Richmond Community Reacts To Jamey Rodemeyer’s Suicide
The death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer in Buffalo, New York has brought further attention to anti-gay bullying. The teen posted an “It Gets Better” video earlier this year after harassment at school, but took his life earlier this month. In his video, he cited Lady Gaga as a source of inspiration and hope. The singer performed a song in dedication to Rodemeyer at last weekend’s IHeartRadio Music Festival.
Even after his death, the bullying continues. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, his sister says she and friends were taunted at the school’s homecoming dance by his brother’s bullies when a Lady Gaga song played.
In Richmond, ROSMY’s executive director Beth Panilaitis sent this statement via e-mail. She says Rodemeyer’s death hits close to home for her staff who work with LGBT youth daily. The organization is also in the middle of a fundraising match to build their programing. More below.
This was a solemn week at ROSMY and one where staff, youth, and volunteers all deeply felt our need to exist. You may have read in the news last week about Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, NY – only 14 years old when he took his life. Jamey had been tortured by cyber-bullying for a year and despite loving parents – saw no way out. You can read more about his story here.
Jamey’s story and the stories of so many other LGBTQ youth are both a tragic reminder and a call to action. Bullying of LGBTQ youth is a national epidemic and it is critical that we support those youth and also work to create safer environments in our schools and our community. We are doing our very best in Richmond and Chartlottesville to protect our youth and provide them safe spaces.
At our youth center, we regularly hear stories of youth who face persistent bullying – some have even dropped out of school to avoid their tormentors. But we also see the successes. When one youth came to us, she had repeatedly attempted suicide and dropped out of school because of bullying at school and at home. In only a year, she made a radical transformation. Initially, she was reserved, unsure of herself and barely spoke in programs. Now she participates in programs three nights a week, has found her voice, completed her GED and is looking forward to the next phase in her life. She believes in herself.
Last year through ROSMY’s Institute for Equality we trained over 500 social workers, teachers, guidance counselors, and other youth workers on how best to address the needs of the LGBTQ youth they work with. Bullying of LGBTQ youth is an epidemic and we as a community need to work together to support individual youth as well as making our schools and communities safe for all young people.
Also, local author Ruth Perkinson, published this video on her YouTube responding to the teen’s death. Perkinson taught in Henrico County and now addresses bullying in her novels.
“Times and culture have shifted and the organization has expanded over the course of 25 years toward building communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and faith communities.”September 12, 2016
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