Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Are Gay Suicides “Collateral Damage”? Gay Man Hanged From A Tree in Atlanta

Michael George Smith Jr., aka London Jermaine, found hanged in Atlanta's Piedmont Park.

Michael George Smith Jr., aka London Jermaine, found hanged in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park.

Atlanta, Georgia – Trapped between anguish over family disapproval of his sexual orientation and nationwide protests over the police killings of black men, a young man climbed a tree in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park and hanged himself. Police discovered the body of 22-year-old London Jermaine, aka Michael George Smith Jr., hanged by the neck near the Charles Allen entrance to the popular urban park early on July 7. Smith, a resident of Midtown and computer science student, had migrated from Hackensack, New Jersey to take up a new life in Atlanta. While there is no evidence of foul play reported by Project Q Atlanta, Smith’s death is a casebook of reasons why the suicides of young gay men may be “murder by suicide,” in which the victims are driven by despair to take their own lives after anti-gay shaming.

Because of his large social media footprint, we are able to trace the pressure that drove him to seek a way to stop the hurt he felt. On June 13, Smith posted a complaint and cry for help: “Being Gay in America is Hard. Being Black in America is Hard. Imagine being both #NoH8.” Family played a large part in browbeating Smith because of their extreme negative attitudes toward gays. On June 17, he posted a screen capture of a text message from a brother, and a sharp reaction to the disapproval of his mother: “God doesn’t born gay people. You make yourself gay.” Smith added this status to the duplicated message: “My mother is teaching my siblings to dispise Gays.. I’m done with Life. I’m Hurt To The Core.” According to posts on his Facebook page, he was also facing health issues.

Just minutes before his drop from the tree in Piedmont Park, Smith left this despairing message on Facebook: “I’ll see y’all in the next Life…Deadass [followed by emoticons] Father forgive me” 

Bossip.com reports the storm of criticism Atlanta Police and Mayor Kasim Reed faced following the discovery of Smith’s body. Widespread speculation about a possible “modern lynching” dogged the investigation, and put bulletins to the public on the fast track. With the nation aflame with anger and confusion over the apparently unjustifiable shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, Atlanta officials feared that the public hanging of a young black man could cause an outbreak of violence in their city. The APD reported finding a tall rolling trash receptacle beside the scene of Smith’s death with a footprint on its top corresponding to his shoe. They also found pollen on his clothing indicating he climbed the tree to the limb where the rope that asphyxiated him was tied. There were no signs of struggle, the police reported.

"London Jermaine" via Instagram

“London Jermaine” via Instagram

The FBI were called in to carry out an investigation separate from the APD, and spokesperson Special Agent Stephen Emmett issued this statement to Project Q confirming the conclusion that Smith carried out his own death: “A review of the findings of the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s report by both APD and the FBI failed to indicate any signs of foul play or other evidence that would support going forward with a federal hate crime based investigation.”

Young gay men are under severe pressure due to the tension over advances in LGBTQ rights in the U.S., especially young gay men who are African American. Michael George Smith Jr. faced an almost perfect storm of difficulties from family, the culmination of too many deaths of young black men at the hands of unaccountable police officers, and questions about his own health. Too many young men, both those of color and white alike, have succumbed to despair, underlining the epidemic numbers of suicides in the LGBTQ community, compared with the rate of suicide for the dominant ethnic population. The Trevor Project, the nation’s leading anti-suicide hotline, details the grim suicide statistics for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. While suicide is the greatest cause of death in the U.S. for young people from 10 to 24, gay youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and gay youth from highly disapproving families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt to take their own lives than children of families that are accepting.

The degree of hostility towards LGBTQ Americans, especially young gay men of color, is exacting a terrifying cost from the ranks of the nation’s youth. Whether from opposition rooted in conservative religious traditions, ignorance, or backlash against newly minted rights for the LGBTQ community, the loss of young lives like Michael George Smith Jr.’s is not simply tragic. It is a national health emergency.

July 18, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crimes, Atlanta Police Department, FBI, Georgia, GLBTQ, Hanging, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, suicide, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Student Condemned By Church Dies By Suicide

Ben Wood, 21, bullied by Church Youth Leader, takes his own life.

Ben Wood, 21, bullied by Church Youth Leader, takes his own life.

