How to Break the Bullying Cycle

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Author Jonathan Fast discusses his book Beyond Bullying and the danger of ‘gay-neutral’ school policies.


Jonathan Fast knows what it’s like to be bullied. As a chubby 8-year-old in summer camp, he was tormented by an athletic boy who broke his arm. Even his father, Spartacus author Howard Fast, was bullied by the House Committee on Un-American Activities for being communist in the 1950s.

In his powerful new book, Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence, 67-year-old Dr. Fast takes an unhurried look at the shame underlying violence towards LGBT and straight folks alike. “With this book, I hope readers will be better equipped to deal with bullying of every sort,” he explains, while speaking at his Yeshiva University office. “With time, we’ll be moved, if only by a single degree, closer toward a place where all people are equally valued and respected.” Fast spoke about the danger of “gay-neutral” school policies, fighting back, and whether or not there’s a “cure” for bullying.

Out: Did being harassed as a kid inspire this topic?

Jonathan Fast: In my last book, Ceremonial Violence, about school shootings, a detail was missing about the Columbine killers and other perpetrators. At a conference I heard a talk about shame, and had an epiphany: I realized these vicious guys were carrying huge amounts of that primal emotion. Most likely they were disappointing their parents, not gainfully employed, having trouble socially. Why turn to school shooting? Because they couldn’t express their shame if they wanted to appear mature, powerful, and successful. It’s taboo even to talk about this feeling because it’s associated with little children, weakness, and failure. Ultimately it comes out of their guns.

Gays have been bullied for decades. But during Stonewall, they fought back. Is rioting a useful reaction to feeling oppressed?

It’s a common form of shame management when the feeling is intense, shared by a lot of people, and there seems to be no other peaceful means of managing it. Rioters are usually unaware of their motivations beyond a general sense of rage and frustration. While neighborhoods may be damaged and community members hurt, the events draw attention to grave social problems. Stonewall created a milestone for the gay rights movement and empowered a subculture.

How have LGBT individuals dealt with society’s violence toward them?

Some choose to use their fists, which yields mixed results. Jamie Nabozny invoked the law. In 1988, after coming out in his Wisconsin middle school, he was repeatedly tortured by classmates. The problem persisted into high school. He sued both principals, staff members, and the school district for neglecting to protect him. Lambda Legal came on board, pushing the case into the headlines. A partner at the white shoe law firm Skadden Arps offered his services pro bono. The jury found the school administrators liable for failing to stop antigay violence against Nabozny, who won a 1 million dollar settlement.

In Minnesota, two young women responded with social action. A romantic couple in high school, they’d heard about a series of local gay teenagers killing themselves and wanted to bring visibility to non-traditional gender roles. They got elected to a 12-member Royal Court, and were set to walk in a public ceremony. But days before the procession, a teacher told them their plan was unacceptable because they were two women. They contacted the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center and battled against the school leadership. Ultimately they won the right to proceed on the red carpet, to wild cheers and applause.

Regarding that group of suicides, you point to education policies as potential culprits. One high school had written a mandate for faculty and staff to show respect for all students, and to remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation. It led to a spate of teen suicides over two years. What went wrong?

A lot. The 2009 recession hit that suburb hard. Residents bought big houses and got caught with giant mortgages. Middle class folks became homeless, living in their cars. Kids were told not to speak about their depression and lack of cash. So they couldn’t manage their shame. To begin with, adolescents aren’t working with a full biological deck. The frontal lobe—the part of the brain that analyzes consequences—doesn’t mature until age 25. Influenced by their peers, teens often make poor choices.

Add to that mix a poorly worded edict that bans any reference to homosexuality, spearheaded by conservative parents. It silenced the few gay teachers who’d acted as a support network for kids coming out. Trying to be neutral, one school psychologist took down the picture of her partner on her desk. Youngsters stopped hearing “it gets better.” All these things contributed to hidden shame, which you tend to turn inward, resulting in acts like cutting, and in this case, a cluster of suicides.

The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in the U.S. military has been repealed. Marriage equality is the rule of law. But in one study, 95% of gay adolescents reported feeling separated and emotionally isolated from peers because of their sexual orientation. Around 50% of gay adolescents have experienced physical violence by family members. Research has shown that LGBT teens attempt suicide four times more frequently than their heterosexual peers. When will this trend reverse?

It’ll take another generation to change. I grew up in a homophobic home and my father was an intellectual. He’d say a great writer would never be gay, because they couldn’t relate to the basic human experience. Which was absurd. But when you’re a little kid and your father is a celebrated author, you tend to believe him.

