Jamie Hubley didn't have to die. The 15-year-old gay teen from Ottawa took his own life this past Friday, seemingly unable to cope with the depression and isolation he felt as a gay teen. Tragically, he never had the chance to experience what so many of us LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Canadians do everyday - that it gets better.
The It Gets Better Project is a remarkable creation by Dan Savage, the American author and columnist. It's a network of 25,000 user-generated YouTube videos offering support and encouragement to LGBT teens, like Jamie, having a tough time hanging on. Its message is simple: It Gets Better. The project's genesis came as a result of suicides in the U.S. among gay teens who could no longer cope with bullying and isolation.
Unfortunately, with Jamie's suicide, we can now add a Canadian connection.
Before we have another case like Jamie Hubley's on our hands, it's time to take a stand. It's time for Canada to stand up loud and proud and say, "It Gets Better."
When you search through the It Gets Better videos you come across an inspiring mix. There's Jaeger Rydall, the Central Washington University community, the staff at Facebook, Google, Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and Stephen Colbert.
Anti-gay bullying is a problem and no young person struggling with issues surrounding sexuality should have to put up with the added burden of ignorant losers making matters worse. Almost as troubling however, is that in Canada we have some government representatives who won't vocally stand up for this segment of vulnerable youth by making this video.
Where is Prime Minister Harper's message that it gets better? When will all members of the House of Commons, government or opposition, gay or straight, stand up for Canadian values? When will they say it gets better?
Canada is a wonderful country to be gay in. I should know. Last year I spent nine months back in the closet while living in The Gambia, a West African country where homosexual activity can get you 14 years in prison. It was terrible and I was reminded how wonderful our country is. I'm proud that we were one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage. I'm proud that Toronto's Gay Pride draws people from around the world to celebrate in a manner that they can't in their own communities. I love that I can be who I am and love who I love and nobody cares.
Well, almost nobody.
In some high schools, teens are pressured not to "be gay." The highest insult is to be called a fag.
Shortly before taking his life, Jamie Hubley posted on his blog, "I hit rock fucking bottom, fell through a crack, now I'm stuck."
Others like Jamie are out there, stuck. As a community, we need to pull them up and let them know that it gets better. They have to know that there's light at the end of the tunnel. They need a role model, a leader, like President Obama, who told American youths, "You are not alone, you didn't do anything wrong," Vice President Biden who said, "I'm proud of you," or Hillary Clinton who reminded them, "Your life is so important."
In an earlier blog post Jamie wrote, "I hate being the only open gay guy in my school... It fucking sucks, I really want to end it. Like all of it."
Our communities and our country cannot tolerate this. I don't believe that Prime Minister Harper, his cabinet, the Conservative party or other members of Parliament are anti-gay. But I think their silence is deafening.
One of Jamie's friend's lamented, "I think he wanted someone to love him for who he was."
Thanks to Dan Savage and 25,000 others, an international community including many Canadians, has formed to remind all the other Jamies out there that they are loved for who they are. I only wish that our political leaders had the same courage and compassion. All it takes is three words.
Are you in crisis? Need help? Find links and numbers to 24-hour suicide crisis lines in your province here.