Michel Dorais' French Canadian qualitative study of 24 Gay males who had attempted suicide - Mort out Fif (2000) - highlighted the concept that gay males are often socially positioned so that they will consider death to be better than living what they have been experiencing. The title of the book would be translated to something like "Better Dead than a Fag!" In Quebec's charter of rights, "sexual orientation" was included as grounds for prohibiting discrimination in 1977. However, 20 years later, a study of a large cohort sample of MSM (men who have sex with men, N = 629) reported that 36.1% of these men had attempted suicide, mostly as young adults. See: Événements suicidaires chez les hommes gais (Translation).
Beane, J. (1981). I'd rather be dead than gay: Counseling men who are coming out. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 60(4). Paper also published in Dynes, WR, Donaldson S, Eds. (1992). Homosexuality and psychology, psychiatry, and counseling. New York: Garland.
In A prescription for Suicide, Ian Young (1988) reported an ongoing social fact:
The plain fact of it is that this society wants homosexual people to die. It kills us directly, as it killed Harvey Milk (who prophesied not only his own murder but the method his murderer would use), or indirectly, in a variety of ways. One of the most time-honoured and effective of those ways has been suicide.The writings of the New York poet and novelist George Whitmore are used to illustrate the result of living in a society effectively instilling varying degrees of homohatred in children, lethal self-hatred for the ones who will be recognizing their homosexual orientation. This fact of life is causally implicated in suicide problems and other self-destructive activities:
Whitmore saw what many less troubled observers preferred to ignore, and a later article published in The Advocate, "After a 'Career' in Suicide: Choosing to Live" provided some painful insights into the condition of many homosexual men in this society. In this piece, written in 1982 just as the AIDS epidemic began to impinge on the gay consciousness, Whitmore wrote of his own three attempts at suicide, the first when he was only seventeen. In one attempt, he overdosed on drugs prescribed to "calm" him. Suicide was something, he says, that he applied himself to "with dedication... Like so many others, I was doing everything I could not to come to terms with an identity. I'd been carefully taught to abhor... I can only conclude that accidentally I continued to live... For I was judge, jury and executioner the likes of which the Moral Majority would fervently applaud."The next year, Bobby Griffith was 20-years-old and he was suffering for similar reason. The result is described in the first line of Craig Wilson's 1995 USA Today feature story, "A Gay Son's Suicide, A Mom's Rebirth." (Related Information)
Soon a tractor-trailer roared toward him on the freeway below and, with perfect timing, he jumped the 25 feet into its path. The impact ripped away most of his clothes. He was killed instantly.
Bobby Griffith was an all-American boy. He was a nice, hardworking kid from the suburbs who attended church and was loved by his family. When at age fifteen he realized that he was gay, he came upon a conflict for which he found no solution: His family and his religion taught him that his sexual orientation was a sin. (Prayers For Bobby N/A, Prayers for Bobby, Prayers for Bobby)From Bobby's diary:
I can't ever let anyone find out that I'm not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me. They might even want to beat me up. And my family? I've overheard them....They've said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. Gays are bad, and God sends bad people to hell. It really scares me when they talk that way because now they are talking about me. (Prayer For Bobby N/A)Prayers for Bobby: The Film: Prayers for Bobby is a 2009 television film that premiered on the Lifetime network on January 24, 2009. It is based on the book, Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son, by Leroy F. Aarons, which is itself based on the true story of the life and legacy of Bobby Griffith, a young gay man who killed himself due to his mother's and community's homophobia. The film stars Ryan Kelley as Bobby Griffith and Sigourney Weaver as his mother, Mary.
