Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

High School Students Suspended for Roles in Rodenmeyer Bully-cide

Jamey Rodenmeyer,14, bullied by high school classmates

Williamsburg School District, New York – An unspecified number of North High School students have been suspended for bullying Jamey Rodenmeyer, who killed himself in September following unrelenting anti-gay harassment.  The Advocate reports that the suspensions resulted from information shared by police after the Rodenmeyer case was closed.  Though Amherst law enforcement authorities declined to bring charges against students in the case, they identified at least five incidents of anti-gay bullying aimed at Rodenmeyer, a 14-year-old freshman. The boy’s parents and school officers were not informed of the bullying incidents in question until it was too late.

School officials would not say the number of students suspended, but indicated that each of them faced a “minimum suspension” of at least five days.  Longer term suspensions may have been invoked, as well, though expulsion from school is not permitted for youths of this age.  These suspensions mark the second round of actions taken by the school system since Rodenmeyer’s death.  A female student who said she was “glad he was dead” was suspended soon after the suicide. Rodenmeyer, whose “It Gets Better” YouTube video gained wide circulation and the attention of Lady Gaga, took his life by hanging on September 18.

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Lady Gaga, Law and Order, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New York | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on High School Students Suspended for Roles in Rodenmeyer Bully-cide

Heartbroken 14-year-old Gay Youth Tormented to Death

Amherst, New York – Jamey Rodenmeyer wrote Lady Gaga lyrics on his Facebook page the weekend before he took his own life: “Don’t forget me when I come crying to heaven’s door.”  The quotation is from “The Queen,” a song included on Lady Gaga’s hit album, “Born This Way.”  The 14-year-old Williamsville North High student suffered unrelenting taunting and cyberbullying for being gay. Though he was in counseling with a therapist and a social worker, and was supported by his parents and a host of fans around the country due to his YouTube video for the “It Gets Better” project, the cumulative effect of psychic trauma and fear of violence broke down young Rodenmeyer’s defenses. His parents, who found Jamey’s body outside their home on September 19, told WGRZ Buffalo that they are certain he killed himself because of the bullying.  Rodenmeyer’s suicide immediately rekindled nationwide concern and anger over the culture of violence elementary, middle, and secondary school LGBTQ students face in and out of classrooms every day.  Lady Gaga called for a campaign to make bullycide a hate crime by law (no bullying laws exist in New York State).  An outspoken advocate for the gay and lesbian community, Gaga tweeted her fans: “Jamey Rodemeyer, 14 yrs old, took his life because of bullying.  Bullying must become be illegal. It is a hate crime.”  She then committed herself to approach President Obama.  “I am meeting with our President,” she posted.  “I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it. Trend it #MakeALawForJamey.”  Dan Savage, the co-originator of the “It Gets Better” project for which Rodemeyer made a video last May, said that he broke down and cried when he heard about the youth’s suicide.  Savage wrote on his blog, “The point of the ‘It Gets Better’ project is to give kids like Jamey Rodemeyer hope for their futures. But sometimes hope isn’t enough. Sometimes the damage done by hate and by haters is simply too great. Sometimes the future seems too remote. And those are the times our hearts break.”

The insults, rumors, and ridicule became too much for Jamey to bear.  On a Formspring site he opened to chat with friends online, he was targeted by irrational hate.  The Washington Post reports two representative instances of hate speech that would have unsettled anyone, no matter how well grounded: “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” an anonymous detractor wrote. Another went straight for his heart: “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!”  Even though there were expressions of support among the posts to his site, the loudness of the hate drowned out the love. In hindsight, Jamey’s cries for help are all too obvious.  On September 9, he wrote on Facebook, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. … What do I have to do so people will listen to me? No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down.”  But the face he let his parents see was calm and relatively upbeat.  Just days before he took his own life, the family went on a camping trip.

Amherst Police are investigating whether charges may be brought against youths who continually dogged Rodenmeyer with taunts and slurs. Buffalo News reports that the Special Victims Unit has been assigned to investigate whether crimes were committed against Jamey.  Cyberbullying, especially if it was centered on Rodenmeyer’s sexual orientation, could carry charges against his tormentors.  Police spokesmen have said that they are focusing their probe on one to three young harassers who targeted Rodenmeyer ever since he was a student at Heim Middle School. “We’re looking into it to see if he was the victim of any crimes, and that’s the bottom line,” Amherst Chief of Police John C. Askey told reporters. “We’re going to be speaking to school officials and students and anyone with direct information about crimes that may have been committed against this individual.”

