Suicide in Judaism is forbidden. It violates one of the most important principles therefore choose Life. I wrote about this idea in my Yom Kippur Morning Sermon. Choosing life ought to inform our decision-making. And Suicide violates that principle. As does murder.
All suicide is tragic but the four gay young people who committed suicide in the last few days were particularly devastating. These young people had everything to live for including a world that is increasingly a place of equality for gay and lesbian folks. And yet there is still stigma for being gay.
The truth is teen suicide especially as the result of bullying is at epidemic proportions. 1 in 3 gay teen attempt suicide. Young people are harassed even for the perception of being gay or lesbian.
Young Seth Walsh, a seventh grader, was bullied and hung himself. His funeral is today in Tehachapi.
Young Asher Brown of Texas another 13-year-old shot himself to death. He had been so sad about the incessant bullying and teasing by fellow classmates.
And college freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge so humiliated by the web broadcast of his sexual encounter by his roommates at Rutgers.
And15 year old Billy Lucas of Indiana was tormented by his classmates regularly. He hung himself in his family’s barn.
These weren’t suicides. In each case this was nothing short of murder. Judaism also forbids Murder.
The first week of October is National Bullying Prevention Month. We adults need to make sure that the word gets out. Here is information about this month.
The Trevor Project is a 24 hour hotline and suicide prevention line for LGBT and Questioning Youth. They have amazing suicide prevention resources.
GLSEN, the Gay and Lesbian and Straight Educators Network also has incredible resources in this area. They have been leading the way working to introduce federal anti-bullying legislation. The Safe Schools Improvement Act (HR 2262 and S3739). There are 118 bipartisan co-sponsors of this legislation that will help schools implement anti-bullying policies including federal funding that will help implement and change the culture of teasing and bullying in educational institutions.
These four teen suicides/murders speak to the urgency of the problem. Whether you have kids or not this needs to be a priority for us all. Just like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, creating a safer environment and a zero-tolerance for bullying ought to be all of our responsibility. What kind of society have we made?
May the memories of Seth, Tyler, Aaron, and Billy and the countless others be for a blessing.
4 thoughts on “Gay Teens and Suicide–is it Murder?”
Our tradition teaches that “one who shames another is considered to have shed his blood.” This teaching is based on the idea that one’s blood does actually “drain” from the face when embarrassed. To see it become *literally* true, as kids are embarrassed to death, is so horrifying!
Anti Bullying legislation against bullying LGBT youth has been brought forth repeatedly, and ONE party obstructs it each time.
Each and every legislator that such facilitates the bullying of GLBT youth is partly responsible for these deaths.
Why is so much newsprint given to their deaths but no fingers pointed at those responsible?
Thank you for the thoughtful posting Rabbi Eger.
Tragically, “social” media also played a role in the suicide/murder (? oxymoronic) of Tyler Clementi. The private incident involving the victim was “tweeted” according to news reports. Is not “social” media also partially responsible for the death? Had the incident not been taped, posted, and tweeted, the victim would most likely still be alive.
Sadly, we can expect more of these types of outcomes.
I have attempted to commit suvicide. I have overcome my fear and hurt from bullies. I have a group of friends and we are all LGBT. We have all fought for ourselves, but now we fight for eachother.