October 2010 begins on a very somber note. Raymond Chase, a 19-year-old openly gay student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, has taken his own life. The culinary student from Monticello, New York committed suicide on Wednesday by hanging himself in his dormitory room.
"The suicide of this openly gay young man is for reasons currently unknown; however, the recent pattern of LGBT youth suicides is cause for grave concern," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director and founder of Campus Pride. "Campus Pride demands national action be taken to address youth bullying, harassment and the need for safety and inclusion for LGBT youth at colleges and universities across the country. We must not let these tragic deaths go unnoticed. Together we must act decisively to curb anti-LGBT bias incidents, harassment and acts of violence."
The rash of recent LGBT-teen related suicides humanizes a problem that our community has long faced. Suicide rates among LGBT teens are four times the rate of their straight counterparts. And society is often much crueler toward LGBTs of color, who are disproportionately victimized by hate crimes and anti-gay fundamentalist churches. Clearly it's a desperate and final choice when our youth believe that suicide is their only viable option. It's a false yet horrible reality, only compounded by an often cruel social climate toward LGBT issues.
Will there ever be hope for young people such as Raymond Chase and Tyler Clementi?