Gay teen bullying victim who recorded an "It Gets Better" video commits suicide

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108 Responses to “Gay teen bullying victim who recorded an "It Gets Better" video commits suicide”

  1. tehsusenoh says:

    I don’t want to live on this planet anymore…

  2. unit_1421 says:

    The kids who taunted him, AND THEIR PARENTS, should get 5 years in solitary confinement for this.

  3. Rebecca DeLaTorre says:

    Despite his upbeat message, the kid looks so broken in this video. I wish there had been a way to avaoid this tragedy.

    The intolerance that caused his death is the main reason that I became a secular humanist. I am so sad for the loss of this young man and I extend my sorrow and regret to those who loved him and knew him personally and will feell this loss so intensely for the rest of their lives.

  4. Joshua Ochs says:

    Unfortunately, all I can think is that while the sentiments above are well-intentioned, reality is a very harsh mistress and has no care for sentiment. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, and those who are subject to such cruelty from their “peers”.

  5. How would a 14-year-old know “it get’s better”??? If anything, at 14, it’s about to get a whole lot worse for a few years.

    • Electro_Jones says:

      That is really sadly true.  This poor kid. 

    • scifijazznik says:

      This is what the It Gets Better Project is all about.  It was started specifically because of the uptick in suicides among young homosexuals.  For the most part, the videos people post are messages  from older folks trying to reassure kids like Jamey that, even though shit seems all fucked up right now and high school is the worst place, hang in there, it does get better, etc.

  6. quietstorms says:

    I really can’t think of anything to say other than this deeply saddens me. Hopefully others do seek out support from family, friends or counselors before going down this path.

  7. scifijazznik says:

    Dan Savage is one of my favorite earthlings.  Just when I thought he couldn’t possibly do more to make this planet a better place, he starts It Gets Better.  I’ve watched a lot of the videos people have posted and they rarely fail to move me.

    I read about Jamey on Savage’s blog and it’s disheartening that the the same week DADT finally comes to an end, those pernicious sacks of shit who continued to bully him made life so intolerable that suicide seemed the better way out.  A lot of times, you hear people talk of suicide in terms of selfishness or cowardliness.  But if you can look at this case or the all too many others like it and think these young people with so much potential are selfish or cowardly, I’d say you need to reevaluate your beliefs.

    My heart goes out to this boy’s family.  As a parent, I can’t imagine what they must be going through.

  8. satn says:

    That’s terrible.

    It’s really horrible how americans encourage or tolerate bullying, for some twisted reason the people in this country that either did the bullying or got barely any of it now as adults think it’s a normal part of the growing process to emotionaly or physically abuse another person. (which is odd, because kids abusing animals is considered a warning sign)

    I got to experience it myself as a foreigner that moved to the US while I was in elementary school. Most school staff ignore it, and some are even hostile towards you if you are different from them. You also recieve most of the adminstrative punishment because as a kid you can’t do much more than lash out physically if you’re the target of verbal bullying, as bullyies rarely target anyone able to hold their own socially. So in the end, mentally torturing someone for months or years will hardly get you any punishment, but the victim will get punished constantly for lashing out.

    I’m damaged, but I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been if I was also gay or not-white.

    And if I’m honest, it doesn’t get better. The bullying stops, but the psychological scars remain, the inability to trust people and the fear of ridicule if you speak up or talk to someone you don’t know. Nice bonus to all of that is society thinks you’re dangerous because you keep to yourself and don’t talk to people much.

    • Tyler Roy-Hart says:

      hey @satn it really sounds like you went through some terrible things. It really sounds as though you could use some help. Not everyone is cruel, hostile and judgmental and it sounds like your emotional scars may be keeping you from enjoying the brighter side of life and the companionship you deserve. I hope you can get past the damage and move on. Peace

    • nick15 says:

      My observations–as well as my own experiences being bullied–is that the bullying that happens these days is far less physical and certainly far more mental. And as mental scars are far more invisible to the anyone not trained to see them (like many teachers) and CERTAINLY far more invisible than the scrapes, bruises and broken limbs form physical bullying, few people can actually KNOW if a child is suffering from mental bullying. … The way MY bullying scars manifested themselves was in the form of considerably lower grades and a more reserved attitude about life. However, the teachers didn’t really catch on to it (because lower grades could legitimately mean anything between “he’s being bullied” and “he’s not working hard enough”) AND I myself didn’t know how to communicate the fact that I was being bullied (I personally accepted it as what EVERYONE goes through and thus didn’t feel it was important enough to bring up)….. so because it really wasn’t easy for anyone to spot the reality of what’s been going on between myself and my tormentors, no one did anything about it.

      As such, I think the fact that little to nothing is done about mental bullying (relative to what is done with physical bullying) isn’t so much that people are deliberately IGNORING it, or treat it akin to physical bullying (which “builds character”)…. but simply because no one actually knows that it’s happening to begin with. Or, at the very least, teachers and other adults are not trained psychologists and thus completely miss the signs of mental bullying. Because there are no immediate outward scars which invoke others towards immediate actions to help those suffering, the person being mentally bullied spends more time suffering than anyone being physically bullied.

      But then again, seeing how bullying AND children are committing suicide LONG AFTER Columbine brought mental bullying into the spotlight, I’m beginning to think that maybe people in more rural areas really DO still treat it akin to the “man up; it builds character!” physical bullying they grew up with, versus the serious problem that it is. Even the “it gets better” perspective is one that I feel goes hand-in-hand with the “it builds character” perspective and thus is just as dangerous. In any case, I just hope that it gets better… and by that I mean that people STOP treating mental bullying as something benign and START treating it as a serious issue to fortify the mental health of society itself.