In 1963 the New York Times published an article “Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern.” Its title reflected the opinion of the Times and the times. I see it getting better with my grown kids.

We all carry shame at times. What are healthy ways to deal with it?

Write about it. Express yourself through art. The film The Gift is a good example. It’s about a teenage bully who grows up and doesn’t understand why in high school his target complained about getting beat up. After all, the bully had been abused by his own dad, but believed he’d sucked it up. Of course, instead of sucking it up, the roughneck had displaced his pain and trounced his victim.

Other ways to deal include going to confession, if you’re Catholic. Volunteering. Doing a good deed. The “It Gets Better” campaign is a great example.

Is there a cure for bullying?

No. We have endless examples of maltreatment of people in politics—think Donald Trump—and in media, like certain newscasters. We live in a bullying society. We have the highest homicide and incarceration rate, and the worst income division, which is a big shame factor. Believing that society is a meritocracy can be humiliating to a lot of people. They imagine success yields happiness. But if prosperity is unattainable, people take that personally. They feel ashamed, and unhappy. Sometimes the shame is turned outward, which is how we get bullies


GNI LogoDecember 9, 2015





James knew he was gay since he was small.  He’s had the usual ups and downs, but this Belfast lad is about to achieve his life-long dream of jetting off with British Airways…

When did you first realise you were gay?

I always knew I was gay. Ever since I was very young I knew I was a little bit different. I didn’t play with Action Men, but my mum was a childminder so I would play with the dolls of any of the little girls she minded. I grew up surrounded by a lot of girls and women, but my best friend who lived next door was a boy.

Tell me about your coming out experience?

I came out to my close friend Stephanie when I was 17. I was on my lunch break with her in school. It felt like I had reached the stage where I needed to tell someone, and I trusted her with my life. It took me a very long time to say “I’m gay,” whenever I talked about it to people I always said “I liked boys,” I never said “I’m gay.”

How did they react when you told them?

I came out to my close friend first of all. I guess she already knew. I came out to the rest of my friends a month later, then my mum about a half a year later. It was the biggest weight of my chest. I was so relieved. I was really emotional, but I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I would be because I guessed she already knew. I was so much happier after coming out. I was like a totally different person. Coming out made me the person I am now. It took a while but I am so much more confident. I’m really glad I did it.

Was coming out a big deal for you or did it feel natural?

It was definitely a big deal. I had a girlfriend when I was very, very young. We kissed, and I did fancy her, but it never felt right. There was a boy in my year who I really fancied when I came out; he was gorgeous, really tall, and really nice arms. He was so sexy, and he had the best smile. That summer we flirted with each other non stop, but it was just banter.

Did you find it difficult to accept you were gay?

Yeah, I did. I felt like it was so different to what I knew. No one else was gay but me and I was scared of their reaction. I knew my friends would be supportive, but I found it really hard to tell my best friend Stephen because we were so close, even though he is straight. Coming out to him was the biggest relief of all. He knew as well so he acted as normal. His family became my second family after that.

How did your family react when they learned you were gay?

I thought my mum would have been fine, and she was, but I knew it would be harder with my dad because we were so close. I love him, and we do get on, and he is really comfortable being around gay people, but I didn’t feel like I could tell him. It’s so much different when it’s personal for you. Mum said she knew I was gay, but she didn’t want to show it. But for dad it was a real shock. It was a really tough couple of months, especially since mum felt stuck in the middle between me and Dad. I didn’t stay in my house a lot, I stayed with my fiends, and I didn’t really socialise with my immediate family during that time. But I was about to start a new job after leaving school and I wanted to be me.

Has anyone’s opinion of you changed since you came out?

No, I honestly feel like my family and friends love me more for being who I truly am than for living in secret. They wouldn’t have wanted me to be in the closet, and I was so miserable right up until I came out.

Did you ever feel the need to seek professional help?

I didn’t feel like I had very much gay support, but since coming out I’ve made so many gay friends that have helped me in so many ways.

Where do you live? How accepting are people there of LGBT people?

I live in North Belfast. I have never once encounteered homophobia in the streets. I’m always really affectionate when I’m on a date. I don’t mind holding hands and kissing in public, and no one has ever said anything to me. But you have to be sensible about these things. I feel comfortable enough being gay in Belfast because….


Is there a homophobia problem in PE classes?

