Jamey Rodemeyer lived in my hometown. He was fourteen years old, had a pervasive sense of humor, loved Lady Gaga fiercely and blogged, often, about the fact that he was being mercilessly bullied in school for being gay.
He killed himself on Sunday.
Nothing I can say or write can convey my depth of sadness. Jamey, like many gay youth, asked for help repeatedly, and was repeatedly ignored.
A week from Friday, I am legally marrying the love of my life–a woman. I have been treated despicably because I am an openly gay woman. Every day, the possibility of being treated terribly because of my queerness is a very, very real possibility. I’m twenty-seven.
When I was fifteen, I thought about suicide, too.
You know why I stopped? Lots of reasons that I had to keep remembering, every day when it was very, very difficult. But–funnily enough–I began to become okay with myself because of the only positive example of lesbians I could find, that I clung to in my very fragile stages. The lesbian couple in the just-becoming-popular-at-the-time-anime, Sailor Moon. I have no embarrassment admitting that the candy-coated, pastel cartoon of Sailor Moon was one of the largest pieces in the puzzle of stopping the incredible self loathing I felt.
To straight people, that may seem absolutely ridiculous. But I have a feeling that most gay people reading this (or in existence) have that turning moment–that anchor, that positive example that they used as their life vest when the world told them over and over and over again how fundamentally fucked up they were.
When the entire world tells you that you’re a freak, it’s those moments of salvation in the form of something positive, something good, that can make or break the balance.
It did for me.
I don’t have all of the answers. But I think about the dialogues last week where people scoffed at the idea of gay young adult books. “We don’t need to have gayness in our books–it’ll cause kids to become gay.” “Gay young adult books are worthless.” “Why would you even put gay characters into young adult books?”
I’m a gay author writing gay, young adult books. Obviously, I have a predisposed idea that they are absolutely vital and fundamental. I believe that seeing positive examples of queerness in literature, in culture, are crucial to help stop this fucking epidemic of our queer youth thinking they’re worthless.
People are devastated about Jamey’s death. I’m one of those people. But I’m also angry. Angry that, for the most part, we’re still just shaking our heads, wondering what we can do to make our kids stop killing themselves.
Again, I don’t have all of the answers. But I know that once I knew someone, in real life, who was gay, I felt better about myself. I could talk to someone who understood what I was going through. I know that when I saw positive depictions of queerness, I realized I could stop loathing myself.
Telling our kids “it gets better” is an important first step. Having adults acknowledge that the bullying is horrific, and that they don’t deserve it (which I know many queer youth feel that they do), is absolutely crucial.
But what do we do next?
It’s not a rhetorical question.
The week after my wedding, I want to go to my local Pride association. I know I’m a low level author, but I still want to volunteer my services to go into schools and talk about my experiences. It’s a tiny first step–I don’t know if they can even use me–but I need to make an effort to do something. I’m going to ask if there’s any other place I can volunteer in for queer youth in my community.
Does anyone have any other suggestions?
I’m writing positive books about kids who are gay. But it’s not enough. Obviously, I’m only one person and I don’t have the ego to even think I could make a difference, but I can’t sit here and do nothing. I’m fundamentally sickened by this. I’m crushed by this. If I don’t move, if I don’t do something, I’m in a self gratifying sphere of “that’s terrible. It’ll happen again. So sad.”
It should never happen. It should not keep happening.
I wish, so desperately, that someone had listened to Jamey. That someone had tried to help.
What are we doing? Why are we allowing this to go on, to continue?
Why aren’t we changing this?
I’m only one person. But I’ve got to do something–anything. Maybe that’s self gratifying, too, the need to do something, to not sit by and do nothing when I know that I can do something, that I am, perhaps, able of doing something.
I don’t know. Again–I don’t have all of the answers. I’m trying, just like all of us, to try and make sense of something that is fucking tragic, that should never have happened.
…I’m so, so sorry, Jamey.