      • mr_frakypants says:

        Actually, the things you mentioned (uncharacteristic drop off in grades, withdrawn attitude) are considered the classic signs that something is wrong with your child. It’s up to the parent to figure it out, because A) people sometimes have a hard time articulating when something is really wrong and B) kids have an even harder time, because they face far more social pressure than adults.

        If either of my kids (young teen and an almost) exhibited either of these symptoms — and yes, they’re symptoms — I’d be asking questions. Depending on the person that your kid is, you’ll have to take a different tack to try to find out what’s going on. I kind of thought that was SOP these days for parents, but maybe I’m wrong.

        You don’t have to be a trained psychologist, etc. to be able to spot signs of psychological trauma. It’s really not that tough, especially if it’s on your radar.

      • I think the ‘it gets better’ campaign is at least better than what we had before; no encouragement at all.  I agree, things could be better, but morons are born every minute, or indoctrinated every minute.  So, just a little encouragement is better than none at all, surely? 

  9. I can’t even articulate how awful this is.

  10. Gian Faye says:

    This happening is so awful. 

  11. Walter Guyll says:

    One reason it can get better is you’re no longer locked up in school with a hundred kids all the same age. 

  12. Guest says:

    This is horrifying.
    I hope the fact doesn’t get lost in the reporting on this story that this kid was bullied both for being gay AND for being fat (or perceived as fat, anyway). As a victim for years of the latter sort of bullying, I can testify to the fact that it does, indeed, make young people suicidal as well, and may well have been a contributing factor here. But I was lucky; I went to school at a time when powerful adults didn’t yet blame fat kids for destroying the health and economic well being of the nation (yes, Michelle Obama has explicitly said this) and insist on government interventions to ‘fix’ their ‘wrong’ bodies. I can’t imagine how much worse it is, both for gay kids and for fat kids, today.

    • Mona Morgan says:

      Please provide a link to your source. Thanks.

      • Walter Guyll says:

        Here’s one from her web site:

        “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”

        - First Lady Michelle Obama at the Let’s Move! launch on February 9, 2010
         
        http://www.letsmove.gov/learn-facts/epidemic-childhood-obesity

        • Brainspore says:

          Sorry, but saying “let’s all eat right and exercise for better health!” is not the same as saying “fatties should be ashamed of their bodies.” Not even close.

          • Walter Guyll says:

            I don’t know, a whole 70 point task force aimed at fat kids?
            “No one gets off the hook on this one — from governments to schools,
            corporations to nonprofits, all the way down to families sitting around
            their dinner table.”
             -Michelle Obama

          • Brainspore says:

            At the risk of further derailing a sad and serious topic, I still haven’t seen a quote from Mrs. Obama that could be reasonably be construed as shaming fat kids. Is “let’s all try to promote healthy lifestyles” a controversial position now?

            Comparing Michelle Obama’s healthy living campaign to what was done to this poor kid is a stretch like few I have ever seen.

    • nick15 says:

      There is nothing wrong with being “fat”, at least in the physical image sense.

      But being “fat” in the sense of one’s own personal health and wellbeing is something else, just like anorexia nervosa is a serious problem. For example, you’ve got a better chance of getting Type 2 Diabetes  when you’re medically overweight versus someone who isn’t.

      Of course, if you’re on top of your weight and do everything to ensure that your arteries stay unclogged, that your don’t do anything to increase your chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes, and every other potential health hazards that come with obesity, then there’s no problem with being “fat”! However, not everyone IS on top of their weight. As such, if you had only so much Government money to create a program to decrease the rate of clogged veins which lead to heart attacks, Type 2 Diabetes (and the complications involved with that), and all that jazz, which of the following messages would you choose?

      * “We can help you get healthy by helping you control potential heart disease, your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, avoid getting sleep apnea, gaining certain types of cancer and preventing osteroarthritis!”
      * “We can help you get healthy by helping you get thin!”

      It’s no different than a campaign which chooses “we can help you get healthy by helping you with your anorexia nervosa!” versus “we can help you get healthy by helping you with your rapid dramatic weight loss, lanugo, obsession with weight loss and food, depression, personal image, constant purging….”

  13. SCAQTony says:

    These kids need a safe harbor! Telling a kid “it gets better” and to “hold your head high” means nothing to a 14-year-old’s attention span who thinks a simple Friday is a decade away. I think it time to bully the bullies!

    • Brainspore says:

      I think it time to bully the bullies!

      I’m not convinced that’s an entirely constructive approach either. Cycle of abuse and all that. Besides, some of the bullies are gay themselves.

    • Perizade says:

      I disagree with your last statement, but you are spot on for the rest of your post. I cannot, cannot, cannot tolerate bullying in my classes and I won’t. My students know that is the quickest way to bring down my bitch hammer. Why? Because of tragedies like this. And the ones that don’t make the news. And ones that don’t end in death, but end with a person being robbed of loving life.

    • nick15 says:

      Bullying the bullies is definitely not the best option, if only because it brings the suffering down to the bully’s level. For example, I saw my tormentor(s) as in a pit, and they’re doing everything they can to pull me down into the pit…. apart from the fact that doing that alone will make them feel like they won, but also, in that pit, they make the rules, and I didn’t want that to happen.