Asheville, North Carolina – William “Ben” Wood was 21 when he died on the floor of his dorm at UNC-Asheville.  Friends who found him said that he was drawn up in a fetal position on May 8, 2013, having slashed open his veins.  The loss of this sensitive, justice-seeking young gay man is a tragedy by most accounts–his friends and school mates say he was a fine student, but in recent months his grades and school performance had plunged.  The university junior couldn’t deal with the prospect of going back to his neighborhood in Asheville without being a student any longer, according to his mother’s account in the Reconciling Ministries Network Blog.  As a teen, he had been irreparably wounded by a Youth Leader at his home church as he prepared to go on a Mission trip with his friends from the United Methodist Youth Fellowship.

His mom, Julie Wood, recounts how the misguided Youth Leader singled out her son for being gay in front of his peers.  The leader said, You all know, we all know, that Ben is gay.  Who here is comfortable being around him?”  Demanding a response from each youth in the group, the Leader then said, “Do you understand that Ben is going to hell?”  Once again, the Youth Leader pressed each youth for an answer about Ben.  Crushed, exposed, and broken by the experience, Ben came home while his UMYF friends left on the bus for the Mission Trip.  His mother, who stalwartly contends that their home church is a loving and supportive place, says that this was the trigger experience she believes led to the suicide of her son a few agonizing years later.  Mrs. Wood writes:

“Ben was told that he was not worthy of going on the mission trip.  He had been shamed, humiliated, and betrayed.  He was told that he did not deserve to be a part of the group.  He was no representative of God. 

Out of our front window, I saw the goldish colored Caviler abruptly whip into our driveway.   Ben ran up the porch steps and stood in the doorway.  One look, and I knew, something horrible had happened.  The flushed sides of his cheeks quivered as did his lip.  His breathing was rapid and his eyes just about to spill over. 

The church bus was loaded with Ben’s friends to go on that mission trip while my betrayed and broken son, walked alone around Salem Lake.   He must have felt so very abandoned and isolated. 

While he never lost his compassion for others, I think that this was the day that he gave up on people and God.” 

Skeptics may argue that there is no clear correspondence between the suicide of a young gay man years after the shaming incident that took place in a church youth group in his teens.  Others will say that the church is basically a loving and supportive place, but is put in a hard situation by teachings like those of the United Methodist Church that send an ambiguous, essentially rejecting message about lesbians and gay people.  On the one hand, the social teachings of the church say that every person, including “homosexuals,” is of “sacred worth.”  On the other, the United Methodist Church stubbornly rejects homosexuality as “incompatible” with Christian teaching–denying ordination and marriage to LGBT people, and defrocking their clergy who carry out same-sex marriage ceremonies, or who live openly as lesbian or gay people.

So, who stands guilty of Ben Wood’s death?  The Youth Minister who was applying what he believed the teachings of his church on homosexuality to be?  Ben’s so-called “friends” who one-by-one (under pressure from an adult leader, of course) abandoned Ben to shame and broken heartedness?  The theologians and clergy of the church, who cannot seem to reconcile the love of God on the one hand, and social heterosexism and homophobia on the other?  And what of Ben’s own responsibility to transcend the suffering of his youth–though this latter argument is little more than blaming a victim for his own demise?

Bens’ obituary says he was a genuine, complex, and worthwhile human being.  The Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel  records that Ben “was a member of Sedge Garden United Methodist Church and was a Junior at UNC-Asheville. Ben had a kind and loving soul, with a great sense of humor. He was particularly compassionate to the needs and struggles of others more than himself and was a great journalist. To his younger sisters, Ben was a great big brother who shared lots of walks in the creeks and scavenger hunts with their stuffed animals.”  The obituary goes on to say that three clergy spoke at his funeral, and that his own maternal grandfather was a clergyman.  But Ben found so little hospitality and comfort from the churches around him and the clergy who served them that he could not and did not reach out to them in his darkest hours.  So, a sensitive, socially conscious young man, who happened to be gay and Christian, took his own life.

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology at Brite Divinity School, and a native North Carolinian himself, issues this opinion and prayer for other young LGBT persons: “The churches and their leadership have much to answer for in the deaths of young people like Ben Wood.  While we may not be able to point to a smoking gun linking the suicide of young persons condemned by church teachings to the culpability of the churches, there is no doubt that Christian heterosexism and homophobia contribute to the climate that denigrates LGBTQ people and creates undue suffering in their lives.  Indeed, there are progressive and welcoming churches and clergy, and for them we give thanks.  But they are too few, and the silence of church people about the prejudice condemning LGBTQ folk is a major contributing factor in the horror of spiritual violence against them.”

