Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Washington Teen Dies in Response to Cyber- and School Bullying

Rafael "Rafa" Morelos, 14-year-old openly gay middle school student took his own life because of incessant bullying.

Cashmere, Washington – New light is being shed on the bullycide of a 14-year-old gay boy, victimized online and in school because of his sexual orientation.  Rafael Morelos, a student at Cashmere Middle School, hanged himself  from an irrigation bridge not far from his home on January 29, a cold Sunday in central Washington state.  His older brother found his lifeless body.  The small agricultural community of 3,060 east of Seattle continues to be in mourning because of his loss.  It is another community that believed anti-gay bullying just didn’t happen among people of stolid, conservative values like them.  Rafael’s suicide has dispelled that illusion.

By all accounts, Rafael was a boy who was easy to like.  He had been out and open about his homosexuality, and had overcome depressive bouts that had caused him to cut himself.  But conservative attitudes, especially among school counselors, made it difficult for Rafa (as his friends called him) and other gay students to find a professional they could trust.

School and town officials still do not want to say that anti-gay bullying played a major role in Rafael’s death.  But scores of his classmates told his mother that the bullying was incessant.  Huffington Post reports that the school locker room was a place of painful conflict for Rafael.  Quoting the Wentachee World, Huffpo highlights a couple of witnesses to some of the worst incidents of harassment and physical violence. One friend said, “He told me he got shoved and punched in the face in P.E. in the locker room at Cashmere.”  Another added, “He was tired of people saying that his little brothers would follow in his footsteps and be gay, too.”  Another friend said that the harassment extended to the internet.  A bully set up a Facebook page just so she could taunt Rafael online for being gay.  His mother Malinda Morelos told Q13 Fox News that she knew he was not acting as if he felt up to par, but she had no idea that he was being bullied for being gay at school.  After a candlelight vigil attended by over 100 youth and others, she said, “He never told me nothing. He did not tell me he was being bullied. He had a dark side inside him that he never told me his feelings anymore. I thought it was just him being a teenager, and I just didn’t know why.”

The Seattle Times says a person from a nearby town collected over 750 signatures for a Change.org petition calling upon Cashmere school officials to enforce their zero tolerance policy on anti-gay bullying.  LGBTQ advocates from around the nation are pressing local and state officials for action to prevent other senseless bullycides. On April 7, the Seattle Men’s Chorus, known for its many gay members, will give a benefit concert in Rafael’s memory.  The concert will be preceded by a program on diversity and tolerance.  Cashmere Schools Superintendent Glenn Johnson told the Times: “The bottom line is we lost a kid — and that’s of concern no matter what the reason is. The reality is that we take that very seriously and we want to get better as a community,” Superintendent Johnson continued. “We need to learn and heal together.”

His mother is left with her memories and a journal retrieved from his school locker where he spoke lovingly about his friends and a special person in his life.  On his iPod, Rafa left a short, poignant goodbye shortly before he died: “Sawwy, guys, but I love you guys.”  As his mother said to mourners at the candlelight vigil in memory of her dear son, “Sometimes he acted strong but, inside, he was dying little by little.”

March 29, 2012 - Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Social Justice Advocacy, Vigils, Washington State | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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