Tulare County is located in the vast Central Valley of California, is the nation’s #1 dairy producer, and ranks consistently #2 or #3 in overall agricultural production in the United States. Visalia, the county seat, was also the home of EricJames Borges, a 19 year old gay man whose suicide garnered attention worldwide in January, 2012.
Another gay teen has taken his own life after enduring years of bullying. Rafael Morelos, 14, hanged himself January 29, 2012, in Cashmere, Washington.
His middle school principle, Rob Cline, told the Wenatchee World that there was no ongoing investigation about bullying at the school. He said that Rafael had, earlier in the school year, reported one incidence of being bullied but “we took care of that. We investigated and took appropriate action.”
The Wenatchee World also reports that the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office is the investigating agency, and determined that it was a suicide and there was no foul play involved.
“You’re the first one who ever indicated to me that he had been bullied,” said Sheriff Brian Burnett in a phone interview Saturday.
At his chosen family memorial, Jennifer McGuire, the “Mama Badger” who took Eric into her home after he was kicked out of his parent’s, gave this moving eulogy. The crowd was in tears as it rose to its feet in applause at the end.
“As he wrote in his note to me, “Oh God, where do I begin?” I know there are people who knew him longer and there are people who may have known him better, but over the last year, and especially the last three months we lived together, EricJames was My Boy, and my heart is broken.
And I will never get over this, but We will get through it.
As much as I would love everything I say today to be cutesy antidotes and sappy remembrances, and there will be those, don’t worry, but there are also some things I need to make sure are said, said out loud, said for him, for all of us.
The site Gay USA has posted excerpts from the notes left by EricJames. (Suicide claims another LGBT youth: Eric James Borges, 19) In them, he requests that $500 go to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, $500 to the Trevor Project, and $521.56 to the Human Rights Campaign.
Also posted at the site are excerpts from the eulogies given by William “Van” Vanlandingham, and the woman who took him in after he was kicked out of his home by his parents, Jennifer McGuire.
McGuire pulled no punches in her eulogy.
“I am not going to avoid the elephant in the room. He tells his story better than any of us could in his short film and “It Gets Better” video, but I need it to be spoken out loud – and said for him… his parents tortured him – there is no other word to describe it. What he shared in his video was the tip of the iceberg, and that’s only compared with what he shared with me, and I am sure there was more.
His parents tortured him by not protecting him from the extensive bullying. His parents tortured him through their relentless, extremist religious teachings. His parents tortured him with shame and intolerance and emotional and physical abuse that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. And yes, I blame them, and not just a little, but for a majority percentage… His parents killed him.”
Full story at Gay USA.
Many sequels are simply the same story, repeated. Let’s change the sequel when it comes to bullying and suicide.
Help us to stop bullying and prevent suicide by taking the ElevenEleven Challenge to promote equality for all. Post these four lines on the 11th day of every month: Our human rights are not HUMAN, Our civil rights are not CIVIL, Our equal rights are not EQUAL, We have the power to CHANGE THE SEQUEL!
Long before I began my intimate relationship with the LGBTQ community, before my son came out as gay, when my two kids were small children, I took my boys to see a Broadway Show in NYC while their mother did something else with a friend. The show, written by Steven Sondheim was “Into the Woods” Its a retelling of classic Fairy Tales but with unexpected outcomes showing that sometimes there is no “Happily Ever After” after all. That show has been haunting me for days. Specifically one song, “Children Will Listen” The words I keep hearing over and over in my head are
How do you say to your child in the night?
Nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white.
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen
The death of a young man, barley more than a child, this week past makes me acutely aware that children will indeed listen. They listen to messages of hate and messages which set them apart as being different, damaged, or sick. These messages are delivered by people who ostensibly love them, and yet, they hurt deeply. These messages are given to impressionable youth on both side of the spectrum, however: the ones who will be ostracized and those who will ostracize. It is time for all of us to look deeply into ourselves and filter messages that can harm. Because, children will listen and we want them to hear the right message, not the wrong one.
Reprinted with permission.
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Two memorial services are planned for EricJames, who succumbed to suicide Wednesday, January 11, in Visalia, California.
EricJames, as he was known to his friends, was 19, and his death has struck a chord world-wide. News sites and blogs around the world have carried the report, with people writing how the news has touched them with sadness, and has strengthened their convictions to work harder on suicide prevention, and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people of all ages.
Two public memorials are planned:
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
The Spiritual Awareness Center 117 S. Locust St.,
*** Due to capacity considerations, please note the change in location***
Sat 1/21, 1 – 2:30p, Lamp Liter Inn, 3300 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia, CA, map
For those that have asked what they can do to help: we are asking everyone to bring oragami cranes to the service as a sign of love and hope. There is a restaurant at the inn, but we will not be able to do food service at the event. We will be accepting donations to the EricJames Borges Memorial Scholarship to be administered through the Visalia Pride Lions Club. Cards & flowers can be brought to the service. Love & peace to all during this difficult time.
Please join us for this day of remembrance. All are welcome. We are hoping to provide a time and space for love, acceptance and memories. Service to provide unconditional love and support for friends, family, and community members. For additional information, please contact me or Van.
Please help us get the word out regarding the venue change!
Visalia 1:00 pm Facebook event page, here.
CHICAGO — Suicide attempts by gay teens – and even straight kids – are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found.
Those factors raised the odds and were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, said study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher.
His study found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among kids who weren’t bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.
Full article at HuffPost.