The next day I realized that I was a homosexual... therefore I was a screwup. I turned around and went back home and told my mother I felt ill. When she left for work all I did was cry.. and cry, and cry. I thought I was a pervert, or a sick person for having these feelings. It was the worst feeling I ever felt. It hurt so bad, that at age 11 I thought of suicide. I never really got as far as planning it out, but it was on my mind. I used to look up at God and say "Why? Why are you doing this to me?". My family was very religious and I had grown up with Catholic values. (Commentary by Anonymous)Brent Calderwood reports on his 'not wanting to be gay,' beginning in late childhood:
"It started out from the time I was 12 until about 14. Every night I would pray to God to either make me straight or kill me," he says. "I had written suicide notes and addressed them to friends. If I killed myself, I would come out to somebody after I was dead, but never when I was living. It was just too humiliating. I planned which pills I would take, but once I came out to a few friends and going to the youth group, I immediately started feeling great about myself.Suicides, however, may result from the above mental states, as it did for Bruce, a 21-year-old male. He traveled from Florida to the Grand Canyon where, at No Name Point, a 500-feet jump put an end to his life. A short note identified the reason for his death:
Dear Family and Friends,
I'm sorry it had to end this way but it was my fate. I couldn't handle life anymore. You see, the reason I ran away before to commit suicide is the same reason I did again. I'm gay. I never wanted to be and I always wished it would change, but it didn't. I wanted to live a normal life but God created me this way for some reason and there was nothing I could do to change it. I was born this way, believe me I would not choose this way of life for I know how hard and unaccepted it is. I'm painfully sorry you all had to deal with this but I couldn't deal with it. This way I could live a peaceful afterlife instead of a life of fear, agony, and manic depressiveness. Please realize I did not want to hurt anyone I just wanted to end my own pain. I love you all dearly and will someday see you all again hopefully with your understanding hearts and souls. I just hope God will bring me to heaven.
Love always and eternally,
The suicide note was sent to me by his mother and is reproduced with permission. A Web Page about Bruce is forthcoming. First part has arrived (Sept.. 1999): A Letter to Bruce From his Mother. The Second Part.
The Film: Better Dead Than Gay. - Better Dead Than Gay (1996).Treading carefully through sensitive areas, Better Dead Than Gay reconstructs the background of the tragedy with the help of Harvey's diaries and the recollections of his parents and friends and clergymen at whose churches he worshipped. "To discover my son was gay was as bad as losing him," says Simon's father. As a gay friend of Simon's says, "Religion has a lot to answer for." dir. Christopher O'Hare 1995 UK 52 min. 16mm
Better Dead than Gay: PopcornQ Movie Reference. - Morality play: Simon Harvey killed himself because he couldn't reconcile his homosexuality with his religion. David Benedict talks to the director of a new documentary on continuing prejudice in the Church .
Better Dead than Gay: "Simon Harvey was both Christian and Gay. Unable to reconcile his religious beliefs and his homosexuality, he drove to a lay-by in the Sussex countryside shortly after his 26th birthday and killed himself with the car's exhaust fumes while a hymn played on the car stereo. The film pieces together the last six months of Simon's life and examines how religious belief can be used to justify social prejudice..."
Better Dead than Gay: Going Further than Expected: "In 1995 there was a very powerful television documentary called "Better dead than gay" in it the main character Simon Harvey, a devout young Christian, takes his own life. The title of the documentary came from Simon's father who thought that if Simon had met the right woman, he would have been cured. The producer of this documentary basically said that Simon did not die because he was gay or Christian or both, but because people would not allow him to be who he was - who he was created by God to be..."