Dr. Sprinkle concludes:  “Let us be crystal clear about this: the heterosexism and homophobia Ben Wood experienced in his life is a Christian heresy–one the churches and clergy of every stripe must find the courage to repent of and repudiate.  And we must do everything we can to make amends to youth like Ben, and to their families.”

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, Bullycide, gay men, gay teens, GLSEN, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, North Carolina, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, United Methodist Church | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Gay New Mexico Teen Is Latest Victim of School Bullying

Carlos Vigil,17,  tormented to death by bullies during his senior year in high school.

Carlos Vigil, 17, tormented to death by bullies during his senior year in high school.

Albuquerque, New Mexico – A gay New Mexico teenager took his life, despairing after years of incessant bullying by classmates.  Carlos Vigil, 17, posted a heart-wrending Twitter post on Saturday, July 13, finally crumbling under the weight of the epithets and ridicule his classmates put on him.  The tweet, posted as a screen capture by EveryJoe.com, reads in part: “I’m sorry to those who I offended over the years.  I’m blind to see that I, as a human being, suck.  I’m an individual who is doing an injustice to the world and it’s time for me to go. . . I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to love someone or have someone love me.  I guess it’s best, though, because now I leave no pain onto anyone.  The kids in school are right, I am a loser, a freak, and a fag and in no way is that acceptable for people to deal with.  I’m sorry for not being a person that would make someone proud.”

Ending his tweet, Carlos texted, “I am free now.”  His father, who ironically had only recently returned from a conference in North Carolina where he had spoken out against anti-gay bullying in schools, saw the tweet, and rushed home, too late.  Carlos was sped to the University of New Mexico Medical Center in a coma.  Late Sunday night, his parents requested that doctors remove life support from their son, after his organs had been harvested to benefit others.

The pathos and horror of anti-gay bullying scream out from the story of Carlos Vigil.  His mother said to reporters that her boy had been bullied in some form or another for being perceived as different and effeminate since he was eight years old.  Lately, she said, Carlos had been dogged by hateful speech about his sexual orientation, his acne, his glasses, and his weight.  He and his family tried valiantly to withstand the bullying, complaining to school officials, and transferring from a nearby high school to Valley High where the latest wave of bullying crashed over him.  Carlos had counseled and consoled others who were verbally attacked, and his parents were constantly checking in to ask how he was doing.  He had spoken out against bullying himself.  But according to the New York Daily News, no one guessed at the depth of his own personal anguish until his sudden, untimely death.  Eddie Vargas, sports director of Warehouse 508, an Albuquerque youth entertainment and arts center that Carlos helped to establish, said, “It’s an eye-opener that it can happen to anybody. The people we think are the most confident can also be the ones who are hurting the most.” 

We should no longer be surprised that gay youth like Carlos who show compassion for the hurts of others often swim in oceans of despair that they alone are helpless to overcome.  Carlos had deeply supportive parents who loved him just the way he was.  But the depth of the pain of a youth who had been bullied since the third grade was beyond usual measures of love, support, and affection.  Prevention is the best remedy for the multitude of LGBTQ and gender variant youth who take their own lives as a consequence of the rejection and hate speech to which they are subjected in school among their peers.  Teachers and administrators, clergy, health professionals, lawmakers, and cultural icons must act decisively to stem the tide of gay teen suicide by refusing to see LGBTQ youth as “the problem,” and, while knowing and acting on the signs of youth in trouble, must defend vulnerable boys and girls by making any hint of school bullying a serious offense.  Bullies need help, too.  So do the families of bullies who often enact what they hear at home, or act out from experiences of torment themselves.

Now, Carlos’s family is asking for everyone to work hard to prevent another useless, senseless death like his.  Early this morning, apparently unable to sleep well, his father and mother tweeted this note on their son’s Twitter account: “Carlos is finally at peace! Thank you everyone for your support and prayers. Please don’t forget what he wanted STOP THE BULLYING!”

If anyone is in need of a listening, sympathetic ear, call the Trevor Project Helpline, 24/7, to speak to a real person who will reach out to you: 1-866-488-7386.  Don’t wait! Call Now!

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, Latinos, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, New Mexico, Slurs and epithets, suicide, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay New Mexico Teen Is Latest Victim of School Bullying

Gay Teen, Threatened By Bullies, Hangs Himself in Oregon School Playground

Jadin Bell, 15, driven to suicide by anti-gay bullies.

Jadin Bell, 15, driven to suicide by anti-gay bullies.