      No, the best solution to bullies is to have the school punish them, possibly going so far ashaving the police involved if it needs to happen. The beginning of the end for my tormentor(s) was when they started sending threats to my house (going so far as the toss a smokebomb in my garage’s mailslot after threatening to “burn my house down”), and that’s when the police started to get involved and the bully’s parents began to realize the extremity of the situation, where as before the parents had the attitude of “well, boys will be boys!”.

      Bullying to bullies won’t get them to stop, simply because that’s
      probably the way they’re being treated at home and thus already have
      ways to deal with it. As such, the bullies (and potential bullies watching) need to see for themselves that their peers and their society will NOT tolerate bullying, and that there will be major consequences for their actions if they did not stop. It’s not enough to just TELL them to stop, they need to have that message go deep into their mind and soul in a way they will truly understand.

      Or something like that.

  14. tylerkaraszewski says:

    Apparently it does not always get better.

  15. LinkMan says:

    And in other happier news, here is a video of a US service member stationed in Germany telling his father in Alabama that he is gay.  Because US service members can do that now without losing their jobs.  Yet when you see at the look on his face as he reveals to his father who he is, who he has always been, it’s impossible not to be reminded of what this man’s life might have been like if he wasn’t an athletic, handsome guy who managed to keep his orientation secret for so many years:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVAgz6iyK6A

    We still have a long way to go, but it’s extraordinary how far we’ve come.

    • aroseisarose says:

      i happened to watch the video yesterday, and of course welled up. my favorite part you ask? well, dad kept saying he loved his son and would always love his son BUT to please watch his beverage consumption!

      it DOES get better BUT before it does, WE ALL have to step in and assist those needing our help. gay, straight, green or orange.

    • thanks for that Micah.  Once again my faith in humanity has been a little bit restored.  the guy was obviously very scared.  His father obviously loves him.  That’s the way life should be.  

      I am heart-warmed by this.

  16. My heart completely breaks for this kid and his family.  I will never understand tormenting someone like this. 

  17. Walter Guyll says:

    I see Jamey was on Formspring. My nieces were on this for about a year and one was constantly attacked by nasty, anonymous comments. 
    Edited to add that my niece is slender, pretty and athletic. I can’t imagine what Jamey went through.

  18. wierdbeard says:

    This is tragic. Has there been any research on the suicide rates of gay kids to straight kids? Or other demographic segments? Or the mental/emotional stability of various groups?

    • bleepbloop says:

      “A 1989 U.S. government study found that LGBT youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people.”

      Source: Feinleib, Marcia R., Ed. Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide. Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (DHHS/PHS), Rockville, MD. 1989

      “This finding was supported by a 2001 study that found LGBT adolescents 2.3-2.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.”

      Source: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/full/91/8/1276?view=long&pmid=11499118

    • bleepbloop says:

      I’m not sure what happened to my first comment, so I’ll try again.

      A 1989 U.S. government study found that LGBT youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people.

      Source: Feinleib, Marcia R., Ed. Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide. Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (DHHS/PHS), Rockville, MD. 1989

      A 2001 study found LGBT adolescents 2.3-2.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.

      Source http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/full/91/8/1276?view=long&pmid=11499118

  19. Guest says:

    Here’s the link I was thinking of: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/15/remarks-first-lady-national-league-cities-conference

    And yes, telling fat kids — most of whom will always be fat regardless of what they eat or how they exercise, because weight is primarily genetic, with some endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure added to the modern mix as well — that their bodies are signs of their wrong behaviour and that their existence is damaging to the nation, is indeed very much like telling gay kids that their orientation is wrong and sinful. It is eliminationist rhetoric in both cases, even when dressed up in fancy language about “concern for health and happiness.”

    • David Tooley says:

      Wow. You need to really cite some sources. You are making things up.

      • Guest says:

        I’m sorry, but it’s not my job to give you an entire education in fat-studies research. If you are interested, you can certainly educate yourself on the specifics of the marginalization of fat people with a quick trip to a good library.

        • David Tooley says:

          How about one source? My wife has a masters in nutrition and an MD, and I almost made milk come out of her nose when I showed her this post.

          • Oh, you know, just an anecdote (as we say to Xeni, pictures, or it didn’t happen :)  )

            Seriously though, I’m not surprised.  I’m a SciBioMed (tried to translate for American English), and one of the only truisms I’ve ever seen on a soap was from House.  In fact, it’s the motto: people lie.

    • tylerkaraszewski says:

      “weight is primarily genetic”

      How can you possibly believe that is actually true when it is so extremely well-documented and obvious that the average weight of Americans has shot up drastically over the past 30-40 years? Do you honestly think that evolution is happening so fast that we’ve changed that much in one generation? That’s clearly not the case.

      If all of our grandparents were comparatively thin and we’re all comparatively fat, that’s pretty good evidence *against* our weight being genetic. If it was genetic, we would have inherited it.

      • Do you get the difference between “primarily” and “entirely” Are Americans gaining weight uniformly? Doesn’t look that way to me. I see plenty of thin people around.

      • Guest says:

        Weight hasn’t gone up dramatically — though it has increased a bit as people overall have gained better access to healthy food, fewer people smoke (smoking depresses weight), and more people take pharmaceutical drugs (many of which case significant weight-gain).
        “Obesity rates” have gone up dramatically because the weight cut-offs were lowered significantly in the mid-1990s, instantly ‘creating’ many, many more ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ people and many, many more potential consumers for weight-loss products and services. There have always been fat people, including very fat people — including in your grandparents’ generation.