Witness: Better Dead Than Gay: The hour-long programme told the story of Simon Harvey. A 'wonderful, lovely' chap with an interest in computers, astronomy and music, Simon was a steadfast Christian - and gay. Unable to reconcile his faith with his 'great and secret anguish' he committed suicide in August 1987, aged 26. His father - a very stiff and belligerent Baptist - did the only thing he knew how. No, he did not express forgiveness. He ripped up Simon's final letters to family and friends to 'stop anyone else from knowing my son was gay' and then set up U-Turn Anglia, dedicating his life to 'curing' homosexuals and lesbians. You could see the fear and bile rising from his gut. He talked of his 'complete shock' and the 'double blow' of discovering his son's sexuality. He spewed forth a string of theories on gay sexuality that sent me into a conniption fit. Did you know that homosexuals are driven by impious thoughts but heterosexuals have control over such desires? And did you know that even thinking such thoughts means that the sin might as well have been committed? And that those lacking in the Holy Spirit are responsible for perverting others? If Harvey had any idea that his son felt 'too filthy to live' he didn't seem to care. In an effort to square his conflict, Simon had resorted to psychiatrists, anti-depressants, healers, counsellors, fasting and had even considered exorcism. His father managed a half-decent attempt at repentance, but remained resolute in his disgust. One gay man and an enlightened minister braved the onslaught but Simon's sister (who knew of her brother's 'daily struggle') did not appear. The straight Christian community beseeched the Heavens, asking why this extremely happy man had killed himself, and his gay friend blamed himself for letting Simon down. I wouldn't feel so guilty because no-one could ever have abandoned him in the same way the faithful did. It seems to me that any challenge to Christian ideology should be the admission ticket through the Pearly Gates, not the persecution of gays and lesbians. Because of a religious belief that is used to justify social prejudice, Simon now rests in an unmarked grave. After all, there is no hope for the wicked, remember?
Although no hard numbers exist, anecdotes abound: "Faggot" or "dyke" is the put-down of choice for school-age kids these days, and it's not just aimed at youths who "look gay." These taunts are flying out of kids' mouths when they truly want to savage another person. And often, fists fly along with the words. (It's Elementary Brings Gay Issues to the Classroom.)
By the time I got to junior high school (seventh grade), I had learned what the word "gay" meant to everyone I went to school with. It meant that you were a "fag". You were someone to be laughed at, joked about, beaten up, and taunted. It meant that you were sick, perverted, an abomination, and unlovable.
Most gay people learn to "pass". But a couple of my classmates were not so "lucky". They were the constant butt of jokes. Larry "the fag" Miller, for example, was constantly being knocked around in the hallways. And no one would ever come to his assistance. Because if you did you would have been labeled a fag, too. Even if you weren't.
For the most part, LGBT kids do not get any protection from school officials, and this is a form of child abuse on a collective level. Mistreatment of LGBT youth and a lack of protection are contributing factors to the issue of LGBT teen suicide... In fact many families tend to blame the mistreated LGBT youngster for not being like everyone else and make the child feel like he or she deserves this mistreatment... The youngster suffers in silence and might use dissociation to cope. In a worst case scenario, he or she could commit suicide... The seed of internalized homophobia is planted from early age, and having a psyche contaminated by the shadow of internalized homophobia can result in low self esteem and other problems later in life. Bisexual and transgender youngsters can also internalize the hatred they had to endure growing up and may develop self hatred... (LGBT Suicide and the Trauma of Growing Up Gay, 2011)
But even for those of us who learned the lesson of "passing" there was a price to pay: self-loathing. And what does self-loathing lead to? ...to teenage suicide. (Growing Up Gay)
He was openly gay; had his parents unwavering support; but still all the putdowns hurt. The suicide of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley, the son of an Ottawa City Councillor, is raising questions about whether anything has changed in Ontario high schools. (Growing Up Gay, 2011, Radio)
Several [Australian gay and lesbian youth interviewed] reported attempting or contemplating suicide... "I was school captain at my high school and it was always assumed I was straight... After leaving school I had to confront my sexuality and because of the constant day to day degrading of homosexuals that occurs at high school, and the long term charade that I was forced to create, I felt a very large amount of self-loathing to the point of attempted suicide... I have had psycho-analysis for 18 months and have been told this will continue for some years... ("Pooftah", "Wanker", "Girl": Homophobic harassment and violence in schools.) [Reference: Ward N (1995) 'Pooftah', wanker', 'girl': Homophobic harassment and violence in schools. Conference paper for Girls and Boys: Challenging perspectives,building partnerships, The third conference of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Gender Equity, Brisbane, Queensland April 1995.]Bimarried.com egroup: - "To compound my problem, I was raised in a household with very strict religious and traditional values. Therefore, I grew up hearing that homosexuals were sick deviants, so I was terrified of letting anyone find out about these sick and evil feelings stirring inside of me. To give you an idea how strong that message was for me, I heard my mother say many times that she would rather see one of her sons dead than gay! ..."