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Snap 2015-11-04 at 01.03.53

Is there a homophobia problem in PE classes


“Homophobic remarks are flung around on a regular basis”

A new article, part of a PE and school sports series by the Guardian, looks at ways to stop school pupils ‘climbing the school gates’ to avoid PE lessons. Among other reasons, such as unflattering uniforms and limited variety of activities, the article suggests that homophobia in changing rooms prevents some pupils from taking part in PE.

The anonymous writer begins: “The bell rings and once again I have to make the decision whether to climb the school gates or walk to my physical education (PE) lesson. I am not averse to sport – in fact I like keeping fit on the weekends and I’m pretty healthy. But the culture around PE in school means it has become my worst nightmare”

He goes on to explain why: “I am an openly gay teenager and getting changed in front of the other boys, with no privacy, makes me feel desperately uncomfortable.

“Homophobic remarks are flung around on a regular basis, with boys calling each other ‘faggot’ and saying ‘I bet certain boys love it in the changing rooms.’”

The writer suggests a simple remedy for this problem: “A zero-tolerance policy against homophobic slurs and body shaming – even if it’s so-called banter – would make the changing room a more comfortable environment for everyone.”

This insight into the changing rooms comes at a time when more sports stars than ever are publicly discussing their sexualities. Just in the last few months, Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, and rugby players Keegan Hirst and Sam Stanleyhave all publicly come out as gay. There have also been rumours swirling that two high-profile football players are preparing to come out.

The Guardian’s PE and school sports series is funded by the Youth Sports Trust.

Youth empowerment: how to build GSAs in school?

ILGA LogoPosted: 30 July 2015


COC-Netherlands and ILGA-Europe are jointly organising a capacity-building seminar on supporting youth to start GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances) in schools. The seminar will take 6-8 November 2015 in Amsterdam.

Youth empowerment: how to build GSAs in school?

Youth empowerment: how to build GSAs in school?


COC-Netherlands and ILGA-Europe are jointly organising a capacity-building seminar on supporting youth to start GSAs in schools. GSAs are groups of LGBTI and non-LGBTI people that want to create a safer school for everyone. GSAs are often named Gay-Straight Alliances but can also mean Gender and Sexuality Alliance.

The event will take place in November in Amsterdam. There are 12 seats available for this training. If you are interested, please fill in this form and send it back by the 1 September to Sophie Aujean, Senior Policy and Programmes Officer.

What are the expected outcomes of this training?

  • Participants know what a GSA is and the different forms it can take.
  • Participants know how to support teenagers in schools to establish GSAs in schools.
  • Participants are aware of lessons learnt from good practices and bad experiences when supporting teenage activism in schools and establishing GSAs.
  • Participants understand the links between youth empowerment, grassroots activism and the setting up of GSAs in schools. They feel confident to contribute to this youth empowerment.
  • Participants identify the benefits and challenges related to building a GSA in schools in their own context.
  • Participants know where to start and how to establish a GSA in schools.

Eligibility criteria:

  • To be an activist working (voluntarily or as paid staff) for an LGBTI organisation member of ILGA-Europe.
  • To be already working with schools (from primary schools to higher education) or intend to do so in the coming year (please provide evidence of this).
  • To reside in one of the 28 EU Member States + Iceland + Liechtenstein

Please answer the questions below in less than 150 words each:

Q1. Describe briefly your organisation

Q2. Introduce yourself and your role in your organisation

Q3. What activities have you (or your organisation) been doing so far in the area of education? Are you working with schools directly? If not, do you plan to do so?

Q4. Are there already GSAs in your country in other areas (e.g. workplace) or in schools?

Q5. What benefits do you think establishing a GSA in your context could bring? What challenges do you foresee?

Q5. What are your motivations to attend this training and what are your expectations?

Q6. How do you plan to disseminate the learnings from the seminar?

Information on logistics:

ILGA-Europe covers the accommodation and travel costs of 12 participants, arrival on 6 November (afternoon) and departure on 8 November (afternoon). A daily subsistence allowance is provided. Please note that we might ask participants to share twin rooms.

Thank you very much for your interest in attending this training!

Ben Cohen releases book on bullying, 'Do You'

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Ben Cohen, the former professional rugby player, will release his first book to help young people deal with bullying and educate adults on the issue.

ATLANTA, July 23, 2015 – The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation today announced the publication of DO YOU!, the first book from its founder and chairman, rugby World Cup champion Ben Cohen. The book aims to help young people deal with bullying, and to be a supportive guide for parents and educators alike.