    • SamSam says:

      It’s annoying that this needs to keep being responded to in this thread, but if you insist on saying that Michelle Obama is somehow culpable for a kid being bullied to death:

      Michelle Obama is fighting against the rise in childhood obesity. Now, you can say all you like that “most [kids] will always be fat regardless of what they eat or how they exercise,” but that can hardly explain the rise, can it? Unless this genetic trait has rapidly spread across the US in the past couple decades. From the graph in my link, childhood obesity went from 4% to 16% since the 60s. So what proportion of those 16% are likely to be obese for genetic reasons?

      The point is that Obama is not remotely criticizing obese kids, she is criticizing the attitudes and policies that have caused a 300% rise in the percentage of obese kids in the past four decades.

  20. Mona Morgan says:

    Reading comprehension is a skill sadly lost to many. Using a tragedy to promote your political agenda is gaining in popularity, though.

  21. Leonard Low says:

    Jamey didn’t kill himself.  Every one of those bullies murdered him.

  22. millie fink says:

    Threadhijacking 

    In

    Progress . . . 

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Threadhijacking In Progress . . .

      Well funnily enough, children and adolescents (and adults) who are bullied or otherwise abused, often end up with substance abuse issues or eating disorders.  When I was in school back in the 60s and 70s, all the obviously gay kids, including me, were fat.

  23. Walter Guyll says:

    Stab in the dark here. I’m guessing that many of those doubting that Mrs. Obama’s well intentioned campaign against childhood obesity can intimidate kids have never experienced fat prejudice. 

  24. catherinecc says:

    I was feminine kid in high school, by this I mean I’ve since transitioned male to female. I was also fat and extremely introverted. This sort of bullying was constant although back in the good old days you had to face your target and normally didn’t have anonymity to hide behind, unless you left a note or something. Or spread rumours, etc. Those were fun.

    When it escalated to physical violence – as was common – I just let it happen the first few times and let the kids beat on me without raising a hand. Just stood there smiling and taking blows. I ended up getting the exact same punishment as the kids who attacked me when a teacher saw, at which point I realized that the system not only betrayed me in its duty to protect me, but was in fact a bigger enemy to me than the actual kids – you could fight the kids, but you couldn’t fight the administration that was complicit or even silently sanctioning the abuse by their actions and policies. I remember when kids ganged up on me in elementary and took my pants off to check to see if I was just pretending to be a boy that the VP told me that it was my fault for acting so feminine. And I remember that I got sent home, none of the other kids did. Think about that for a bit…

    It’s incredibly depressing, but also completely unsurprising that when the system fails, people resort to violence and acts of retribution. I felt that the only way to protect myself from both the outside world and the turmoil inside my head was to turn into a stoic emotionless misanthrope with an profoundly unhealthy lack of self respect or concern for my well being – and occasional outbursts of extreme violence that would likely have gotten me institutionalized today. I spent the rest of my high school and most of my 20s in that really ugly place and I’m only still here today because I was lucky during the times I needed it most.

    That said, school instilled within me a healthy distrust of authority and humanity in general. A good thing for all to have imho.

    As for
    “Sorry, but saying “let’s all eat right and exercise for better health!”
    is not the same as saying “fatties should be ashamed of their bodies.”
    Not even close.”
    You’re wrong.
    See, it’s actually understood as “if you just eat right and exercise you will be thin, but since you’re not thin, you’re a lazy f**k” – this immediately “others” you, often by a person in authority like a gym teacher – at which point all the sheeple kids pick up on the sanctioned disapproval and a wee bit of that “Lord of the Flies” ugliness that sits within us all comes out.

    The most goddamn depressing thing is that humanity has made little to no progress in actually dealing with this in a healthy manner. The same thing that happened a decade ago occurs now, albeit with a lot more medication being prescribed. We know what the problem is, we just don’t care enough to actually enact change.

    • Brainspore says:

      See, it’s actually understood as “if you just eat right and exercise you will be thin, but since you’re not thin, you’re a lazy f**k”

      I agree it can come across that way but it depends very much on both the messenger and the delivery. “YOU TOO can be a supermodel athlete if you take care of yourself!” is a very disingenuous and ultimately damaging message to send to children. “You can improve your health by avoiding junk food” is not.

      • catherinecc says:

        Yeah, well, gym teachers ain’t exactly known for their sensitive delivery.

        • Brainspore says:

          Agreed, gym teachers are certainly as capable of fostering shame and insecurity as fellow students. I just don’t think that’s a good reason to attack all nutrition education programs. Whether my kids grow up to be skinny or fat, I want to make sure that they don’t get most of their food messaging from people pushing Happy Meals.

          • catherinecc says:

            I’ve just never seen a “lose weight” message delivered effectively by a teacher. Granted, it has been a decade since I’ve been in high school.

          • Brainspore says:

            “Lose weight” shouldn’t even be the message since everyone’s ideal weight is different. The message should be more along the lines of “eat healthy and exercise to maximize your personal health.” As far as I can tell that’s more or less what Mrs. Obama has been saying.

          • Guest says:

            That’s because they don’t say it quite that way. But they do say it. They do actually try to educate children for their own health and well being, regardless of the rules and policies that make it difficult, but teachers do fucking care. Deeply. And they try. Really fucking hard.

            If they do so in ways you don’t catch at first glance, maybe it’s because you have your own specialty, about which others might misinterpret your own best intentions.

          • catherinecc says:

            But not every one is perfect. There are still a lot of crummy teachers out there…

      • Walter Guyll says:

        Fat kids already know about junk food, Brainspore. Someone tells them every week.

    • Thanks for sharing that.  We don’t get too much of that in our online-lives. I suppose we chat to our friends, so thanks for posting here, seriously.