A series of recent suicides by gay kids has us looking at the challenges of growing up gay. Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil in front of the Massachusetts State House on October 5 — a memorial for the recent spate of suicides. Young people from Massachusetts describe their experiences growing up in a state where gay-straight organizations at school are often encouraged. But many of them see the larger culture supporting the harassment of gay teens. (Challenges Of Growing Up Gay, 2010, Radio)
What may come as a surprise to some of you is that the picture isn’t quite as rosy as you’d perhaps expect. Research from Stonewall (the UK charity named after the Stonewall Inn) has painted a picture of the homophobic bullying that’s endemic in our schools. In particular, the word ‘gay’ remains the generic derogatory term of choice (‘that’s so gay’) for secondary and even primary school students. Many claim that’s it’s just a word (a certain proverb about sticks and stones is often mentioned), or that it’s clearly not intended as bullying, so it’s surely not a problem? This couldn’t be further from the truth. The impact of homophobic bullying – intended or not – has led to a number of high profile and tragic suicides by teenagers, both here in the UK, but even more so in the US. Like Dominic Crouch, a 15 year old schoolboy from Cheltenham who jumped to his death over rumours that he was gay. No-one knows whether he was or not, but homophobic bullying clearly destroyed his life. (Growing up gay in the UK, 2011)
PFLAG Feature: In a room full of strangers, a man spoke up. "I'd rather see my son dead than gay," he said. His son, who was sitting next to him, was silent. His wife shrank in her seat. While many parents have become more accepting of their homosexual children, some parents still struggle, said Doug Bauder, coordinator for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Student Support Services.
The New Reformation: "Home is the place where everything begins! Prejudice, fear, homophobia, and ignorance all begin at home. Churches and political parties are formidable enemies of gay rights, but when parents in the home teach their own children that they would be better off dead than gay, we do have a problem! "
Growing Up Gay: "We live in a society where our youth are taught to believe that they would be better off dead than gay. At school the term 'gay' is used to define weakness along with terms like poofta and faggot. The ritual starts from day one when society first forces us to fit into unhealthy gender stereotypes; we have gender specific names, colours, clothes, jobs and standards."
Extermination by Suicide: "You don't have to kill GLBT people if you are able to convince them that they would be better off dead than gay. Many of them will destroy their own lives."
"If you teach a young person that their life has no value, they'll treat their life like their life has no value," said Kevin Jennings, a former history teacher now working for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network. "They will do things that show that they don't really respect themselves, such as use drugs or attempt suicide or engage in unprotected sex." (Gay teens finding more support amid hostile school hallways)
At the tender age of 12 he thinks about taking his own life for the first time... With drugs and booze plentiful he plans the exit: a razorblade and some time alone and it will be over. Getting totally trashed, he cuts his wrists and begins smashing his head on the floor. The end is near, finally release. It does not work and he regains consciousness the next day and ends up in the mental ward of the local hospital... Death, Death, Death - that's what he wants. More drugs, high risk gay sex with many partners, it's his own form of roulette. Death will come soon. Another suicide attempt with prescription drugs fails, he can't even do that right. People are still abusing him - why?... My main objective with my story is to make people think about how they treat others, it can make or break them. (Story # 14 N/A)Experts say groups give gay students safety net: Lori Schnieders, assistant clinical professor in human development counseling at Vanderbilt University, has worked with gay and lesbian teens who she says have thought about killing themselves as a result of brutal bullying at school. ''Because they are better off dead than gay,'' Schnieders said. ''Gay Straight Alliances validate them as people, and let them know not everyone hates them.''