Published by Penguin Random House under the Pam Krauss Books imprint, the book offers inspiration and encouragement for anyone who was ever bullied, left out or pushed aside. The book lifts the spirits and gives practical guidance to anyone struggling with bullying and rejection, doing so in 20 brief, memorable, visually rich sections. Real-world words of encouragement from fans and supporters of StandUp are also included in the book.

“It’s a small book with a big impact,” said Ben Cohen. “Much of it comes from my own experience dealing with the loss of my father, as well as the advice I would give my own daughters. I want readers to know they are not alone, that someone understands, and that they can make it through.”

DO YOU! encourages readers of all ages to embrace their authentic selves and to live the life that is best for them. “I am really trying to let people know that they are absolutely fine just as they are. My goal has been to connect with them as a friend and a supporter, as they have connected with me,” said Cohen.

The book was developed from Ben’s experiences, values, and vision for how to make the world kinder for all, and crafted by the team at StandUp with him. It is on-sale August 4, 2015, in time for back-to-school reading, and available wherever books are sold.

£2 Million Awards Announced From Homophobic Bullying Fund

Image result for political dogma cartoons northern irelandHomophobic bullying is still happening throughout society, and in particular in our schools.  None of us condone it, but very few of us actually do anything concrete to stop it, and in particular families of LGBT kids are often to quiet in challenging schools/colleges/universities when they are aware of what has happened to their child or to someone they know.

In our previous comment on the Ashers Bakery case, we noted that the Office of the First MInister along with the Deputy First Minister funds the Equality Commission, this means they are responsible for ensuring equality in our schools but why is it that our legislative bodies seem to be dragging their feet over ensuring that our children our safe from any kind of bullying in our schools?

Is political dogma getting in the why of natural rights?  I will let you decide when you next speak to your MLA/MP and at the ballot box.

£2 Million Awards Announced From Homophobic Bullying Fund

By The Gay UK, Mar 24 2015 03:43PM

Funds awarded to projects to train school staff and provide support for pupils affected by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

◉ Stonewall awarded nearly half million pounds of the £2million total.
◉ Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson, said, “It’s good news that schools are making progress on homophobic bullying
Classroom (C) Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr

Classroom (C) Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr
Today eight organisations will be told they are to get a share of £2 million to help prevent and eradicate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying. The funding was announced by Jo Swinson, Minister for Women and Equalities, and Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, in October 2014.
Homophobic bullying in schools is decreasing: 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people surveyed for Stonewall’s 2012 School Report said they had experienced homophobic bullying, down from 65 per cent in 2009.
However further action is still needed. Metro’s Youth Chances Survey 2014 found that more than half of gay young people had experienced either discrimination or harassment. In a report from Stonewall last year 86 per cent of secondary school teachers and 45 per cent of primary school teachers said pupils at their school had experienced homophobic bullying. Most (89 per cent for secondary schools and 70 per cent for primary) had heard homophobic language used. Teachers say they lack the knowledge and confidence to tackle HBT bullying effectively. These projects will help to build that confidence by providing training and resources for school staff.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, said, “It’s good news that schools are making progress on homophobic bullying, but it must be eradicated entirely. The trauma of being bullied at school can stay with you for life, and it is absolutely unacceptable that those who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender are being targeted. Teachers need specialist support and training to help them stamp out homophobic bullying, which is why we have funded these excellent projects which are designed to tackle this issue head on.”
The organisations awarded funding are:
Anne Frank Trust (£104,894) – to run workshops and educate young people about prejudice and the impact of the Holocaust on lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Barnardo’s (£263,218) – to provide face-to-face support for victims of HBT bullying and training for staff with a focus on cultural issues in schools in Leeds and Wakefield.
Diversity Role Models with Brook (£277,722) – to develop and deliver training on tackling HBT bullying to 10,000 teachers and staff in 400 schools.
EACH (£189,304) – to deliver a training and resource programme in schools across Avon and Somerset.
Educate and Celebrate (£214,048) – to train staff in 60 schools, giving them confidence and strategies to address HBT language and bullying and promote inclusiveness throughout the school environment and the curriculum.
National Children’s Bureau (£128,754)– to train 1,500 teachers on tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia through PSHE.
Show Racism the Red Card (£119,557)– to hold workshops with 2,000 young people at football clubs around England, train 200 teachers and run a film competition for young people on tackling HBT bullying.
Stonewall (£465,594) – to extend and share its ‘train the trainer’ course with 60 partner organisations, enabling them to run the programme with schools in their local communities and giving them the skills to tackle HBT bullying.
ALSO READ:1 in ten calls to Samartians are worried about their sexualityMarcel Varney, Assistant Director for Barnardo’s, said, “At Barnardo’s, we hear about HBT bullying from the young people we work with across the organisation. We know that the bullying of a young person because of their sexuality can be incredibly damaging and can impact dramatically on a young person’s ability to succeed at school.
“This commitment from the government will enable us to reach hundreds of young people to alert them to the impact of HBT bullying. It‘s a big step towards stamping out HBT bullying. We aim to improve the visibility of LGBT lives in the school environment and ensure that young people are supported regardless of culture or religion.”

