If a tree falls and no one talks about it…

Just over a week ago a teen in a neighboring community, Corvallis, Or, committed suicide.

The story was brought to my attention by some of my students from that community who explained that this was “another gay suicide.”  Looking into coverage I found that the local news paper had decided to downplay this tragic event for a series of important and thoughtful reasons.  As a result there are virtually no public details about this death.  And therefore there was no way to corroborate the underground rumor. 

And I have to say that as a parent, as a former h.s. teacher, and as an ‘out’ educator, I would not wish the national media spotlight on the family, friends, and educators coping with such a difficult situation.

But I have to wonder as an advocate for educational change and for community accountability how secrecy in these moments operates to perpetuate intolerably hostile conditions in our schools and communities. 

And let me be quick to go on and say that I absolutely  – do –  not – point to Corvallis as any more hostile than the entire culture toward the sexuality of all developing adolescents.  And I am deeply concerned about the cacophony of hostility that is directed at families and even the deceased following these tragic events.

But as a person who came of age during the Reagan era of the AIDS epidemic intentional silence is deeply concerning to me as well….

As always I have no answers.

Just a deep discomfort as I continue puzzling possibilities…

Are we breaking down the substance of old ideas, or simply forever offering them a new set of clothing?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “If a tree falls and no one talks about it…

  1. Lisa

    Today, as I was going to pick my daughter up at school, I heard a little “discussion” between a boy and two girls as they crossed the playground.

    Boy “Hey kid, don’t push my sister. She likes boys.”

    I wanted to run across the playground and stop him. I wanted to say “What if she liked girls, is there anything wrong with that?” But I didn’t. My own silence aggravates me as much as intentional silence.

    Thank you for continually reflecting on this complex issue.

  2. I’m really conflicted by the silences. I do worry about “sparking” copycat suicides, but after 25 years of data on queer youth and suicide, it’s only NOW that non-queer Americans know there’s “something going on” with our queer youth, thanks to the greater reporting. None of the similar deaths that occurred 10 years ago got any coverage.

    So, I think these deaths by suicide need to be reported as such. As you astutely observe, when it comes to queer lives too often it’s “silence=death.” And we need to be screaming about these deaths….