It happened AGAIN! Two weeks ago, it was 11-year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in Massachussetts. Now, it's 11 year-old Jaheem Herrera right outside of Atlanta, Georgia. (Late last month, it was Eric Mohat in Ohio, slightly older at 17 years old). All three committed suicide. Both Hoover and Herrera were little boys who hung themselves in their own homes where they lived with their families. Mohat ended his life in the family home too. If home is where the heart is, the school-house must be where hatred resides. All three were relentlessly bullied by other students while teachers and school adminstrators stood by, watched, probably laughed, and did nothing. Nothing at all. All three were smart and articulate kids who may have had a few interests that fell away from the strict confines of our poisonous and rabid modern day boy culture. They were the different ones. The boys with a bit of flava who stood out in a sea of tasteless sameness.
The similarities between the eleven year old's are eerie. They were maligned with the old trusty invectives of FAG, SISSY, PUNK, and all the malevolent variants of the the word GAY. They were kids who probably never gave a thought and two hoots about issues of sexual orientation. Both were accused of being SNITCHES! Their mothers pleaded with the school principals & teachers to help protect their sons against verbal abuse & threats of physical violence (and they probably were beaten up but just never reported it). After all, that's what snitches do! They chalked it up to boys being boys, and childhood bullying, but childhood bullying ain't what it used to be. There are some real demon seeds out there who are left unchecked often because their parents are unchecked as they send the message to the young and vulnerable that they better not step out of line or rhythm to the beat of today's false masculinity constructs. Our vulnerable children are something other than common. Less than conformist, and the word FAG is just the word that is used to bring them right back to the narrow confines of male stupidity. And that's all a lie, too! Especially for black and latino kids who are "keepin' it real" with their clothes hanging all off of their skinny asses, failing in (and then dropping out of) school only to become little menaces to society while they hold it down on the street corner. They soon replace the previous generations of brothas gangsta leanin' and holding up the corner because they won't get/can't get a job to take care of the many babies they make because they're own lives are fucked up now. Yeah! These are the examples. The real men! In the meantime, our children cannot be children. They cannot be themselves. They cannot keep it real no matter who they are. But who they are just better not be different, or they have hell to pay and nobody seems to care but their mama- and like B.B. King used to say - she might be jivin' too!
As a kid, I had my issues and I was occasionally called those names too! Sticks and stones never broke any bones but those names did hurt me! It's interesting! A lot of the kids that I had problems with had parents at home who were jealous of (or had their own issues with) my parents. Primarily my mother. She worked & had her own money and often wore it on her back while they were stay at home moms whose husbands may not have been as fortunate a provider as my father. No doubt they learned it at home! It was only natural that I'd get the blues when I came outside to play or was put on blast in the schoolyard. But suicide was never a thought! When I entered high school, I experienced a new level of ignorance and hatred, but this time I discovered a self-depreciating self-defense mechanism. If they were going to spit nastiness, my outrageous antics became the perfect deflector. Now we all laughed together, but I was the proverbial clown laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. Still suicide was not an option, although I did consider MURDER! Today they bring guns to school and use them. Yesterday I took my mother's butcher knives. I was the disruptive one when I spoke out, fought back or defended myself. Like they do today, the teachers & principals looked the other way when I cried FOUL. After graduation, my life drastically changed for the better. I thought I had experienced freedom and developed a great pride in myself, but by my middle twenties those new ideas were being tested. I experienced a new kind of second-classism, a new kind of ostracism, and this time the bible was being used to back it all up. In some ways, I gained more than I gave up, but I didn't completely fit in the Apostolic/Holiness church either. Not that I didn't try. Not that I didn't meet God! Trying to fit my square-pegged self into a little round box just never worked for me, and if they tried to box God just imagine how I felt. I couldn't be straight. I couldn't be gay. Everything seemed to hinge on that alone, how much I proved myself a new creature in Christ. Nothing was ever right. I developed a love/hate relationship with my pastor and fell into the trap of trying to please him. Nothing was right about that, either. And then came Brother Lee. And suddenly suicide became a viable option!