      My experience was the opposite, I was too skinny and male, so I was assumed to be gay and picked on for being thin.  I wasn’t gay, I’ve just been diagnosed as a probable life-long diabetic (at my ripe old age) and I spent a long time at school being very angry and frustrated.School is peer-group normality training for adulthood.  If you don’t or can’t fit in, you don’t get to mate (basic evolutionary principles) but if you join the cheer-leading team, it’s possible.  

      If you don’t fit in at school, from my recollections and the rest of my life, you are not a productive member of society.  It’s a training ground; or a Gauntlet. I can’t imagine what you went through, I can’t imagine how you survived with your sanity and identity. 

      I nearly killed the macho guy who picked on me so much, I nearly put him in hospital and closed part of the school (I bounced him off every single locker I could find) 

      I hoped, as I got older, that this kind of stupidity was being stamped out.  It’s not.  All humans(and children) fear the ‘different, it’s up to teachers to tell kids it’s OK to be gay, or different.  BUT, if they condone it, life is, or can become, a nightmare for ‘different’ kids.

      Children, kids, adolescents, even many adults, hate change or difference.  It’s human nature.  Tolerance has to be taught, it’s not a given thing.

      All the best  catherinecc.

  25. nick15 says:

    Back in junior high, I was the target of bullying to a degree similar to what Jamey experienced… it certainly was at least to the degree that, if my parents were gun-owners, I probably WOULD have used guns as a means to relieve myself of my tormentors (either shooting them, committing suicide, or both). The thing was… it was as if my entire junior high was against me, including the people
    I considered “friends”; there was not a single day that didn’t go by
    when people called me Nazi and saluted me, simply because I was
    different from the “ringleader” and the cronies he manipulated into
    bullying me for him. This was also before Columbine, so schools had no anti-bullying programs to encourage students to NOT be bullies and I–thus–felt like I was basically on my own and had NO ONE to turn to. I mean, even when I got into a fist fight with the “ringleader” which he started, it was *I* who got chewed out for ending it by poking his eyes (a la The Three Stooges).

    I completely understand how Jamey Rodemeyer felt when he was being tormented and thus feel nothing but contempt for his tormentors. However, because I remember so much about what happened and how I felt back then, I know I would NOT have grasped the very concept of “it gets better”. I mean, as a 14 year old, I had no concept of life beyond the age of 14, since being 14 WAS all that life could ever be to me. Like pretty much ALL 14 year olds, I had no perception of life past the age of 14 that I could look forward to… other than the possibility that my tormentors and I would end up going to different high schools.

    As such, it is my opinion that the whole concept of “it gets better” is one that puts resources in the ABSOLUTELY WRONG place, assuming their goal is to work towards ending bullying versus just trying to cheer someone up. I know that the LAST thing I would have wanted to hear back when I was 14 was to have an adult tell me that “the solution to your problems is NOT in trying to get the bullies to stop bothering you, but to remind you that ‘life gets better after this!’” … “It gets better” is something that needs to be backed up with more than just “words of solidarity”. It needs to be supported with actual ACTION against one’s tormentors to SHOW that not only does it really DO get better, BUT to also show that bullying others has only one ultimate conclusion: punishment of those involved.

    To which, it’s absolutely no surprise to me to hear that Jamey eventually committed suicide in the end. I mean, I highly doubt that even HE believed in his own message… or that he simply tried to convince himself of his message just like North Koreans, as in, they “believe” in something to give an outward appearance that appeases their peers, leaders and elders, but ultimately weren’t, deep down, convinced of it in any way.

    Now that I’m 28, I look back upon my time being bullied with mixed feelings. On one hand, yes, sure, I guess life DID get better, AND being bullied taught me how to have a stiff upper lip and the value in standing up for one’s self as a means to prevail against your enemies, as well as waiting for them to eventually dig THEMSELVES into their own grave. I have since faced later “enemies” with gobs of inner strength and have never wavered in their pushes against me…. as well as worked to ensure that I don’t have enemies to begin with!

    On the other hand, apart from the fact that–despite still gaining a lot of personal strength from those experiences–I wish I NEVER had been bullied to begin with, I still feel as if parts of me are “damaged goods” because of what had happened. I can’t say that things are worse because of it, but I still don’t feel like they got better either. And every once in a while I’m reminded of how parts of me are still “rotten”, kinda like a rotten tooth inside your mouth. What at least has helped me come to terms with my “damaged goods” bits is the knowledge that EVERYONE has their own set of “damaged goods” (that is, more than the kinds of complaints one can read over at WhiteWhine.com) and thus MY “damaged goods” are no better or worse than anyone else’s.

    TL;DR:
    NO child should have to encounter bullying in their life and they should be allowed to enjoy being children for as long as they can! It’s a damn shame to see ANYONE commit suicide over the very fact of who they are, and–again–I feel nothing but contempt for the people who encouraged Jamey to feel that suicide was his ONLY option to relieve himself of the pain he experienced. However, I also feel that simply declaring “it gets better” is a poor use of resources and that time and energy should be used to help stomp OUT bullying to begin with. Or at least, if one is to declare that “life gets better”, it should be done with the implication that one’s tormentors will be punished, and NOT because you’ll eventually get over this stage of life and move on past it.

    But, well, this is just what I think. And what do I know, right?

    • I came to this story late nick15, and I understand what you’re saying.  I’d rather I had never been bullied at all, but I had no choice.  Now, 31 years later, not only is bullying still happening, some kids are killing themselves.  Of course it’s stupid, from the kids, and because the schools (say they) aren’t in a position to intervene.