La Grande, Oregon – A 15-year-old gay teen who attempted suicide after being harassed  by bullies on the internet was removed from life support late last week.  Anti-gay bullying, which the young Jadin Bell faced for years, has been identified by his friends as the prime cause of his act of desperation.

Bell, a sophomore at La Grande High School, hanged himself from a playground structure at Central Elementary School, according to KATU News.  A quick response from a passer-by rescued him. The youth was rushed to a local hospital and placed on life support.  Hill was then transferred to a major Portland trauma center, where he had been clinging to life until the family determined that further heroic efforts to keep him breathing were in vain.

The La Grande community rallied to support Bell and his family with a vigil on January 25 which was attended by over 200 people, many of whom had great memories and good things to say about the gifted youth who loved cheerleading, and volunteered at a senior citizen’s care facility.  But the undertone of the vigil was a mixture of frustration and denial–frustration that a second young person had fallen prey to bullying (a 16-year-old girl had taken her life in La Grande earlier in the year), and denial of the overarching reason Jadin Bell had hanged himself: anti-gay bullying.  No mention of the anti-gay harassment Hill suffered on the internet and in person was made in the reportage surrounding the vigil, even though the cause was well known throughout the town of 13,000 in Northeastern Oregon.

In a Skype interview, Bud Hill, a friend and mentor of Bell, told KATU reporters that the family considers anti-gay bullying the aggravating issue in their son’s suicide.  Hill, who has vowed to start a foundation in Jadin Bell’s memory, said that the youth’s sensitivity and kindness made him a target to school toughs.  “He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones,” Hill said.

Bell had avoided confronting his harassers, saying to his family that making their hateful attacks on him public would only make his torment worse.  But in recent days, the family says, Bell had gone to school officials to complain of the verbal assaults on his sexual orientation.  The superintendent had initiated an investigation into Bell’s allegations, which was proceeding at the time of the suicide attempt.

“Driven to suicide”: the phrase rolls too easily off the tongue.  The horror of the loss of Jadin Bell is that he is one of so many.  Every town and city in the nation is susceptible to become the next La Grande.  The time to stop the homophobic violence preying on the youth of the nation is now, not after it is too late.

The Trevor Helpline operates the nation’s only 24/7 suicide and crisis hotline for gay and questioning youth. Don’t wait any longer.  Call the Trevor Helpline: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).

January 29, 2013 Posted by | gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Oregon, suicide, Trevor Project, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Young Lesbian Dies as Deadly Rash of Suicides Continues

Marin County, California – Though few details are available, 19-year-old Aiyisha Hassan, native of Marin County and former Howard University student, committed suicide last Tuesday.  Her friends believe that Hassan’s death is related to ongoing struggles she was having with her sexual orientation, even though she clearly identified as lesbian on campus.”She was having a lot of trouble with a lot of different things, but mainly her sexual identity and just trying to express that,” Lauren Morris, a 21-year-old fourth year student at Howard University, told Metro Weekly.    Morris confirmed that she and Hassan attended regular meetings of C.A.S.C.A.D.E., the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality, Howard University’s LGBT student group.  Students on the Howard campus believe that recent news about the struggle for LGBTQ human rights played a part in Hassan’s death. ”I absolutely think that this is connected in a way to the failure of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to be repealed,” Sterling Washington told Metro Weekly. Washington, who is gay, is a co-founder of the Howard LGBT group. ”What happens in a large group trickles down to the junior members… so in this case it’s members of society so it affects youth in general,” he said. ”Those straight-identified youth who already had a proclivity, who already had from their parents, their socialization, this idea that gays are less than, it sort of gives them permission and facilities this whole bullying thing so that those that are most vulnerable to it sometimes see suicide as an out.”  Records at Howard University indicate that Hassan attended there for the 2008-2009 school year, before returning home to California.  She is the child of a prominent Marin County, California non-profit executive, Makini Hassan, director of Marin City Community Development Corporation, according to The San Francisco Chronicle Blog, SF Weekly.  The blog goes on to detail that the elder Hassan once headed Career Services for Goodwill Industries in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties.  Aiyisha Hassan’s memorial is planned tomorrow, October 13, in Los Angeles, but the family is planning a Saturday memorial service in Marin County, as well.  Students at Howard University are rallying tomorrow to remember their classmate and friend with a candlelight vigil.  The death toll of LGBTQ youth and young adults is mounting with a deadly steadiness.  As of this writing, it is unclear whether bullying played a role in Hassan’s decision to end her life.  By some calculations, she is the eighth young LGBTQ person to take her own life in the past five weeks, and the second African American.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, California, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Heterosexism and homophobia, Howard University, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Remembrances, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Remembering Matthew Shepard on the 12th Anniversary of His Murder

