Tuesday, October 14, 2014

For Jamie

     For the last several decades of my life, October 14th was a day of celebration. It happens to be the birthday of my first girlfriend and mother of my oldest child, someone whom I still count as my oldest and dearest friend. But three years ago today, Jamie Hubley of Kanata, Ontario, Canada changed all that.
     Jamie, as you may or not recall from the pages of this blog, stole a bottle of sleeping pills and did away with himself one Saturday morning while his father, a local politician, was smiling for pictures a short distance away for the dedication of a new field. Jamie's suicide stunned the Canadian community even in a year in which a tragic and alarming number of gay, bi and lesbian teens were doing away with themselves all over North America.
     Jamie was the only openly gay boy in his entire high school and, as with so many other LGBT teens, was the victim of bullying. He was insulted, marginalized, ostracized, stigmatized and made to feel as if he was less than nothing on a nearly daily basis. And, in the end, even this sweet, gorgeous, talented 15 year-old and his loving, supportive family and friends, psychotherapist and access to pharmaceuticals couldn't be saved and he sought and found a permanent solution to what surely was a temporary problem.
     And Jamie Hubley lived in a nation in which gay marriage is legal all over the country. His bullying classmates notwithstanding, Canada overall has a much more tolerant attitude toward their LGBT community than we do here in America.
     And three years is not such a long time except perhaps in the rapid fire give and take of the internet. A quick look at the #JamieHubley hashtag on Twitter reveals that on that giant social network only two people had used the hashtag today: Myself and Jamie's own father. There is something wrong with that, as deeply wrong and intolerable as Jamie's suicide.
     While the Supreme Court's recent decision not to rule on gay marriage one way or the other has led to a floodgate of lower court rulings striking down gay marriage bans from coast to coast (as many as 32 states may have legal same sex marriage by the end of the year, a full two thirds of the US), much work still needs to be done regarding our attitudes about our own LGBT community.
     Obviously, our community has made great strides. When I first came out as bisexual here over fours years ago, only five states plus the District of Columbia had legal gay marriage. Now we're talking dozens and the tide is turning. The trend is irreversible. But court rulings and referendums only do so much. It's the winning over of hearts and minds that counts and where the fight truly begins.
     One problem is the nomenclature and words we use. To me, the very words "homosexual", "heterosexual" and "bisexual" are deeply offensive and limiting and I'll tell you why: It's the insistence on using the suffix "-sexual", as if that one facet of gay or bisexual life completely defines the entire LGBT experience. Obviously, it doesn't. But the common usage of these words (and the rabid homophobic right wing's insistence on and reasons for using "homosexual" instead of the more modern and correct "gay" is all too telling) automatically limits our perceptions as to what it means to be LGBT.
     The very use of the words with the "-sexual" suffix chokes off our perception of the gay or bisexual experience to a sexual one, in which straight people typically recoil when they imagine men or women making love with each other. Sure, sexuality is a part of human existence but only a part. As with everyone else, LGBT people wake up, put on the coffee pot, go to work, make money, pay bills and taxes, go to the dentist, go to school, walk the dog, fall in love, get married (if their state allows it) and even raise families just like everyone else.
     And nobody, I don't care who they are, has the moral authority, nor should they have a legal one, to dictate to any other human being whom they have the right to marry or not marry. You go to the Castro or Fire Island or Provincetown, find a gay couple deliriously in love and happy to be in each other's company then tell them their happiness and joy is the product of a mistake of a lifestyle choice or a phase they'll grow out of and see the reaction you'll get.
     Jamie Hubley felt he was asked for more time than he could give. The idea of enduring three more years of high school and waiting a year for the next local Pride event was more than he could endure contemplating. And Jamie had advantages many other gay youth do not have: He had a solid support network beginning with a loving, supportive family and friends, a doctor, drugs to counter his mood swings. And it still wasn't enough.
     Think of how difficult it is for LGBT youth who don't have those advantages, those who lack Jamie's courage to come out regardless of whether or not anyone comes out with them. A few days ago was National Coming Out Day but we shouldn't reserve a sole day of the year to encourage these tortured kids to come out. We need to redouble, if not triple, our efforts to tell these kids that, yes, it does get better and that a stigmatized past and present is not necessarily a predictor of the future. Jamie, in his pain and immaturity, couldn't see that. But there are so many others we need to save.


At October 19, 2014 at 12:11 AM, Blogger MJ said...

I am surprised to be the first to comment on this - and yet it is such a sad story that I don't know what to say.
Continued condolences to Jamie's family.

At October 19, 2014 at 10:37 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

That's pretty common for P'ville since about 2010. No matter how brilliantly I write and no matter how worthy the topic, 9 out of every 10 posts I write get no commentary. This is largely because I only average about 150 hits a day or less.


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