Sexual Snobbery: The Texture of Joseph Epstein: "Moving on to discussion of the various theories of the "cause" of same-sex attraction, Epstein finds them all wanting. Yet rather than allay his fears this only goes to stoke them as is obvious from yet another anecdote, this one about an analyst of his acquaintance who had a patient so unhinged by his as yet un-acted-upon same-sex desires that he had tried to take his own life. Logically, and humanely, she told him to face his fears by giving it a go -- with results that greatly disturb Epstein. "True, he did not commit suicide, and the decision to surrender himself to his homosexuality may have spared him that. But neither did he find any measure of happiness or any release from his pain in homosexuality." In other words, "Better Dead Than Gay."
a New Gay Culture: Balancing Fidelity & Freedom: "Mainstream
society contributes to this problem as well. From childhood on, gays and
lesbians are bombarded with the message that they are sick and disgusting.
Polls consistently show that well over half of Americans believe that homosexuality
is, in the words of one poll, "always wrong." But once you're infected
with H.I.V., matters frequently change. Governments that deny basic civil
rights to homosexuals often provide housing, income support and health
care to those with AIDS. Companies that are allowed to fire employees simply
for being homosexual are often forbidden by law to discriminate against
those disabled by H.I.V. Clergy who revile homosexuality from the pulpit
often take up collections for AIDS sufferers. Families who throw out their
gay sons may take them back when they're dying. It's almost as if society
is saying to H.I.V.-positive gay men: Now that you're infected, you're
forgiven. This is not to say that people with AIDS are adequately taken
care of, or that there is little stigma against those with the disease.
But it is not illogical for some gay men to conclude, at least subconsciously,
that they're better off, if not dead, at least dying."
Chely Wright talks growing up gay, suicide attempt: Confessions of a Gay Christian Country Singer
(2011): I was truly experiencing a chasm of discord and struggle within
myself as I walked the halls of the Wellsville Public Schools. I was a
young, gay, Christian, farm girl from Kansas with dreams of becoming a
Country Music Star. Can you wrap your head around that? I really
couldn't. So began the most difficult chapter of my life which would
last more than 25 years; and the storyline was me, committing repeated
crimes against myself -- against my emotional, physical and spiritual
self. Those crimes would take their toll.
Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America - 2008 - by Mitchell Gold, Mindy Drucker (Book Website) (Google Books). Review:
Crisis is an expose of the fear, isolation, depression, and even
suicidal feelings young gay people face from the time they realize they
are gay until they have a healthy coming out. For many gay adults, the
traumatic teenage years are buried in memory as a painful time to be
left behind and forgotten. But, those who bravely recalled and
contributed their stories to Crisis describe experiences that are
unfortunately universal for gay youth.
Despite the courage and work of a determined few [first part of article], homosexuality in local high schools remains, for the most part, a forbidden topic. Gay youths pay the price with isolation and neglect, as well as a dearth of resources in virtually all areas of school life.Furthermore:
The silence leads Mary Griffith to say that the situation is still ripe to produce another Bobby Griffith. "I don't think it is any better," she says, an opinion mostly shared by author Leroy Aarons, whose book on Mary Griffith's story, Prayers for Bobby, will be out in June. (Out in School)
One of the problems in pinning down specific numbers is that many teenagers who kill themselves are not known to be gay or lesbian to anyone else but themselves. Secondly, in those cases where parents do know, their inclination often is to suppress that information. (AOL Transcripts 12/19/95 Leroy Aarons)
The book, A Prayer for Bobby.
A film about Bobby's life and death?
Problems are expected from the ones who want the murderous anti-gay tradition
to continue. NBC,
Susan Sarandon sign on to make film about gay youth's suicide.
The Film: Prayers for Bobby. - Prayers for Bobby (Wikipedia). - Sigourney Weaver Talks About Prayers for Bobby and PFLAG on CNN (2010). - Sigourney Weaver Accepts an Award for Prayers for Bobby at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards (2010). - Answered Prayer: “Prayers For Bobby” is a Groundbreaking Gay TV Movie (2009).
Prayers for Bobby: Commentary by Theophi1us (2009, YouTube).