Crossposted on Musings From Hedon
I'm very sad and angry about the recent spate of gay teen suicides. Two 13 year old boys and one 15 year old boy in the past two weeks have killed themselves because of relentless homophobic bullying. These poor young boys were abused to ridiculous extremes not only by hateful classmates, but by school officials who did absolutely nothing fearing conservative reprisals.
These were children, who, regardless of their actual sexuality, (two were openly gay, one had never said he was or wasn't, and his misguided mother seems more concerned that people are told he wasn't than with fighting what drove him to kill himself), were abused and threatened and harassed and made to feel worthless until death felt like the only option for peace. These are tradgedies, crimes against vcompassion and humanity. They deserve what media coverage they're getting, because homophobic bullying in American schools is an epidemic that has lethal consequences.
While the so-called and extremely erroneously defined "family values" wingnut groups like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association constantly oppose every effort to address homophobic bullying, pulling all sorts of bullshit out of their ass to explain why they are perfectly content to let innocent children die as long as "the homuh-seckshuals" don't get a foothold in schools, these suicides should be a wake-up call to anyone with actual morals and compassion that things need to change in the USA. Once again, it deeply disturbs me that I can brag about Canada's superiority to the USA in yet another area, when our countries should be on par.
As a Canadian, I'm proud that Canada is light years ahead of the States in regard to things like same-sex marriage, gays in the military, equality under the law, and anti-bullying programs in our schools. Things that, to a rational, thinking fair-minded society should be no-brainers. As someone with family and dearly beloved friends in the USA, I'm ashamed of just how far ahead of you my country is.And while I know a lot of you are going to be seriously pissed off at me for what I'm going to say next, it's the truth, and it bloody well needs to be addressed.
There's one more way that Canada trumps the USA, and it's the one that sickens me the most. Our GLBT groups and our media actually acknowledge the T equally, with fairness and equal standing. When a trans woman is murdered here it makes the news, and the victim is almost never ungendered in said reports, because our media follows the trans guidelines in the AP style book, and our GLBT organizations stand up for the T. Gay men, lesbian women, and straight folks of all kinds came out in proud support of trans women during the Lu's Pharmacy debacle. Trans people are protected under national law, and trans surgeries are for the most part covered in Canada.
Why am I bringing this up because of gay teen suicides in the USA? Because the suicide getting the most coverage is the one that deserves it the least, and all the massive coverage it's getting is repulsively shameful when compared to the almost non-existant coverage of the murder of a trans woman of colour that happened less than 30 miles away only two weeks before.
Seth Walsh, Asher Brown and Billy Lucas were children. They were constantly harassed, occasionally assaulted, and no one was helping them. They felt trapped and alone and lost, and they were desperate to escape. They deserve the media coverage, their deaths are tradgedies, part of an epidemic of bullying.
Victoria Carmen White was a post-op trans woman of colour, young, vibrant, attending college, and living her life. The ONLY local news report that addressed her murder did so thusly;
"Sept. 13, 2010
Newark – On Sunday, Sept. 12 at approximately 5 a.m. Victoria Carmen White, 28, of Newark was fatally shot at a private residence located at 159 Jacoby Street in Maplewood. Information released immediately following the shooting identified the victim as James White.
The victim’s legal name is Victoria Carmen White. Following an examination by the Medical Examiner and further investigation, it has been confirmed that the victim was a post-operative transgender female having undergone sex reassignment surgery. The victim’s birth certificate was legally changed to identify her as Victoria Carmen White.
The case is under active investigation. No other information is currently available."
Post-op, full legal documentation, and STILL the police and the media felt a need to ungender her post-mortum. And this is the ONLY media coverage she's gotten at all not counting a few dedicated bloggers like TransGriot and Questioning Transphobia who've tried to give her a voice in death. Like the three young boys, she too deserves massive media coverage that she's not getting anywhere, to bring to light another epidemic in this country.
Which brings me to Tyler Clementi, and the part that will likely piss people off but is nontheless true.
I feel genuinely sad for his family for their loss. And it does sadden me that another gay man is dead because straight people were idiots. But all available reports, accounts, and evidence shows that Tyler wasn't routinely bullied or harassed like the kids were. He was never relentlessly abused, or made to feel worthless by all his peers while school officials sat on their hands. Tyler Clementi had low self-esteem because his parents were reportedly deeply Catholic, and likely he himself felt conflicted about his sexuality, but the facts are he wasn't routinely bullied or harassed like the kids were.
Tyler was simply the victim of an admittedly cruel and tasteless prank, not of constant homophobic bullying. Tyler was an adult, not a child. Tyler was not trapped in a hopeless ceaseless cycle of abuse, he was embarassed by a video that invaded his privacy. And all evidence suggests Tyler killed himself because he was embarassed at being on public display.
And media across the country is harping on him as if he was the next Matthew Shepard. Gay Rights groups like HRC are loudly publicly demanding his roommate be charged with manslaughter because the video drove him to suicide. They are pushing his story past the three kids now. In most stories currently Tyler is the focal point of discussing the teen gay suicide/homophobic bullying epidemic, and Billy, Asher and Seth end up as footnotes and afterthoughts, mentioned mostly to show there were more than one suicide, while the authors focus on Tyler.
And Victoria? They don't mention her at all. Joe Solmonese isn't loudly calling for her killer to be brought to justice. GLBT groups aren't crying out for more attention to be paid to trans murders. While gay groups demand blood for Tyler, who made a stupid choice because someone embarassed him with a cruel prank, (which at best is worthy of a mischief charge under the law and doesn't qualify for manslaughter, or even criminally negligent homicide), no one is demanding Victoria's killer be found except a few angry bloogers.
An actual murderer is running around free and anonymous with a police force under absolutely NO pressure from ANYONE to track him down and arrest him, but a dead gay white man overreacts to being embarassed and people are calling for blood from an idiot douchebag who played a really stupid prank, who certainly deserves to be expelled from college but is NOT a murderer.
I'm sorry, but the truth is, the biggest tradgedy here is the subtle racism, trans-phobia and complete trans-erasure that has not only relegated three children's deaths to the background to focus on an adult white gay man who made a stupid choice while being nowhere near as beleagred as the three children were, but a black trans woman's murder goes ignored and forgotten completely because hey! A gay white man killed himself because a douchebag broadcast his sex life! That's way more important than some black tranny being FUCKING SHOT TO DEATH IN HER OWN FUCKING HOME!!!!!
Priorities. Canada has them. You folks don't. Give Tyler a rest. Put the focus back on Seth, Asher and Billy. And give Victoria the respect she deserves. Talk about HER death.
And people wonder why Trans folk don't trust white gay men when they want our money and swear they won't throw us under the bus again like they did with ENDA. Fuck you HRC. You don't give a shit about us.
Hat-tip to Gemma Catherine Seymour, as I’d never heard of Victoria’s case until someone linked to her blog.