Today is “Wear Purple Day” or “Spirit Day.” It is a global day of remembrance for Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas, the six GLBT youth who recently took their own lives because of homophobic bullying. Today I caught up with Keshet’s Bonnie Rosenbaum to talk about the Jewish response and Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives.
Q: As I understand it, teen GLBT suicide is not a new phenomenon. Why do you think that it’s getting so much attention now?
A: The stats are appalling – nearly one in four GLBT teenagers attempts suicide. And when Keshet surveyed 100 Jewish youth in seven Jewish intuitions in 2007, 91% reported hearing or using “that’s so gay,” a disparaging remark, in Jewish youth settings.
I think the sheer number of young people who took their own lives within a few weeks of each other was a wake up call that young GLBT people do not feel safe and supported. Despite the progress we’ve made for GLBT rights and acceptance, adolescence for many queer kids is still @#$%. And for the most part, violence directed at transgender and gender variant members of our community is still ignored by the mainstream press. November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Contact us to learn how your Jewish community can get involved.
Q: How did Keshet decide to create the Pledge to Save Lives?
A: We came into work on the Monday after hearing about the fifth young man in a month who took his own life. We were sickened and outraged and knew that the Jewish community must speak up and make a public commitment to end homophobic and transphobic bullying.
The pledge is only one step in the process. For over nine years, Keshet has been actively working to make the Jewish community inclusive by training Jewish educators, producing GLBT inclusive resources from a Jewish perspective, working with hundreds of rabbis and parents and youth who want to make their synagogues, camps, day schools, and youth groups safer and need support to do so. We will make sure the pledge is just one step of many on the path to full inclusion and equality for GLBT Jews.