Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Homophobia Kills Straight People, Too

Eric Mohat, 17, committed suicide after merciless homophobic bullying at school.  He was straight.

Eric Mohat, 17, committed suicide after merciless homophobic bullying at school. He was straight.

Mentor, OH: The parents of a 17-year-old straight son who was bullied in school so relentlessly for being homosexual that he killed himself filed suit in federal court on March 27, 2009 against the school system and officials who witnessed the name-calling, hitting, and pushing, but did nothing to protect the boy.  Eric Mohat, whose nickname was “Twiggy,” was a tall, skinny boy who loved to play the piano, had a wonky sense of humor, and loved the theatre.  The harassment proved too much to bear.  A bully shouted at him in class on March 29, 2007, “Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself!  No one will miss you!”  Eric did.

Eric strikes a pose for the Yearbook

Eric strikes a pose for the Yearbook

He went home, took out his father’s legally registered handgun, locked himself in the room, and shot himself in the head.  His parents, William and Janis Mohat of Mentor, Ohio, allege that the suicides of three other youths at Mentor Senior High School, that occurred shortly after their son’s death, are also due to excessive bullying. Though the Mohats are seeking no punitive damages in their suit, they insist that the school system acknowledge the problem of homophobic bullying and address it effectively.  School officials defend the operation of the 2,900 student school in an eastern exuburb of Cleveland, saying that they had already instituted a form of anti-bullying education, and took appropriate steps to address Eric’s fears when he brought them to their attention.  Countering, friends of Eric’s attest that teachers and administrators saw what was happening to Eric and others, and in effect turned a blind eye.  They say Eric was relentlessly badgered in class, and called “fag,” “homo,” “nancy boy,” and “queer” right in front of his teachers.  Most of the bullying took place in a math class where the teacher, who is an athletic coach, failed to protect Eric.  Experts on anti-bullying education note that the program the Mentor school is using has questionable results with homophobic jock culture when it is entrenched in a school or community.

Eric's MySpace pic, a gift from his sister, Erin

Eric's MySpace pic, a gift from his sister, Erin

His older sister Erin, whom Eric called his hero, heard the shot from another room where she was exercising on a treadmill.  In a blog, Erin wrote about losing her little brother: “It’s so surreal. I just keep thinking he’ll walk through the front door, bouncy as always, and say, ‘Oh the wound wasn’t that serious, they patched me up just fine.’ But I know better. The coroner has called and asked to use pieces of his heart to save three children’s lives, and his corneas too. The police were there to tell me, yes he was dead. But I knew from the moment I found him. I didn’t want to admit it because I was still hoping that just maybe my mind was playing tricks on me…. but that’s not the case and I knew it the moment I saw all that blood and I saw part of his brain on that floor. I can’t get it out of my head. The image of it all makes me sick but even with my eyes wide open I can see it.”  Now Erin, who is 21, is studying to be a school psychologist.

Eric’s dad told ABC reporters, “When you lose a child like this it destroys you in ways you can’t even describe.”  He and his wife have opened their hearts and their home to any child contemplating suicide, just so no one will have to believe that she or he is alone and afraid.

The Columbine tragedy in Colorado, and numerous other shootings across the country demonstrate the negative effects of homophobic epithets and name-calling.  Recent studies, including those carried out by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (www.glsen.org), show that youth who are bullied in school have a five to nine times higher incidence of suicide than those who do not suffer it.

Shrine to Eric in Mentor, Ohio, by his friends

Shrine to Eric in Mentor, Ohio, by his friends

Homophobia kills.  LGBT folk are the primary targets of violent hate crimes due to homophobia and heterosexism.  But as Eric Mohat’s story illustrates, the toll of murder and suicide is mounting for straight youth, too.  When will the madness stop?  Not until good people get involved and clamor for anti-bullying laws and hate crimes statutes.

Just days before the suicide, Eric Mohat told his mother, “I get picked on every day and I’ve got a whole nine weeks left. I can’t do this anymore.”

“We never had a chance to help him,” she said, choking back tears.

“It shouldn’t require legal action to get the school system to pay more attention to bullying than they do to their sports programs,” said his father. “How many suicides is enough?”

April 5, 2009 - Posted by | harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Legislation, Mistaken as LGBT, Ohio, Popular Culture, Slurs and epithets

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: