Friday, November 12, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... Is Teenage Suicide A Fashion Statement?

By Tim Trent (Dartmouth, England) NOV 12 | I've had it put to me that news of suicide encourages suicide. So news of teenagers choosing to die instead of to live is said to encourage others to do the same.
That's pretty scary.
I'm not a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, not a doctor. I'm a man, a gay man, a father, and a gay teenager who considered suicide. I speak for myself.
I can see why, if you dye your hair green, I might want to do the same. We make a statement about green hair and we live to see the results. News about green hair will set a trend, and we will make a fashion statement.
I can see why the cult of Emo is attractive. I like the clothing, the makeup and the freer emotional expression. I like to think, parents notwithstanding, I'd have been an emo kid. I do find it strange when people link self harming with emo kids. I suspect it's because some kids self harm, some kids are emo kids and some emo kids self harm that those among us who are not the brightest have decided that all emo kids self harm.
I saw two Goths on Reading station some years ago. Black hair, pale makeup, black clothing, intense eye shadow, Goth footwear (I love the extreme boots!). He presented her with a bunch of blood red roses and told her he loved her. She melted into his arms. Yet Goths have a very different media reputation.
It's been suggested both that the same number, broadly, of teens kill themselves each year, and that a substantial increase has happened in the number. If statistics are held, and especially if figures are available for those who choose to die after bullycide, we could know the truth. All we have so far is supposition and such common sense as we possess.
Of course, Brandon Bitner, the latest young man who chose to die because of bullying for his assumed sexual orientation, was an emo kid. I hope that isn't seen as disparaging, I don't intend it to be. Nor do I intend anything disparaging when I say that as an emo he was a follower of fashion. But I think all well adjusted people who are not suffering extreme bullying stop before they walk 13 miles to leap in front of a large truck.
In other words, something made him, made all these kids, will make more kids into people who are not, at least at that moment, well adjusted. I don't think anyone will disagree with me that those in the prime of life, however harsh their environment, do not kill themselves unless unbalanced in some manner. And you do not catch that from media reports of teenage suicides.
The reverse, though, that is, I feel, true.
Dan Savage surprised himself, so I have heard, when his Youtube channel was deluged with folk like you and me who recorded videos in support of the simple message 'It Gets Better'. Intuitively we know something about the immense wave of publicity that has come and is continuing. We know that it can only do good.
And we know that we cannot save them all.
Some kids will still decide to die. Brandon did.
And we will never know, not in any quantifiable way, whether It Gets Better has saved even one child. And believe me, if it saves only one then that's fine by me. That's one child who will live to make a contribution to the world.
And yet we know, especially because the majority of the videos are from you, and me, and him, and her, and because some folk in them are spotty, or wrinkled, or ugly, or have a wart on their nose, we know precisely because of the huge range of imperfect video skills we show when we record them, that there is a kid, somewhere, who will see one of those videos and identify with it. And will maybe wait another day, another week, who will find a trusted adult to help. Or who will find enough strength of mind not to succumb to the bullies, to the Clint McCances or that sordid little black preacher man in New York.
We don't even mind videos by Gap, Google, and other corporations who kind of look as if they are jumping on a PR bandwagon too much, but we know for sure that no suicidal kid will identify with those squeaky clean products of the PR department. We do like the Barack Obama one because, actually, we see he was a misfit, too, though he never refers to the bullying that mixed race folk receive.
We need, to paraphrase a friend in New Zealand, to show that, while growing through puberty and school can be one hell of a tough time for any kid who is different, life gets os much better. And it gets better once we are allowed to take control and make our own decisions. And we need so many more of these videos from ordinary people, and we need them in the forefront of the public's mind.
Just supposing suicide is contagious, might the idea of staying alive be more contagious?
Which brings me full circle. Is Teenage Suicide a Fashion Statement?
Only to those who justify the bullying. Only to the Taliban Christians who created the environment in which the bullies can thrive. Only to those who created the appalling putative law in Uganda making homosexuality punishable by death. Only to those fascists who want to control how people think. They glory in Teenage LGBT suicide. They call us abnormal, abominations, perverts and they grind us under their heels, and they see one fewer of us when one of the bullies they empower finally drives some poor kid into the embrace of a noose or a gun or a truck or a bottle of pills.
To teenagers, is Teenage Suicide a Fashion Statement?
Ask some. Ask your own child.
It isn't.