      The whole point of the ‘It gets better’ meme is the man, who I have a deep affection for now, said this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax96cghOnY4   It’s a message of support.  Sometimes it’s not enough, sometimes it is.  It’s an example of the best (Joel) and the worst (the rest).  It’s a message.

  26. llazy8 says:

    People.  A kid took his life.  Can we stop arguing about calories? 

    Can anyone find out if the school has an anti-discrimination policy or if they only implement the suicide prevention and counseling from the clean-up end?  Thanks.  

    • catherinecc says:

      It does, and has one that covers sexual orientation and isn’t one of those bullshit polices written by hate groups that ignores glbt people and causes bullying.

  27. catherinecc says:

    Someone posted about the suicide rate for GLBT persons a while ago and it seemed to disappear.

    A U.S. government study, titled Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, published in 1989, found that LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people (1.6%)
    http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED334503&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED334503

    In comparison… Active military personnel suicide attempt percentages are at 3% and the department of defense calls it a national crises.

  28. Robb714 says:

    This just rips my heart out and stomps on it then tosses it in a blender. Having briefly known Mathew Shepard and having had seen this sweet kids vlog originally and the fact that we have apparently made no progress whatsoever dealing with this tragic treatment of those that are a little different makes me very, very angry. I can not express my sorrow and condolences in words for the rage I am feeling right now. What’s it going to take, to protect these victims of hate? What is left of my heart and that is not much right now, goes out to his friends and family. RIP Jamey, you will be greatly missed! Most importantly, anyone reading these comments in the same situation, please, please seek out guidance somewhere somehow, no matter how you may feel, please just know, that you are loved greatly even if you don’t feel that way sometimes. If you are a bully and get off picking on people because they are different, stop before you cause a tragedy like this in the future.

  29. gabbi says:

    Bullying is criminal!
    When is name calling going to be recognized as the slander it is? When is taunting going to be considered as coercion and murder-by-proxy? When are the parents of the perpetrators going to be
    considered as the abettors they are?

    • Walter Guyll says:

      Verbal bullying can’t really be tamed by law. Calling someone gay who is gay is not slander, and if we twist the law so it is the aggressor will use other words.
      Shame and social pressure goes both ways and we can use it against bullying. Civilization is a long slow slog uphill, but look how far we’ve come…

  30. JackElliot says:

    This is sad, but does anyone really want to hear that it gets better from a 14 year-old? At that age, “it’s” probably at its worst.

  31. Walter Guyll says:

     Tallying the various presidential fitness campaigns, and their effectiveness, might be enough to turn one libertarian.

  32. penguinchris says:

    He apparently went to Heim Middle School and then Williamsville North High School, in Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo. These are the schools that I went to (graduated high school in 2004) and so I’m quite familiar with the demographics of the area.

    There were lots of openly gay, or at least obviously gay, students when I was at school there and I personally witnessed very little bullying directed at the gay kids (though I rolled with a good crowd). However, I personally experienced quite bad bullying, as a shy/quiet and slightly overweight kid (I know now I’ve got some mild degree of asperger’s/autism).

    As in most schools, the teachers do nothing about it and occasionally participate themselves. Despite what they may say in the article, I sincerely doubt anyone in the school was taking any kind of stand against bullying (at least prior to this happening).

    It’s an interesting community… like many seemingly progressive suburban areas, underneath the surface there is harsh conservatism and a very intolerant populace. This is the area where a guy recently put up a sign on his lawn saying “Bomb Making Next Door”, referring to the Muslim family that lived next door.

  33. That_Anonymous_Coward says:

    I wonder how much of this is caused by the parents who refuse to believe their child can be anything but perfect.  We see the afterschool specials and movies where the bullies parents are blissfully unaware of how evil their children behave.  But those are fantasies because they bully has a change of heart…
    And then there is a society that has deep rooted beliefs that if your different your wrong.
    Take the prejudices of the last oh 200 years….
    you can substitute in any of the common terms we use for “different” people.
    Different colors, religions, sexual identity, country of origin… and we foster these beliefs in every generation.
    It used to be the dirty irish, then italians, then any of the eastern block countries, then indians, then oh god who do we despise this week…. oh anyone brown because they might be Muslim so they are a terrorist. (These are EXAMPLES not my own beliefs… rants can be directed to /dev/null).

    What happened here is a child is dead, because we train children to be heartless and to prey on those who they think are weaker.  Keeping someone under your foot is a way to make sure you have moved up in the world.

    You can debate fat or not fat… but it can not and will not bring this child back.
    You can talk about tolerance and teaching it… but it isn’t a problem with kids, its a problem with humans.  Do as I say, not as I do still applies… if you do nothing but give lip service to the right thing, and then proceed to do the wrong thing your still just human. 
    But until we stop pretending if we talk enough we can fix it, if we can force the children to all behave, wave a magic wand to clap hard enough to show them that we care that the issue is going to be fixed this will continue.  Until we get past the piece of human nature that I can shove someone down to move myself up, we are still going to loose people who can not bear the burdens and that no one is actually helping beyond lip service.

    I might be maladjusted to the world, but I’m just a reflection of how you treated me. 
    I’m one of the lucky ones, I get a lifetime of insecurity and being overly protective of myself… because I didn’t take those pills that night when it was to much to bear. 

    Rest in Peace Jamey.

  34. Walter Guyll says:

    We want to think that we teach children to be brutal, but it really is part of their makeup.
    Kids want to practice social skills at the expense of their peers. They form in-groups and ostracize others quite naturally. All part of being a social animal.
    They may use the words and thoughts of the parents but the urge is already there.
    It’s up to the grown-up to indoctrinate the little apes into what we call human beings.

