The night before he hung himself, the 14 year old gay teen Jamey Rodemeyer wrote on Tumblr: “Still wondering why I am bothering to “like” Jesus Christ on Facebook.”
Perhaps, out of all the awful events that surrounded his appallingly tragic decision, this cut me the deepest.
I have spent the whole of Christmas grieving for the loss of two children through suicide, Rodemeyer was 14, Hubley was 15. They shared in common the fact they were gay and were being bullied like hell about it by their peers. Barely a month apart, Rodemeyer from Buffalo New York hung himself and Hubley from Ottawa, Canada took an overdose. Both left online accounts of the facts leading up their respective decisions. Both also left Youtube videos which show who they were. Rodemeyer was a serious and heroic activist campaigning for gay marriage and a message of universal love and tolerance. Hubley was a gifted singer who sang with Glee clubs. The appalling loss to humanity these two deaths amount to is incalculable.
In a world where teenagers seem to be killing themselves because of bullying ever more frequently, why these two hurt me so much may be hard to justify or even explain. Bullying people to suicide is evil and yet all too common, but there is something existential about being bullied because your gay, that isn’t involved with the usual stuff about weight, hair color or the other stuff. It is different because the bullying receives divine sanction (apparently) and whilst driving people to suicide over weight issues can be condemned fully, the bullying of a gay teen can be viewed as carrying out the “righteous will of God”. This was born out by the comments that appeared on Rodemeyer’s videos commenting that he was now burning in hell for opposing “God’s Word”. Little wonder the sensitive little lad was doubting his faith the night before he died.
It is, of course, banal to assert that those who use six verses out of millions to bully people with are hypocrites, and that those who deny that spirituality and God nearness applies to gay people as well as straight are ignorant fools. But when you are faced with this in real life, and can find no other source of comfort, the wall becomes insurmountable to climb. Little wonder that this technique for discouraging behaviors which may damage communities forms part of Plato’s outline for his new society in “The Laws”. The use of divine sanction and the deliberate presentation of a scenario where the gods are shown in plays etc. to hate given kinds of behavior is, indeed, a powerful one. But, in this case, it is also misguided and wrong.
What was essentially wrong with what Rodemeyer was asserting? Encouraging social stability through promoting stable long term relationships is surely a healthy thing for society. Giving gay kids the same hopes and dreams that their straight companions have in terms of marrying can only be a good thing. It is telling that the only thing his opponents could say to him was “it’s disgusting and against the bible”, is that really the summing up of their intellectual capacity? The fact that you find an action disgusting is no reason it should be banned for those to who it is life. Unless that action causes harm to others, it really is an irrelevance. As for being “against the bible”, so was the abolition of slavery and nobody can deny that the world has improved a lot since then. So is this really the way of the world? Weak arguments to be followed by a campaign of verbal harassment and bullying? Is this really the best mankind can offer? And on this high altar the lives of two beautiful, brave little souls were sacrificed, with more to come?
I recently watched a number of films by the director Terrance Davies where he documented his own school life being bullied for his sexuality. On the commentary he says he still bears the scars and feels nothing but hatred towards a named ringleader. This was back in the 1950’s where he was constantly being called a “fruit” and beaten up. He came through it and emerged the other side much stronger and able to make films to document it for eternity. Although he holds that being gay has fucked up his life, he is still around and able to articulate that fact, and this is what makes Rodemeyer and Hubley’s loss even more painful to bear. Lads you got yourselves so caught up in the hurricane, you didn’t live to see the rainbow that followed it. You didn’t live to be able to stand tall and give those bastards the finger from the heights of your possible future achievements.
I cannot claim to know half of what they went through psychologically, I am a coward on the matter and although I knew that my fellow schoolboys were the subjects of my fantasies I kept myself to myself and was left alone. Indeed I don’t recall there being any out gay people at my school at all. I still tend to avoid the company of others,though, if I can help it. Not through shame, but simply because I find the prospect of being told I cannot marry by people who cannot distinguish a Giotto from a Giacometti profoundly depressing and wish to avoid putting myself in that position. The Historian and Poet A.L Rowse wrote “Knowing humans is a waste of time” and I have yet to find, beyond notable exceptions, any reason for disagreeing with that statement. However I know the pain they went through and write about, it sits like a bubble in your chest, the size of a golf ball. Sometimes it erupts into tears as it expresses itself but often it just sits like a benign tumour of which only you are aware. I’ve lived with mine for many years (perhaps since adolescence) and may even call it Simon. The mark of Sodom?
As for the grieving process itself? I’m now more angry than weepy and although “Simon” still erupts when I think of these two lads, I am starting to slowly master him again. Catharsis has also led to the black humour side of me emerging to deal with it, though tasteless stuff about school “suspensions”, hanging around etc. are the product of a coping mechanism which pale into the sordid crap they are the moment I look into Rodemeyer’s sweet little face and wonder why such a beautiful little butterfly should have had to have had its wings torn off and then endure being stamped on by human filth.
Hubley was also the victim of unrequited love, as indeed was I, so we have at least one connection. I can understand why he was ridden with despair over that and how, on top of the bullying, it would have proven too much for his shoulders at the time. But, fella, think of the depth of art that experience could have bought out in you. Yes, it hurts like fuck to realize that the person you would give your whole being for thinks your a jerk and wants nothing to do with you, but out of that experience can come depth and beauty. Oh lad, we will never hear you sing in a way informed by that experience. That is a real tragedy.
But, fellas, you have both inspired me to make a difference and I am even now fighting on Youtube against the bigots and hypocrites who forced you to take such a wrong path. I, for one, am going to make sure that the people who hated on you are seen to be the real losers. I am sorry that we never met, but I hope that you have met each other. I also sense that the time is coming when I shall have to let you go onwards and return to my own affairs as there is really no more I can do for either of you except mourn your loss.
Rest in peace, little monsters, rest in peace. Paws up forever.