Friday night, my wife wrote a letter to “vehemently” oppose HB1153, a bill that would support children who bully anyone not protected by current human rights law, as long as they bully their victims for religious or political reasons. She sent the letter to all members of the Tennessee House and Senate. The next morning, she received a response from Tennessee State Representative John Ragan that sounded as if it had been taken straight from Hitler’s playbook. I am not exaggerating, even a little, and invite you to go here and read for yourself.
I cried as she read me the message. I thought I would throw up. His final point literally took my breath away:
“Examining another statistic, it has been well known for a decade that suicide is attempted much more frequently in the homosexual community than in the heterosexual community (Mathy, Cochran, Olsen, & Mays, 2009). This same source pointed out that, on average, suicide is approximately three times more likely among homosexuals than heterosexuals.
“As a fitting critical thought question, it could be asked if other identifiable groups that engage in behavior of which ‘others may disapprove’ commit suicide at similar rates? In other words, do prostitutes, pedophiles, polygamists, murders, etc., commit suicide at the same, or similar, rates to homosexual behavior practitioners? If similar rates were hypothetically so (not proven to be the case), do these behavior practitioners commit suicide at a higher rate because someone may have disapproved of their behavior or for other reasons? Should society avoid disapproving of pedophilia, prostitution, murder, etc., because practitioners of those behaviors may commit suicide at higher rates?”
There were a thousand things that needed to be said, dozens of wrongs that needed to be made right, and rather heavily weighed the reality that changing his “beliefs” is beyond our control. Stunned. Speechless. For a moment, my wife just sat there, rereading parts and shaking her head, while I wept a bit more. Right there in our hands was a single email that represents the entire disaster which is homophobia today. That moment was bigger than this man and the two of us. That is “the problem.”
Eventually, I said, “I guess it’s time to start that equality blog we’ve been talking about for two years.” Just a few hours later, before we could even get the thing up and running, we learned that another gay kid was dead.
Phillip Parker, age 14, of Gordonsville, Tennessee, killed himself last Thursday, just one day before my wife wrote her letter to the political leaders of our state with her concerns about homophobic bullying in our schools. Just a month ago, another young man named Jacob Rogers (age 18, of Ashland City, Tennessee) took his own life. Both Phillip and Jacob were openly gay and both of them were bullied in Tennessee public schools because of it.