    • Unfortunately, as I read down the thread, I find many folks here don’t understand that point.  Evolutionary biases make ALL humans choose between in- and out- groups.  Different is bad/unwanted.  Racism, sexism, classism etc is part of our heritage.  We have to be educated otherwise.  Sometimes we aren’t, if our parents weren’t, and their parents before them and…… you get the message. I hope.

  35. Why was I NOT this guy’s classmate? The universe is SO WRONG! 

  36. Len Kendall says:

    I’d like to see publications like BoingBoing start covering the very specific tactics kids are using to defend themselves against bullies. I was just reading an article about how the internet is causing us to live in “An Age of Extremes” http://gis.to/gists/life-in-the-age-of-extremes and often is creating positive feedback on positions that are dangerous. In this case, I wonder how many other bullied teens will see this widespread attention this victim got and consider taking their life as well? No matter how twisted a bully may be, being partially responsible for killing someone is going to be something that haunts them their whole life. That’s the only weapon some of these poor kids think they have. But the cost is obviously too high. I’d love to see BoingBoing shine more spotlight on the very real things kids are doing to make these scenarios end in a way that makes threads like this have 100 “YOU GO KID” instead of, “My heart goes out to his family…” 
     

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I’d like to see publications like BoingBoing start covering the very specific tactics kids are using to defend themselves against bullies.

      Like crossbows and poleaxes?

      • stuck411 says:

        When something as tragic as this happens it is a natural response to want to help in any way possible. Sometimes it’s just to offer advice to adults or teens going through the same problem, offer stories from your own past, do the research to find out what the authorities can say about it, etc. It would be rather cool if BoingBoing were to be one haven where this information could reside. Or at the very least be a beacon pointing big red arrows to a safe harbor already on the net where this can be found (and increasing the ease of people finding it again in the future).

  37. geekagirl says:

    After Columbine, when everyone was worried about kids being bullied, my middle school teachers, I guess, worried that I might do something tragic. They came up with an elegant solution, they rearranged me and my friend’s schedules.  Suddenly, we weren’t alone anymore.

    The bullying mostly stopped.  My grades shot up, and holy carp, I was happier.  I also realized that someone outside of my immediate family and a few friends gave a damn about me.

    I hear about all this and I wonder why no one in these kids lives could do anything.  Poor kids — all of them.

    • mr_frakypants says:

      This. There is very little that the bullied can do to get out of the situation on their own. By law, we compel children to participate in this social activity called school. It is the absolute and highest duty then of the compelling force (i.e. the State) to protect and ensure the well being of those whom they have coerced.

      geekagirl — good on your teachers for taking note and executing wise action those many years ago. Most of the teachers that I know are very well tuned into the situations in their classrooms and the halls around them. Even though the educational bureaucracy may be… bureaucratic… the teachers themselves actually love those kids in the very best sense of the word, and go out of their way to see that stuff like this doesn’t happen. I know that where I live is atypical, but it *can* be done.

    • firefly the great says:

      You were extremely lucky. Most people who were bullied by their peers just had the administration gang up on them and treat them like terrorists. Nobody said “bullying” was the problem; weird kids were the problem, and it was up to everyone else in the world to break their spirits. That was policy.

  38. Philip Hades says:

    Sad news coming on the heels of so much hope from the repeal of DADT.
    However having spent a lot of time in news forums listening to hate being spewed against gay soldiers, I know we still have a long way to go.

    Keep talking a bout it. Silence = Death

  39. The Chemist says:

    That was heartbreaking. There was no reason for me to watch that video. There was no reason he should have died so young. There is no reason to any of this.

  40. Guest says:

    Bullies, you suck. But you know that, and it’s why you do it.

  41. This poor kid, he could have had a wonderful life. I hope God looks after him, and his family, now.

  42. fergus1948 says:

    That was quite simply heartbreaking.

  43. thunderhammer says:

    It gets worse before it gets better.  

  44. teapot says:

    Poor kid. Rest in peace, brother. May your passing forever haunt the assholes that drove you there.

    To anyone out there who is in a similar situation: Ignore, ignore, ignore the people making your life hell. No matter how terrible they make you feel, their existence is insignificant in the grand scheme of life. School is temporary. High school parties are LAME. If you never go to a high school party you will not miss anything that one week of university life won’t give you. Popularity is unimportant, in fact when you grow up you will look back with embarrassment and laugh at how much you cared. The world is large and wonderful, don’t let shallow, ignorant people destroy your adventure in it. The best revenge you can ever get on a bully is not being affected by their abuse. They thrive on seeing the pain they seek to create, so don’t give it to them. Give them the finger and move on.

  45. kittydoom says:

    The post that reads, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens, what do I have to do so people will listen to me?” that you cited as his “final” post was made on September 9th. His actual final post was made on September 18th and reads, “Thank you Lady Gaga / For everything you have done for me / Paws up forever”.

    It’s all right here: http://hausofjamey.tumblr.com/

    It’s very sad but I really dislike seeing inaccuracy in reporting, especially when it seems like facts have been changed to make them seem all the more tragic.

  46. bruckelsprout says:

    I won’t go into the details of my own experiences with bullies, but I honestly believe that (in spite of the outcries against bullies you hear on the internet and in the news) many, many adults adopt the “buck up and grow a pair” attitude, or the “just try to ignore it” solution.  Both of those are far, far easier said than done.

