Teens from Wisconsin and California; vigil planned in Philadelphia
By Antoine Craigwell
As if the news wasn’t bad enough, with the five teen suicides from September, one from Ridgewood, New Jersey and an African American from Monticello, NY, that families and the LGBT community mourns the deaths of two additional teenagers who took their lives, but didn’t have the benefit of as much publicity.
According to an Equality Forum press release, 17-year-old Cody Barker of Appleton, WI, and 18-year-old Justin Lacey of Clovis, CA, also took their lives in September. Barker and Lacey, together with 19-year-old Raymond Chase, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, 15-year-old Billy Lucas, and 13-years-old Asher Brown and Seth Walsh; brings to seven teen deaths in one month, and eight with the death of 15-year-old Justin Aaberg in July. Each death occurred following acts of bullying, including cyber-bullying, in educational institutions.
An obituary posted online stated that Lacey, who adopted the name “Chloe Anne” took his life on Sept 24, and was described simply as having left for “a new adventure. He was an artist, naturalist, and selfless giver.” A memorial service “Celebration of Life” was held on Monday, Oct 4.
The Wisconsin Gazette reported that Barker, who took his life on Sept 13, attended Shiocton High School and was active in the choir. The paper said that a month before he participated in a seminar and planned to start a gay/straight alliance at his school. But, ironically, for a religious denomination that normally refuses to holding funeral services for suicide victims, Barker’s funeral was held at St. Denis Roman Catholic Church.
“I am an openly gay young male. I am 22 years old. Being from a small town myself, I can relate to the fight that Cody had with the rest of the world. My best friend and I grew up together gay in a small town. We hope to try and make the world a better place and let young homosexuals around the state and nation [know] that there is hope…even when it seems to far away,” said Luke Ashauer, a former student of Clintonville High School, Clintonville, WI, in the newspapers’ online comments section to the story about Barker.
Malcolm Lazin, executive director, Equality Forum, said in the release, “There is an under-reported homophobic epidemic in our nation. It affects vulnerable teens as they try to navigate adolescence and their sexuality. It is not totally accurate to call their loss a suicide; they were battered by homophobia.”
To protest acts of bullying in schools, Equality Forum has organized a Vigil for Sunday, Oct 10 at the William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The vigil is organized by Equality Forum, William Way Community Center, Attic Youth Center, and 20 other community-base organizations.
“We will mourn these lost souls and have a call to action,” said Lazin. “The six-point call to action includes steps for President Obama, colleges, school boards and educators, federal and state legislatures, and citizens to eliminate homophobia as one of the nation’s most toxic social diseases.”
Among the speakers at the Vigil is expected to be Susan Wheeler, mother of James Wheeler, who took his life after being surrounded in his high school locker room and urinated on.