Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There Was A Boy: The Latest Suicide Negates Tony Perkins' Credibility

 "There's no correlation between inacceptance of homosexuality and depression and suicide." 

- Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council

Joseph Jefferson was a gay activist who graduated from from New York City's Harvey Milk High School. He was a mentor and advocate for gay teen youth. His worked included GMAD - Gay Men of African Descent; POCC - People of Color in Crisis; and,  he helped to promote LGBT events for the NYC area. 

Joseph Jefferson committed suicide by hanging himself this past weekend. He was 26 years old.

The Christian Right has been trying to distance itself from the recent spate of gay teen suicides. And in their hurry to negate any thoughts of responsibility, their logic falls apart. The above statement by Tony Perkins of Family Research Council is, of course, ludicrous: EVERYONE knows that the demonizing of gays by religion has been a primary cause of teen suicides. But what makes Perkins' statement so immensely disingenuous is that he knows it. He even gets in a little demonizing by saying that teen suicides occur because they "know" they are "abnormal."

"These young people who identify as gay or lesbian, we know from the social science that they have a higher propensity to depression or suicide because of that internal conflict." 
And who helps that propensity along? Encourages it, in fact.  Think about it.


Although Joseph Jefferson was 26 years old, his last heart-breaking statements to his friends on Facebook shared the same thoughts of gay teens everywhere:
“I could not bear the burden of living as a gay man of color in a world grown cold and hateful towards those of us who live and love differently than the so-called ’social mainstream.’ Belonging is one of the basic human needs, when people feel isolated and excluded from a sense of communion with others, they suffer.

“I have been an advocate for my peers and most importantly youth because most have never had a deep emotional attachment to anyone. They don’t know how to love and be loved in return. The need to be loved can sometimes translate to the need to belong to someone or something. Driven by that need….. Most will do anything to belong.” 

"...To love and be loved in return." Yes, I got that too. Nat King Cole. "There was a boy..." Jefferson's words resonate with beauty and desperation: here was a man who was trying to help African-American gay youth to see that there was hope, even though he never really found that hope himself. He was like some person trapped in a burning house, screaming for everyone else to save themselves. Perhaps his desolation came from two sources: the Christian Right and the African-American community. Perhaps the hypocrisy was too great for him to bear after the Bishop Eddie Long scandal came out: he may have thought "Perhaps they're just out there to use us and abuse us."  

Many people in the Christian Right live in a love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin fantasy world, so much so that they almost believe it. Almost. For down deep in their minds, hearts and souls is the knowledge that to most people sin and sinner are rarely separated, and loving the sinner in spite of the sin takes too much effort, too much courage. Hate is so much easier. Jesus Christ knew that when he told people to "love thine enemy. Be good to those who despise you." At the time of Roman occupation, loving the enemy was unthinkable., it was insane, it was treason.

The defense of Tony Perkins is totally unsustainable. the Christian Right's culpability in gay suicides is overwhelmingly obvious: Joseph Jefferson took his own life because Tony & Friends made life unbearable for him, because hypocrites like Bishop Eddie Long humiliated him, and because he could no longer stand the onslaught of hatred coming from a supposedly "Christian Nation."

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy
And sad of eye
But very wise
Was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return"