    Even a decade later, every time I think of that bully, I am filled with the burning fury of pure hatred.  I haven’t even seen the kid since my junior year, but I will never, ever forget his face or how much I wanted to break it.

    I feel sorry for Jamey, I wish he hadn’t killed himself.  The world is a worse place that he did.  I feel sorry for his friends and family, and I hope they don’t blame themselves for what happened.  And I want to feel sorry for the bullies.  Whatever is in their environment that has made them like that has stunted their growth and has apparently made them immune to empathy, turning them into engines of destruction.  I’d like to say that being responsible for a tragedy like this would make them reevaluate themselves, but often times it was that lack of conscience that allowed them to prey upon someone else like this to begin with.

  47. tinyinkling says:

    Dear Jamey:  It got better. I’m sorry you didn’t live to see it. I’m sorry that it will take another 10 years for a generation of soldiers to understand that being gay and being a warrior aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m sorry we put off this lesson for 20 years. I know someday our society will learn that being a man and being a warrior aren’t the same thing and things will get a lot better then, but fortunately there are a lot of us committed to that. Rest in Peace Jamey. May your spirit inspire us to great things.

  48. OK, I’ll stop on this soon, but to go back to the evolutionary POV.  It is now, and has long been considered that homosexuality is a good thing to have in a family, for a number of reasons (if you discount the holy books, of course.)  First, there is no competition with (hetero) mates within your own family.  Second, gays are usually (not always) born at the end of a longish line of same sex children, so 3 hetero boys, 4th is gay, similar for girls.  This means they share the same familial genes, have a vested interest in promoting them, but aren’t invested in promoting them personally. (No children)  If first and second are true (they usually are) then the gay family member is as protective of the family, but not competing for mates.  You essentially have a warrior family member to protect the family group. So be careful.

    This has been true for the whole history of humanity, yet here we are.  It was true before the xtians, the muslims and the jews.  It will be true when the fairy stories of religion are actually regarded as fairy stories by everyone.  And we’ll still be here.

    Homosexual people are actually a great asset to humanity, those who say otherwise are probably busy reading their holy book and thinking of ways to enter a mythical heaven without doing the real work of being human.

    I see people with holy books, I point to global violence. That is all.

  49. I couldn’t get through the video, knowing he’d killed himself. 

    My life has been deeply impacted by bullying. If I wasn’t able to physically threaten, and when necessary, actively use violence against bullies at school, I don’t know that I’d be here now. In the early 90s, I was able to get away with standing up for myself by loudly blaming the teachers for not doing their jobs and defending my right to self-defense, and having a reputation as a good and smart kid. It didn’t stop the bullying, but it at least dissuaded the assholes from making it physical, most of the time at least. Nowadays there’s zero-tolerance policies towards violence, so I’d probably have been expelled for defending myself against cruelty. 

    Obviously, most of the bullying and social exclusion I suffered was not physical. I can’t even begin to express all the ways that being bullied has made me a worse and less capable person, going from a fearless, joyous, creative elementary school kid to a depressed and anxiety-ridden obese kid with an eating disorder in just two years of middle school bullying. It has left me stunted in many ways that I have not been able to overcome even after many years of trying, despite having the blessings of not-inconsiderable intelligence and creativity and a supportive family. The anxiety that I learned has gotten  in the way of my success in most areas of my life, from my love life to my social life to my career, and most certainly my creative pursuits, inspiring me to not try things that I think might be beyond my talents, crippling my self esteem, leading to panic attacks before performances, eventually quitting performing altogether out of avoidance, out of fear of shame and ridicule. Substance abuse issues, years of my life spent smoking weed just to turn down the ‘giving a shit’ function. Having it be a constant struggle to be authentic with people rather than just presenting my carefully crafted amicable-and-smart public persona, and the difficulties with emotional intimacy that fakeness creates even with people that I actually have a lot in common with. 

    And what if I hadn’t been bullied? Better grades, better social skills, better physical health, better mental health, better adjusted to this fucked up world? Maybe I’d have gone to Harvard like my grandfather, maybe I’d be a multi-millionaire by now. Maybe I’d be a lot more of an asshole, I don’t know. But I do know that I shouldn’t have been subjected to that kind of torture. No child should have to suffer bullying. It shapes lives, it really does.

    P.S. Anyone who reads this and tells me to get over it or take responsibility for my life or whatever can kindly get fucked, thanks. I’m not sharing private shit to give you a chance to deliver a bunch of  half-baked psychobabble pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps advice. How I move forward is my business. It doesn’t change what happened to me or how I’ve processed it thus far, or the importance of moving towards a society of mutual respect.

  50. Mr. Mike says:

    I have developed a bully prevention show for elementary schools.  You can learn more about it here…

    http://youtu.be/2qAvD01RD9E
    http://www.StopBullyingShow.com

  51. David Tooley says:

    Nice. I deserved that for the milksnot joke.

  52. David Tooley says:

    That’s not really a source. It’s mostly empty and doesn’t support any of your arguments. Here’s a source: http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/child_obesity/

  53. mr_frakypants says:

    Eh. To claim that the social interactions of Junior and Senior High somehow prepare you for the real world is ridiculous. The social dynamics of school are an artificial microcosm that will not be replicated for the rest of your life. There is no aggregate social benefit to enduring bullying. It does damage, and nothing else. Unless you’re into thinking that fixing broken windows is a boost to the economy…

    While it’s true that teasing is nothing in the big picture to adults, to teenagers it truly is the world. It’s an imperative on the schools and parents to manage it better than this, so that we can end up with a world full of *better* adults.

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