Laramie, Wyoming – Matthew Shepard was brutally assaulted on a lonely ridge overlooking Laramie, Wyoming on this day twelve years ago. He died in a coma in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his family by his side.  Much has changed.  Much has not.  His hate crime murder has set the pattern by which all LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims are remembered, both for good and ill.  Good, in that many American’s are more keenly aware of the problem of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the issues surrounding the struggle for human rights equality because of his death.  Millions of people around the world came to know about other hate crimes murder victims through the lens of Matthew’s story.  His family foundation, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, has done untold good advocating for justice, equality and the embrace of diversity in American life.  His mother, Judy Shepard, has become one of the most visible and effective spokespeople for human rights in our time–a true conscience for the nation.  It is no mistake that the long-awaited federal hate crimes law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is named in honor of Matthew, largely through the dogged persistence of this estimable woman who will not take “no” for an answer.  It was a proud day for all of us when President Obama signed the bill protecting LGBTQ Americans from bias-motivated crimes last October, inclusive of transgender people and disabled persons, as well.  But there is a downside to the way Matthew Shepard’s story is remembered in this country too, one neither he nor his family are guilty of–and one we must all act to redress.  The story of Matthew Shepard has tended to overshadow the remembrance of any other LGBTQ hate crimes victim, especially if that person was non-white, older and therefore less attractive, disabled somehow, or feminine in gender presentation.  This has been true of the many gender variant youth of color who have died in staggering numbers as the 21st century has dawned.  In the case of 15-year-old Sakia LaTona Gunn, an African American lesbian Aggressive, murdered at a bus stop in Newark, New Jersey, relatively few media stories on her outrageous murder broke into the national press compared to the thousands that flooded the channels when Matt died.  Much ink has been spilled over why this was so, but in order to honor Matthew, we must demand that ALL LGBTQ stories are told with the passion and respect his has been.  Finally, following Judy Shepard’s example, we must use this anniversary to cry out for Safe Schools for all children.  As she wrote on the Matthew Shepard Foundation blog in early October, “Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect. Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.”  In October 2008, I spoke at “Hope Not Hate,” an anniversary service for the city of Austin, Texas, commemorating the deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., both unwitting martyrs to the cause of true equality in American life.  I said at that time, in part, “We who believe in justice cannot rest! We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes! When a mother like Judy Shepard challenges us to send a different message to America than the one delivered by the men who killed her son, we must embrace that memory with all its pain, and break out of defeat into action.”  I believe more fervently in the work of erasing hatred today than ever.  Rest in Peace, Matthew, Sakia, and all our sisters and brothers.

~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

October 12, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Colorado, gay men, gay teens, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, Media Issues, Remembrances, Sakia Gunn Film Project, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, transgender persons, transphobia, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Prof’s Message to Gay Youth Goes National: “God Loves You!”

Fort Worth, Texas – A gay divinity school professor’s short video message of God’s acceptance and love for LGBTQ youth has “gone national,” according to The Dallas Voice.  Reporting on an Associated Press story about the It Gets Better Project started by Dan Savage to speak directly to American gay young people who have been shaken by multiple teen gay suicide throughout the nation, Dallas Voice online editor, John Wright, opined that Dr. Stephen Sprinkle’s Santa Claus-like demeanor and grandfatherly message has struck a positive chord among thousands of YouTube watchers.  Sprinkle’s 4-minute video was one of only four featured in a national AP story about submissions to the effort to give LGBTQ teens and young adults a reason to resist suicide because of despair.  Savage told the New York Times what he hoped would happen as gay men and lesbians caught onto the idea of sending a positive message to LGBTQ teens through YouTube.  He said, “I don’t want it to be ‘lifestyles of the gay and fabulous.’  What we want to say to kids is that if you don’t win the economic lottery, and most people don’t, you can have a good and decent and fun life that brings love.” In barely two weeks, the It Gets Better Channel on YouTube has had over 1,000 video uploads selected by Savage, and a million visitors.  As the AP story says, “comment threads are growing and e-mails are pouring in from bullied and closeted teens.”  Among the many emails Sprinkle has received have been two so far from young men struggling with God and their sexuality.  One who is 18 told Sprinkle he was on the verge of “exploding” over the question of God and gays.  As a closeted gay person, the teen doubts that God can love and approve of a same-gender-loving person.  Over and over, he asked Sprinkle “Does God hate me? Are you sure?”  Sprinkle replied, “Heavens no!  God created you wonderfully and beautifully as a gay person. God doesn’t make mistakes.”  Then Sprinkle says he connected the youth with counseling help so that the healing can begin in this young man’s life.  At this point, over 12,000 viewers have seen Sprinkle’s video.  When asked about how the sudden popular response to the video makes him feel, Sprinkle said, “My hope is that, regardless of the messenger, the message gets through that God fully and thoroughly accepts and loves LGBTQ young people.”

