There have been several suicides of gay teens recently, some the result of years of anti-gay bullying. Is there anything sadder than that? It's very discouraging that as we are making progress toward equality young gay men are still driven to suicide. But I look at all the progress that has occurred since I was a teen and usually feel better.
The recent suicides have made me think about Kurt, one of my classmates in school. Kurt moved to town at the start of fifth grade, and we became friends. We went to school together through high school. We were somewhat close in fifth and sixth grades but drifted apart after that. Then in junior year of high school I noticed a change in Kurt. He became quiet and quit talking to people except when someone spoke directly to him. He also stopped doing his homework and seemed to be in trouble with teachers for that all the time. What I noticed most was his smell. It was obvious to me that he quit bathing and he smelled pretty bad. Being the naive 16 year old that I was, I just wondered why he wouldn't take a shower. In retrospect it is obvious that he was very depressed and didn't care any more. But neither I nor anyone else seemed to realize what Kurt's problem was. One day he got a ride home with a classmate and seemed to be OK. I think that he had made his decision by then. He went home and hung himself, and his twelve year old sister found him later. Looking back I am pretty sure that Kurt was gay - maybe I had a little gaydar even back then. He didn't seem to like sports but played baseball when he was younger because his father wanted him to. Bullying was part of the problem - we went to an all-male Catholic high school, and the in crowd and bullies were merciless toward those that they considered weak. I wish that I had some of the experience that I have now to spot depression - I'm a primary care physician, so I see it nearly every day. Another preventable death, another victim of homophobia.
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