I was heartbroken at this fact just as I would be heartbroken with anyone's suicide. Nonetheless, gay and lesbian suicides hit a bit closer to home because I personally consider myself a survivor. In my high school years I had personally never been bullied for being gay, however, the stigma still existed and the vibe that gays and lesbians weren't as good as heterosexuals was thick. After I left high school I became actively involved in my Gay Straight Alliance and the very day I had taken over presidency, I had read that Lance Lundsten had committed suicide, his classmates overwhelmingly concurred that bullying was a primary factor. Though news reports have varied on the exact causes of death. I cried that evening like I had known Lance Lundsten personally and sought counseling the next day to cope with the mourning process. The conclusion I came to after speaking with friends and family was that I cried because I felt guilty for making it through those tough and difficult years as a teenager. I had survived and Lance as well as so many others will not.
This pattern is part of a larger epidemic. There lies this absurd idea in the eyes of radical and bigoted politicians that legislation does not effect how people live their daily lives. I have met with one, who like Michele Bachmann, are indirectly tied to the suicides of many LGBT's. Here is a hit list directly linked to Michele Bachmann's district. 9 students in Michele Bachmann's district commit suicide. I tweet Michele Bachmann whenever I feel the need to expose her for who she is. "@MicheleBachmann You have devised political ways to make people want to kill themselves. dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2… It's that simple. #LGBT"
I interviewed Alanna Strong a sixteen year old Junior from Parker Colorado for more insight to a student in her high school who recently committed suicide. This girl's name I have decided to keep anonymous. The high school contains about 1,500 - 2,000 students leaving about 200 students in each class. Alanna was relentlessly apologetic over the phone the first time I spoke with her for tweeting aimlessly about this student's suicide. She and others felt it strongly in their hearts that this suicide was directly linked to the girl's sexuality and her constant bullying. Let Alanna's voice be the difference for the thousands of LGBT bullying related suicides that aren't caught by the national media.
Jacob Woods - When and why did you decide to become pro-equality?
Alanna Strong - "There was no specific date. I always thought it was second nature that you should treat everyone equally. I didn’t like seeing people being treated poorly. When I see about it or hear about I get really upset."
Jacob Woods - How have your family and friends taken your firm standing positions as an ally to the LGBT community?
Alanna Strong - "My entire family is conservative Christian. They are still coming to understand my stance on it. My friends have been indifferent."
Jacob Woods - Do you plan on continuing your activism into college?
Alanna Strong - "Yah. Definitely. I hope to make it a large part of my life."
When an LGBT Commits Suicide
Jacob Woods - How did you find out about the suicide of your classmate?
Alanna Strong - "Unfortunately I had not gone to school that day. I was just on Facebook when I just saw classmates' statuses as rest in peace on her profile. There was this weird feeling because I knew she was part of the LGBT community. I started explaining to my dad who was sitting on the couch watching TV and he did not really listen. It was completely random and unexpected. I asked someone else and they confirmed that she had taken her life."
Jacob Woods - What was the reaction of your classmates around you?
Alanna Strong - "Most people who didn’t know her mourned shortly but continued on. Of course they were sympathetic to those around her who had known her. Those who have known her were devastated. I am pretty sure no one saw it coming unfortunately. From posts on Facebook, people keep saying how inspiring she was. And the more I read the more I don’t understand her motives."
Jacob Woods - How long has school been back in session this year?
Alanna Strong - "Three weeks."
Jacob Woods - What do you think brought her to commit suicide? Multiple factors or do you think there was a primary factor?
Alanna Strong - "I think there were multiple factors. At this point no one could really know her main motive. It is believed that bullying was partially a factor because many classmates have witnessed her bullied. The fact that she had a terrible family environment could have played into it too. When she was interviewed by the school news paper last year, she said that when she came out her mom had called her a fag and dyke. It could have been a lot of things, stress from starting school. . . And another could be that she was acting so strong for so long and she would shake all the bad off and be proud of who she was. And there is a point when being strong can only last so long before a person breaks."
Jacob Woods - You mentioned that this student was bullied, how often did this happen and how far did it go? Any specific incidents?
Alanna Strong - "Most the time it was indirect. It was behind her back talking with other people. I don’t think a lot of it was to her face, but it would get around to her. Some people had witnessed her being put down by others. People calling her a fag. I did not personally witness it, but I heard people talking about it."
Jacob Woods - Did anyone ever step in to help her while she was bullied or after her bullying? Did she have a strong social support group?
Alanna Strong - "No one really stepped in as far as I know. People would over hear it and just let it go. As far as the social support group, she was really strong independently. She had support from her friends. But they would try to help her out after any bullying had happened. She was someone who was strong and proud of who she was."
Jacob Woods - How many other students felt that this suicide was related to the bullying and the rejection of the student's sexual orientation?
"A lot of people in the student body feel that this was a result of bullying and non-acceptance. A lot of people also feel it might have been motivated by her tough home environment as well."
Jacob Woods - What brought you to reach out to the online LGBT community after hearing about her suicide?
Alanna Strong - "The fact that there were a lot of support groups there. I knew there was a lot of support online. I had watched on Ellen DeGeneres a video she had made specifically for gay suicide. I was thinking about all the people I follow and those who follow me. I was wondering how many of these suicides go unheard. It didn’t feel like anyone around me would care as much as I did about what had happened. Others just moved on with their lives after after acknowledging the sadness of the tradgedy."
Jacob Woods - Do you feel that your school needs specific LGBT anti-bullying rules or do you feel that the rules against bullying are sufficient enough and are enforced sufficiently?
Alanna Strong - "We only have two. . . wait and now one out student at our school. Our town is very conservative and close knit. Not many people associate our school with bullying. We had a teacher pass away back in March, and we think of our school as a family. When it comes to bullying it is not seen a drastic problem. Bullying happens for example, just for being involved in theatre. A friend of mine gets called a fag just for being involved. And he isn't even gay. Bullying is just looked over in general."
Jacob Woods - What do you think you and others can do to help to prevent this type of tragedy in the future?
Alanna Strong - "I think just opening people's eyes to the fact that words hurt. That sounds cliché, but it is so true. I think standing up for people instead of just standing and watching others making fun of others is way better than just blowing it by."
Jacob Woods - Do you think this tragedy has made the issue of bullying "more real" for you and your classmates?
Alanna Strong - "I think a little bit it has. Actually a lot. I know that people are starting to be a little more sensitive. They are watching their words. I don’t think that it has one hundred percent clicked yet. This is really the first suicide we have had to deal with locally. It hasn’t impacted the town as much as the school, but it's just the shock factor of it."
Jacob Woods - What do you plan on doing next in regards to this tragedy?
Alanna Strong - "I really like standing firm for treating people equally. I want to stand up for others and speak out even when I might be ridiculed for it. I'm not going to be afraid of what people can do but I will stand up for other people."
Alanna Strong mentioned that she would be attending her classmates funeral and that she is very thankful that someone was willing to openly talk to her about it. She is very thankful for the online LGBT community and that she was able to reach out and take on this interview. I am very grateful as well. This can not go on! No bullying is to be tolerated and no one should feel that ending their lives is a proper way to problem solve.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide as a LGBT teen or otherwise, please remember that It Gets Better and to contact the Trevor Project.