports of bullying.

In the case of Asher Brown, the boy from Texas, school officials claim they received no calls from the parents, who claim they made repeated requests to the school’s to stop the harassment.

These teachers and administrators should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Young lives have been lost and they are now trying to cover their lazy butts.

I recognize how challenging the teaching profession is, and I have the utmost respect for educators, but I have no patience for school officials who turn a blind eye to any form of harassment or bullying.

And then there are the parents and elected officials who say bullying is just a symptom of “boys will be boys.” Queerty tells us about Tom Emmer, who hopes to be elected governor of Minnesota. He doesn’t think schools should have to protect children from bullying! (I would love to see how he feels about this if one of his seven kids eventually comes out as gay … )

We all have to be mindful of our LGBT youth.

We have to remind educators that it is their job to teach and protect all children.

We have to remind our elected officials that more and more protections need to be put in place so that children do not have to endure the torturous harassment that so many face every single day.

We need to support organizations like The Trevor Project which work to provide a lifeline and support to our LGBT youth, who feel like they have no one else to turn to.

We all need to come out, stand out, and educate those around us every single day.

Parents have huge influence over their children and if they model tolerance, their children are more likely to be accepting of people who are different from them. With LGBT youth coming out earlier and earlier, it is now essential that we ensure their safety.

It is hard for me to imagine what is going through someone’s mind just before they commit suicide. What I do know is that they must be in a place so deep, dark and alone, that they feel as if they have no way out, and no one to turn to.

The thought of anyone having to be in that place is absolutely heart wrenching to me. Let’s work together to keep that place empty so no more of our LGBT youth have to go there.

Please do your part – our youth need you!

Benny Cartwright is a staff writer with SDGLN who focuses on non-profits, politics, and higher education. Also known as "Mr. Pride," he regularly informs our readers about the various Pride celebrations happening throughout California (and Tijuana). Benny also writes a social column, giving a more in-depth look at his sometimes fabulous, sometimes crazy, but always eventful life. He has written for a number of local publications over the years, starting with San Diego’s Update! newspaper in 2005. Benny is also involved with numerous community organizations, goes to grad school, and has a "day job" – he’s one busy guy!