Nearly 5,000 youths commit suicide each year, according the Centers for Disease Control, making teen suicide, especially teen LGBTQ suicide, a national health issue.  But the statistics cannot adequately count the cost of bullying in American society. Criminal harassment, ridicule, and threats strike real boys and girls one-by-one, like Jamey Rodenmeyer, and rip away their futures. In the last communication of his short life, Jamey tweeted Lady Gaga, “@ladygaga bye mother monster thank you for all you have done, paws up forever.”  In a tribute to Gaga, Jamey’s parents buried him Saturday wearing his “Born This Way” tee shirt.

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, Dan Savage, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Lady Gaga, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Heartbroken 14-year-old Gay Youth Tormented to Death

Phelps Clan to Protest at Gay Fashion Designer’s Funeral: When Religion Turns Preposterous

Topeka, KS – Alexander McQueen, renowed gay fashion designer, died on February 11.  That same day, Fred Phelps, founder and chief screed-monger of Westboro Baptist Church, issued an announcement declaring that WBC would demonstrate at McQueen’s funeral “in religious protest and warning”  (see WBC web site graphic to the left).  Alexander McQueen (1969-2010) was a genius in the fashion industry who was named British Designer of the Year four times, and most recently was honored by Queen Elizabeth II with the rank of CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2003 in recognition of his lifetime achievement.  His obituary in The Times of London notes that he was formerly head designer at Givenchy and then moved into partnership with Gucci.  The shock value of his designs drew attention to his genius, and he counted Rihanna, Björk, and Lady Gaga among his more famous clients.  McQueen’s sexual orientation was no secret throughout the fashion world.  Phelps announced that his church was picketing McQueen’s funeral because he spent his life “teaching rebellion against God” and “committing crimes against God,” presumably by living openly as a talented, notable gay man.  Phelps also used the moment to slam Lady Gaga, calling her a “proud whore” who had “blood on her hands” for wearing McQueen’s creations.  Though Phelps and his independent Baptist Church are engaging in protected speech under the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, their scramble for contributions and attention goes beyond innocence when they lambaste fallen U.S. servicemembers, synagogues and churches,LGBT people, and celebrity figures under the banner of freedom of expression/freedom of religion.  It would be a mistake to underestimate the effect of this brand of hate speech on the gullible and impressionable–when direct links between hate speech and violence can be established, the full force of law must be brought to bear in order to prevent harm and loss of life. The link between hateful speech and hate crimes continues to be hotly debated, but though Phelps may not be guilty of hate violence yet, he and his followers have made their brand of religion look silly.  Should anyone take him seriously?  Alexander McQueen may rest undisturbed by the rantings of the likes of Phelps.  If anything, Lady Gaga can bask a bit in the knowledge that she has made WBC’s “Anti-Christ List” along with so many other worthy people.  The King James Version of  the Book of James 3:11 reads: Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Phelps twists the goodness of religion turning it into a bitter hate-filled caricature that sours what it touches.  Exponents of Good religion, the Golden Rule/Great Commandment kind, must work overtime to repair the damage to faith communities that Christian jihadists like WBC do in the name of God.

February 14, 2010 Posted by | gay men, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kansas, Law and Order, Protests and Demonstrations, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Slaughtered Gay Puerto Rican Teen Laid to Rest by Family and Friends

Toa Alto, Puerto Rico – Jorge Steven López Mercado was laid to rest by over a thousand family members and friends on Monday.  His mother, Miriam Mercado, and Pedro Julio Serrano, leading LGBT activist, made moving statements remembering Jorge Steven amidst bouquets of white roses and multicolored balloons.  The whole gathering offered a final tribute to the slain teenager by saluting his resting place with his signature hand gesture, captured in so many photos on happier days.  According to Boy from Bushwick, who has been covering the whole saga of young López Mercado’s brutal murder since the beginning, the youth’s maternal aunt, Ruby Mercado, told reporters present to cover the funeral mass, “The support we have received from the public and Steven’s friends has given us the strength to bear this moment of such horrible pain.  I asked Steven with his wings from heaven to help us carry on without having him by our side.”  One of his friends, José Alicia, said, “We definitely hope people and society wake up and demand justice.”  El Nuevo Dia reports that Jorge Steven’s aunt and his former boyfriend, Luis Rivera, opened the cask holding his ashes, and placed a small necklace bearing a cross and a white rose inside before the interment.  The service at Toa Alto bore the passion and style of the flamboyant young gay Puerto Rican from beginning to end.  Music accompanying his ashes to the grave was Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”: “I won’t tell you that I love you/Kiss or hug you/’Cause I’m bluffin’ with my muffin/I’m not lyin’ I’m just stunnin’ with my love-glue-gunning/Can’t read my, Can’t read my/No he can’t read my poker face.” Again and again during the funeral, family and friends called for respect for the LGBT community in Puerto Rico, and justice for Jorge Steven.  Rest in peace, mi amigo.

November 24, 2009 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Condolences, funerals, gay men, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Puerto Rico, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Slaughtered Gay Puerto Rican Teen Laid to Rest by Family and Friends


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