My pastor played Lee and I against one another and enjoyed every bit of our sniping at each other. Lee can prophecy, can YOU? If you don't learn and grow fast enough, God will remove you and replace you, don't you know that? Lee wants to go places, where do you want to go? He didn't know Lee was trying to go between the legs of every young sista in sight, and he probably didn't care. After all, he finally had a young man he could relate to. "There's not a funny bone in my body" he said. He couldn't relate to my homosexuality. Plus, he thought it was good for me to compete this way, but it was killing me. I didn't know myself, didn't really know God, and I was trying to be all and please all. I struggled to be the perfect custodian, the perfect usher, the perfect brother in a suit and tie pushed out front to collect the offering, given a list of long-gone members to call to find out when they were going to pay their monthly assessments because they never announced their departure. I dealt with it and I had to help teach the others how to deal with it, but the constant comparisions started to wear me out. Why couldn't I be more pliable? Why can't you be more like Lee? (I wasn't silly putty!). Are you fuckin' that married preacher? Which brother are you fuckin? Lee brought Steve and Keith. They brought others. Then came Arthur and Marc. Marc became my best brothafriend while Keith and I enjoyed a brotherhood bond. Steve and I loved each other too, but if Arthur was a fake, then Lee was the devil. We were BOTH being played in a game of pawns, both trying to be TOP SON! At least I wasn't devious, but it was a vicious game orchestrated by my pastor right behind the veil. It all became too much to bear with all the other things that were going on in the congregation that included my sadness and loneliness and hopelessness at failing to be what I was told GOD WANTED!
I didn't want to kill myself but I knew I hated myself. I wanted someone to know how I was hurting, that someone being my pastor. I wanted him to know how I thought his games and ignorance and pronouncements of "you have to be harder on homosexuals because they have a stronger spirit of rebellion" shit was killing me. One dark night at my parents house, I went to the medicine cabinet and downed all the aspirin. I went to another medicine cabinet and considered taking my parents medicines. But I didn't want to die. So I downed another bottle of aspirin. And then I got scared and called the hospital and told them what a "friend" had just done. They told me about possible kidney damage and how I should get that "friend" into the emergency room. Steve lived around the corner from my parents, and I called him to come and take me. I had to admit to him what I'd done. He stayed with me at the hospital while they pumped me with that nasty black chalky liquid to counter the aspirin. We didn't leave the hospital until the AM hours. I begged him not to tell even though I knew he would. I knew he'd go straight to our pastor. The next day was Sunday and I missed the service. I didn't come back until that following Sunday. He didn't blab but he did tell the pastor. I was sick for a few days and nobody called. When I returned to church my pastor looked at me like "you fool". And it was right then that I knew I had been just that. He said I had the "spirit of a woman" because men didn't do what I "attempted" to do. He could be a hard muthafukka! I stayed around for far too many years after that out of fear, and my little episode was never mentioned again. Suicide had touched my family before and the aftermath of it was never ever really dealt with. I knew I didn't want to die. I couldn't do such a thing and have it wreck my family twice. But I was hurting. I needed help and nobody seemed to care. Not even God. I was a fool and didn't even get the attention that I sought. To this day my family doesn't know about this. I've never told anyone. I would attempt suicide again, and this time it would be implicit and not explicit. I tried to kill myself by smothering myself with sex. A raging sexual addiction was on the horizon. But that's another story.
I was an adult ...an immature one...in my twenties. Just imagine how helpless, sad and alone an eleven year old feels when they don't fit. They don't know they're special and beautiful. They don't know they're the bright and hopeful ones. They don't know that suicide is not the answer. Hanging myself was not/is not a thought that I can conceive. Imagine the lengths of despair that could make an eleven year old seek out information about how to hang himself. God Help Us! We've got to change things. Why do we always have to experience the tragedy? Why can't we prevent the tragedy from ever happening? Are our eyes wide open or will we become deSINsitized to it like we are to so many other things that are literally killing us? In a twist of irony, little Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, a sweet-faced kid who loved sports and going to church, was laid to rest on his 12th birthday (April 17th) which was also the national 13th Annual Day Of Silence, a day observed by (some) grade schoolers, high school students and on college campuses to give recognition to the many LGBT students across the country who are literally bullied to DEATH!