For Many Gay Youth, Bullying Exacts a Deadly Toll

A series of suicides involving bullied gay teens has shocked much of America this past month. On Sept. 9, 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Greenburg, Ind., hanged himself after enduring constant taunts from bullies at school. Two weeks later, 13-year-old Asher Brown from suburban Houston shot himself soon after revealing he was gay. And on Sept. 27, another 13-year-old, Seth Walsh of Techachapi, Calif., died after injuries sustained from hanging himself. He too, had endured "relentless" bullying from other kids, according to The New York Times.

One more death the Sept. 22 suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi catapulted these and other suicides of young gay teens into the media spotlight. Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, allegedly broadcast surreptitious video footage over the Internet of Clementi in an intimate encounter with a young man. Last week, Clementi left a message on his Facebook page: "Jumping off bridge sorry," and then did just that. Cases like these are far from rare, and "this may be the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. David Reitman, chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender and Questioning Special Interest Group, part of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

In a statement, he said "the tragic outcome in these cases underscores the profound consequences that bullying and harassment can have on a young person." Of course any child, gay or straight, can become victims of bullying, as the much-publicized suicide in January of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Mass., showed all too tragically. She had withstood months of bullying from schoolmates after moving from Ireland. But experts say adolescence renders young people especially vulnerable to harassment, and the difficulties of grappling with sexuality can complicate that further.
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