While the Joseph Project is not specifically directed at Cyberbullying and Suicide issues among gay youth, it is an unavoidable fact that a staggering percentage of recent suicides by young males have been among those who identified as gay. This has not been the case with young girls - the majority of whom were bullied over appearances or social issues.
In our main document on the psychological constructs that lead to youth suicide from bullying we look at the corner that children feel backed into when they feel that there is no escape from the bullying. This is exacerbated by cyber bullying because the online attack remains online for some time, is read or perceived by the target to be read by many people, and so is not quite as easily forgotten as a verbal insult. The printed word just seems more powerful and more potent.
But what remains puzzling is why the most common reason for boys to take their lives is over cyberbullying about possibly being gay or acting gay (ie - effeminate) in the eyes of their peers. In today's world of increased understanding and tolerance, why is it that boys feel that they even need a way out of being gay?
There is the theological problem which youth from certain faiths may feel, being told that if they are gay they will necessarily go to hell. That is a no win situation for a child who feels same sex attraction, did not invite that feeling, is being told its OK to feel that way and that its just the way that they were born and yet, because of that, they will burn for eternity.There may be the feeling that they don't WANT to be gay, for whatever reason. Be it a deep desire to fit in, to feel masculine, to please and impress their parents, to feel 'normal' as they perceive normal to be, a preference for a heterosexual social life or even a desire to be married and have children in ways that there modeled by the parents, some boys may just reject the destiny that is being set before them.
Fourteen year old Jamey Rodemeyer spoke on Youtube about coming out in school and how much support he had from friends. He seemed to be an activist for gay youth, stating in the video that "IT GETS BETTER" and he himself seeing the optimism that came with such support. Yet, Jamey succumbed to the bullying online in spite of all of that optimism and while we don't yet know the exact details or cause of his tragic suicide, indicators suggest that gay bashing drove him over the edge.
For some reason, all of the supposed tolerance out there does not seem to be working to its fullest potential and what we never seem to get is this: If a few kids are pushed over the edge from cyber bullying, how many kids are being pushed to the edge. Stated another way, if pressure rates from one to ten, and ten is what pushes kids to commit suicide, how many kids out there are at 9, at 8 or at 7. And what is the psychological impact of being at those numbers? Can we assume that as long as you don't kill yourself you are fine?
We need to ask ourselves if there is just not enough tolerance out there, or is there more than just tolerance that we need? Furthermore, are internet companies doing enough to insure that there are safeguards in place to insure that destructive content can be taken down quickly? If the needs of kids, especially those who are entering a world where one's sexuality, a highly private and personal issue, can be discussed in public, are not watched out for and placed at a higher priority than the adoption of fast technology, we are going to continue to see damage to the generations ahead.
An openly gay young teenager, in a moment of strong feelings of fear and rejection, produces a powerful and moving video about being bullied.Jonah later produced another video depicting himself with a friend an in a much happier state of mind however lets remember that Jaemey Rodemeyer also produced a video entitled "IT GETS BETTER" before he took his own life over gay bullying.
Note that teenagers, in their constant quest to attack and question each other online, started publishing videos about Jonah Mowry being a fake. I do not believe that Jacob was a fake. I believe that he was feeling what he was feeling at the time. As is often the case with teens, feelings can change dramatically over very short periods of time and I believe that Jonah overcame his feelings of the moment. Whether his alleged self-cutting really happened is somewhat tangential to the realness of his video.
Update May 2012: Jonah is now confirmed to have not been faking. ABC News ran a segment on Jonah's story in December praising him for his courage and message.