October 8, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, gay teens, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Media Issues, Popular Culture, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Prof’s Message to Gay Youth Goes National: “God Loves You!”

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue

Here at the Unfinished Lives Project we would like to a moment to say thank you to  Cody J. Sanders for the best treatment of the bullying crisis from a theological perspective we have seen!

The article is entitled: “Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue” and it was published on religious dispatches. This article is a must read for all people of faith.

Thanks again Cody for this compelling argument.

Cody J. Sanders is a Baptist minister and Ph.D. student in Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX. Cody was a Fellow in the inaugural class of the Human Rights Campaign Summer Institute for Religious and Theological Study and is a participant in the Beyond Apologetics symposium on sexual identity, pastoral theology, and pastoral practice.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Campus Pride, death threats, gay men, gay teens, gun violence, Hanging, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Media Issues, Politics, Popular Culture, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, South Carolina, Special Comments, stabbings, stalking, Stomping and Kicking Violence, suicide, Texas, transgender persons | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue

Body of Gay Rutgers Student Found; Furor Over Death Grows

Clementi was a gifted violinist

New York City, New York – CNN reports that the body of Tyler Clementi, gay Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge because of cyber-bullying, has been recovered from the Hudson River on Friday.  The body had floated in the river for a week after Clementi threw himself of the bridge near the New York side of the Hudson in a desperate act of suicide after being exposed as gay on the world wide web.  Clementi, 18, promising young violinist, was distraught over being spied upon during a gay tryst by a hidden web cam activated remotely by his roommate, Dharun Ravi.  Ravi shared the live stream images of Clementi and his lover with another Rutgers student, Molly Wei.  Ravi allegedly broadcast the tryst on the web September 19, and attempted to do so again on September 21.  The next day, Clementi carried out his suicide.  In a mobile Facebook status update on September 22, Clementi wrote, “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Ravi took apparent delight in exposing his roommate, whom he suspected was gay from tracing Clementi’s web activity to a gay hook up and chat site called “Just Us Boys.”  Later, on Just Us Boys, the day before Clementi jumped to his death from the bridge, a user called cit2mo posted a thread under the subject “college rommate spying.” Cit2mo wrote, “so the other night i had a guy over. I had talked to my roommate that afternoon and he had said it would be fine w/him. I checked his twitter today. he tweeted that I was using the room (which is obnoxious enough), AND that he went into somebody else’s room and remotely turned on his webcam and saw me making out with a guy.” Investigators suspect that Cit2mo was actually Clementi.  Respondents to the thread advised that the web cam was a violation of privacy, and should be reported to the dorm authorities.  A lawyer for Just Us Boys has told CNN that Cit2mo’s ID was traced back to Rutgers University.  News of the cyber-voyeurism leading to Clementi’s suicide exploded across the nation in the days since Clementi died. New Jersey Governor Christie has condemned the actions of Ravi and Wei in strong terms, saying he does not know how they sleep at night.  Presently, the two 18-year-old suspects are charged with invasion of privacy and face five years of jail time for every count against them, if proven guilty as charged.  The Governor issued a call to prosecutors to examine the case carefully to see is further charges can be brought against the pair of freshmen whose prank turned deadly.  The Clementi family has remained quietly at home, enduring their grief over the loss of their son with dignity.  They have issued this statement to the public: “We understand that our family’s personal tragedy presents important legal issues for the country as well for us. Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family’s personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity,” the statement said. On Friday, the President of Rutgers, Richard McCormick, pledged to meet with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students who are angry and fearful after Clementi’s suicide.  McCormick announced that the university will hold a candlelight vigil in Clementi’s memory on Sunday evening on campus, calling the vigil “an opportunity to come together in this difficult time to reaffirm our commitment to the values of civility, dignity, compassion, and respect for one another.”

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullying in schools, cyber voyeurism, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, LGBTQ suicide, New Jersey, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Body of Gay Rutgers Student Found; Furor Over Death Grows

   

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