Jamie Hubley, a teenager in Ottawa, killed himself recently after battling against depression and violent bullying. I’ve been trying to formulate what I need to say, what I need to express about this and about the spate of similar deaths in recent years.
I’ve been off this week, since I heard, since the news sank through my skin. I had trouble at work, holding my temper and being patient. In my personal life, I overreacted to a situation with a man I met. The whole week has been emotional turmoil of one sickly flavour or another, and it took several days to understand where it came from.
This wasn’t someone in the United States which is still barely tolerating its gay citizens. This was in my country, my province. My home. Someone, a child, in my home lost all hope of life ever being good, or even tolerable. Other children around him tortured him so much that he decided death was the only way out. Despite parents who loved him just the way he was, his hope was destroyed.
To quote the priest in the funeral scene at the beginning of The Big Chill, “It makes me angry. And I don’t know what to do with my anger.”
Children are vicious. Teens especially so. Always have been. Back in the mists of prehistory when I was young, there were peers who were horrible to me, wielding words like scalpels to cut at me. But no one ever tried to shove batteries down my throat, like they did to Jamie. It has gotten worse. The world is darker, and the internet has given bullies more brutal weapons. Like Facebook and any number of blogging platforms. Can even parental guidance stop violence from happening in the seething, hormonal hell that is high school?
We’re left with kids who don’t know that tormenting their perceived inferiors is wrong. Did they learn this at their parents’ knees? How do schools not see? Not act? Can they even undo years of conditioning and terrible parenting?
Through some of the few people I am in touch with on Facebook, I have seen peripherally some of my tormentors. One couple were the jock boy and the mean girl. She still has a brittle, cruel look about her. I wonder what their kids are like. Where they raised to know that preying on the weak is heinous? Or have they followed in their parents’ footsteps, thinking that others are their inferiors and merely victims to be toyed with?
I feel so helpless. The future of my community is dying. LGBTQ children are dying and I don’t know know how to stop it. Hell, it doesn’t even seem to matter whether some of these kids actually ARE LGBTQ. Perception of difference or gayness is often enough to ensure victimization. But these gay and lesbian kids are our future. Who knows what they might have accomplished if they had survived. What lives might they have affected or saved? What art or music might they have created? What wonders might they have wrought on the world?
It’s so easy to see what must be done. Bullied kids must be protected. Bullies must be shown that what they do is wrong and punished to the full extent of the law if they persist. Schools must act when children are victimized. Parents must teach their children that there is nothing wrong with difference and different kids are not to treated in these horrible ways. Homophobic, hateful bigots must, at the very least, be made to see that believing homosexuality is wrong is not an excuse to hurt others or curtail their rights. Those who will never accept, must at least learn to respect.
I see so clearly what must be done. I just don’t know how. If I knew who was being victimized, I would throw myself in front of them like a human shield, taking the blows for them. If me giving my life at this very second would keep these kids from losing their lives, i would give it, without a second thought. I’ve had my time and I’ve had a good run at it. The gods can have my life if it will keep these gay kids from giving up theirs.
But it’s not the gods that wrought this situation. We, as humans, are responsible. All of us. We made it, and it’s up to us to stop it. Speak out. Act. Protect these young lives in any way we can.
This must stop. The line must be drawn.