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Sunday, September 25, 2011

IT GET'S BETTER: ¿WHEN?






Four months ago, Jamey Rodemeyer of
Williamsville, NY, made an “It Gets
Better” video
, usually something done by self-actualized LGBT adults
who are happy with how they’ve turned out. But Rodemeyer was just 14 and in his
video he admits his schoolmates often called him a “faggot” and that anonymous
users had been posting vicious comments on his Formspring account—hateful
messages including “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!,” and “I
wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make
everyone WAY more happier!”









At one point Rodemeyer looks into the
camera and says, “I just wanna tell you that it does get better because”—then
he looks away and continues—”when I came out for being bi, I got so much
support from my friends and it made me feel so secure.”





Near the end of his video, he
repeats, “It gets better” for the third time before adding, 

“Look at me. I went
to the Monster’s Ball and now I’m liberated. So, it gets better.” 




The young
Gaga fan then makes a heart shape with his hands and the recording ends.



He uploaded the video on May 4. This past Sunday, he hung
himself
 in front of his parent’s house.





In the month leading up to his
suicide, Rodemeyer became a prolific
Tumblr poster
, regularly uploading images of Lady Gaga alongside the
occasional image of muscle-bound jocks. But there were signs he was suffering:
On September 8, he posted, “No one in my school cares about preventing suicide,
while you’re the ones calling me ‘faggot’ and tearing me down” and he put up a
separate post letting everyone know it was National Suicide Prevention Week.





The next day, he blogged,
“I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so
people will listen to me?” He followed it up with lyrics to the song “The Loss” by
Hollywood Undead:





I just
wanna say good bye, disappear with no one knowing
I don’t wanna live this lie, smiling to the world unknowing
I dont want you to try, you’ve done enough to keep me going
I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine for the very last time





On Saturday night, he posted a lyric
from Lady Gaga’s “The Queen” on his
Facebook page:





“Don’t forget me when I come crying
to heaven’s door.”





Then he hung himself. He had just
started as a freshman in Williamsville North High School.








DEAR ANDERSON COOPER: ¿WHO'S KEEPING YOU HONEST?









Through the windows
of the set, I can see flocks of birds flying over the backdrop of Central Park,
and their freedom seems a tragic juxtaposition against yours. You suddenly seem
to me a man who’s trapped – caged in that metal-and-glass backed set
overlooking Columbus Circle, frantically running up into the audience for one
last question that was actually just a gift: a ragged-looking woman in gold
pleather gives you a rosary and a plastic vial of holy water – the significance
of which no one seems quite able, or willing, to grasp. I don’t know what you
made of the present – was it her effort to save you from a certain unnamed
lifestyle? A simple, genuine gift of faith? A public push to accept Jesus
Christ as your one and only savior? You received it graciously before literally
running off the set with a wave, on to save the world in more important arenas
perhaps.







When I return home
that night, I turn on your AC360 show on CNN, where you are more formal in
jacket and tie. You open by reporting on another suicide due to bullying – a
14-year-old child has killed himself after being bullied for his sexuality. It
is not the first time you have drawn worthy attention to the issue, even if
means being ridiculously perceived as pushing a “gay agenda” – and that’s
admirable of you – but it’s not enough.





You talk of the
loneliness and desperation and how heartbreaking it is. You showed the video
that the boy – Jamey Rodemeyer – made for the ‘It Gets Better’ project – and I
wait for some flicker of whether this is personal to you. There are some things
that only another gay person who has been through that fear can understand and
access. Is that you? Are you one of us?









How sad that this
dead child – this 14-year-old boy who was brave enough to be himself at such
young age, to put his life in danger and ultimately take it himself – has done
more for gay youth than you have done. Make no mistake, you have done a lot in
your own way – just not that one final admittance of truth, that one simple act
that might make all the difference.





Dear Anderson Cooper
– You don’t know me, and while I knew of you, I had never seen any of your work
prior to your viral giggling fit, which, I’ll admit, won me over. (For that
silly reason alone, I got tickets to see your talk show.) I’m more aware of you
from your cat-and-mouse game of dodging the gay question – which is entirely
your right to do, but after seeing your show in person yesterday, I think it
might behoove you to come out – if only for your own happiness.





I read somewhere
that I wasn’t supposed to give anything away about the show before it aired,
but since the topic was of no interest to me, I’m not going to reveal anything
about that or who might have been on it (I didn’t know them anyway). Having
never attended any other talk shows, I don’t really know how they work, but I
got the distinct impression that you didn’t really want to be there. Much of
the time you were short, quick, and almost testy with the crew. You seemed to
be going through the motions, and there was an unhappiness and complete lack of
joy in what you were doing, which begs the question: Why?





I get the feeling
that you’re trying to be both things at once – the serious, hard news reporter,
as well as the likable, friendly, my-life-is-an-open-Oprah-book-of-the-month
talk show host – and you can’t really do that successfully – at least, you’re
not doing it yet, and I wonder at the reason for it. Any sort of reticence to
get personal or revelatory will be seen as disingenuous. The fact that you just
showed an episode of yourself crying and discussing your brother’s suicide with
your Mom shows that you can get personal and still maintain a
professional stance, so your reluctance to address your sexuality is a sticking
point with me, played out almost comically as Britney Spears blasts over the
studio speakers and the seats fill with middle-aged women and young gay men.
There’s no nobility in cowering behind the reporter’s visage, not when you have
a talk show on which you’re revealing the personal side of your life.





You continue to
publicly crusade against bullying, yet your very act of playing it coy and
private with your own sexuality doesn’t seem to be saying that it’s okay for
young people to be gay or for their mothers (who adore you) to embrace them.
I’ve seen those mothers gush over you on FaceBook and Twitter and now in your
own studio, and I know the power you have.




Maybe you’re afraid
to offend and lose viewers. Maybe you honestly feel it is none of anyone’s
business and it shouldn’t make a difference. And maybe you’re right on all points
– but if there’s the slightest chance that it might help someone, why wouldn’t
you do it?






When I was a kid
growing up in the 80’s, my only gay idols were Liberace and Rock Hudson. While
the former enticed with his glittery extravagance and the latter had lots of
luminous lady co-stars, in the end they were two sad, scared souls who had to
hide from the world and die more or less alone. That’s all I had to look up to.
In a People magazine story on Liberace, I searched for a sign
of recognition, desperate to discover whether that would one day be me. Was the
only way through a life like theirs an early death of secrecy and disease? It
would be another decade before I could even face the fact that I was gay.





Far more resonant
than “Stop the bullying” or “It Gets Better” would have been the intrinsic
message of solidarity and acknowledgement in a hero’s proclamation of “I am
like you”. That would have done more to drive away the loneliness I felt than
any sort of pat on the back or other protection would have engendered. By
leaving us without that, you fail in all your other efforts.





If I’d only seen
someone like you – someone successful, someone I admired – living openly as a
gay man – how much heartache and loneliness would that have prevented? How many
other kids might be saved, if not from death then possibly from pain? Why wouldn’t you
come out to help just one person, or save just one life? Knowing the hurt and
anguish that a single extinguished soul can leave, why wouldn’t you take that
chance?














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