By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
BOSTON, MA-On October 5 at the Massachusetts State House in Boston, a vigil was held to draw attention to the recent string of gay teen suicides.
The event, which was attended by several hundred people, was organized by Join the Impact MA. Join the Impact MA is a local grassroots organization which was created following the passage of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. The group has confronted a variety of issues over the past 2 years, with the ex-gay movement a particular target for its promotion of negative attitudes about homosexuality.
A total of ten lives have ended as a result of homophobia and anti-gay bullying, a longtime problem which has taken the spotlight over the past month.
The lives lost include: Justin Aaberg (15), Minnesota, Billy Lucas (15) Indiana, Cody J. Barker (17) Wisconsin, Seth Walsh (13) California, Tyler Clementi (18) New Jersey, Asher Brown (13) Texas, Harrison Chase Brown (15), Colorado, Raymond Chase (19) Rhode Island, Felix Sacco (17) Massachusetts, and Caleb Nolt (14) Indiana.
Emcee David Mailloux, Co-Chair of Join the Impact MA, led the crowd in a sing-a-long of Christina Aguilera’s anthem Beautiful. The Rev. Jack Lewis of the Unitarian-Universalist Society of Wellesley declared that no LGBT person need feel alone – “we’ve come together in unity in response to the hatred against us and we need to watch each other’s backs.”
Gunner Scott of the _Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition_ condemned the lack of legal protection for transgender youth in Massachusetts, and introduced two trans youth who told personal stories of being bullied and beaten for their gender identity.
Keegan O’Brien, a student at UMass/Boston, told the crowd that LGBTs can have an impact by protesting, marching, sitting-in, and chaining ourselves to the White House fence. An open microphone speak-out followed, in which individuals were invited to share personal stories of surviving homophobia and bullying.
Many of the speakers expressed their frustration with a lack of progress on LGBT civil rights at the federal level, such as the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service, and failure to pass ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act).
“The bullying stems from ignorance and homophobia,” Mailloux said. “The homophobia stems from the lack of legislation that protects the LGBT community.”
Several speakers demanded action on federal anti-bullying legislation to augment the state protections enacted in Massachusetts earlier this year. Sue Hyde of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Mass Equality noted that the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth made recommendations 16 years ago to create safer schools for LGBT youth in Massachusetts, and yet Carl Walker-Hoover (Springfield, Mass.) killed himself in 2009 after being bullied.
Mailloux said Join the Impact will be collaborating with other organizations, including Queer Women of Color and Allies and BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth).
“We realize that something definitely needed to be done about bullying and how could we reach out more to the youth in our community,” Mailloux said. “The conversation is most definitely going to continue.”