Rest In Peace Ronin Shimizu

Would everybody please remain in a moment of silence to remember of young Ronin Shimizu, 12 year old rower and cheerleader, bullied to suicide on Wednesday, December 3rd


On December 3rd, 2014 Ronin Shimizu committed suicide due to bullying at his school because he was the only male cheerleader with the Vista Junior Eagles Cheer Team.

District officials have confirmed that his parents had lodged numerous complaints about this bullying, but that they had been dealt with according to a spokesman.


Ronin cheerleadingJoy: Friends said that bullies called him 'gay' for cheerleading but that he loved being part of the teamShock: Some friends say they were stunned he was so unhappy because he always had a smile on his face

Read more:


Forty years ago I would have been denied my rights in Northern Ireland because I was Catholic. Now they could be denied because I’m gay

A new ‘conscience clause’ being proposed will legally protect gay discrimination

If I ran a bakery and someone came in and asked me to bake a cake that says, “NO TO GAY MARRIAGE”, I would tell them to find another bakery.

So I support Ashers Bakery, which was recently threatened with legal action over its refusal to make a pro-gay marriage cake. But only to an extent. As a gay woman, they’ll never be getting my business, but I can see this for what it is: a freedom of conscience issue. Turning a a gay couple away from a hotel, however, is not. And that’s what will happen under the DUP’s proposed equality bill. Not only will service providers be able to discriminate against me, the law will protect them too.

It’s sad to see the DUP pursuing this. This was the same party that, before the Peace Process, actively supported a system of power that discriminated against the country’s Catholic minority. Forty years ago, they’d have denied me my rights because I was Catholic. Now they’re denying me them because I’m gay.

It’s as if history has taught them nothing. And it poses a worrying question – who is next? If the battle for gay equality is fought and won, will they find another target? Will black people no longer be welcome in Northern Ireland? Immigrants? We already know what the party leader thinks of Muslims.

Yet this doesn’t just affect my life. It will have an impact on heterosexual, working-class Unionists too.

The Unionists I know are not bigots. They are ordinary people who have better things to do than worry about my love life. When I was 17, I told my friend Gavyn, an Orange Order marching, July 12 loving, “British till I die” Prod that I was gay. From memory, I got a hug and, subsequently, a text after he converted to Christianity to tell me “it changed nothing”.

Yet Unionism has a PR problem. The actions of people like Paul Givan – who proposed this ridiculous equality bill – have turned it into a political ideology linked with prejudice and elitism. The battle for equal rights for Catholics has been fought and won but as long as Givan & Co. keep finding new people to hate, the Protestant community will not be allowed to forget what happened. They continue, in the eyes of the world, to be “those bigots” who said no to civil rights in 1969. Every request for others to “respect their culture” is consequently treated with scorn when it should be considered.

Christians have rights – and I will defend them. Yes, I disagree with their views on gay marriage but I’ll defend to the death their right to hold them. I can live with someone having an opinion I don’t like.

What I can’t live with is that opinion becoming law that prevents me from getting married.

Paul Givan is not asking for equality – he is asking for the right to discriminate against me. He’s asking for a return to the old Northern Ireland, where some of us are equal and some of us aren’t.  And again, it’s all because of religion.


Republished from the

Letters to My Brother

Letters to My Brother

When 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, he became an overnight symbol of the fight against cyber-bullying and homophobia. Here, his older brother reclaims his memory from the headlines and pays tribute to his abbreviated life.

Tyler (left) and James Clementi / Photo courtesy James Clementi

I ’m not sure when I first realized my younger brother was gay. I think I knew he was for as long as I knew I was. I had no idea how to bring it up; it was just something we left dangling in the air, unsaid. I was open about my sexuality with friends, but around my family there was this barrier that felt unbreakable. It slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t the only one, that I had a brother who was also gay — my baby brother, whom I had always felt protective and paternal toward. I knew I was in a position to be a confidant, a role model. But I wasn’t ready to do any of that. It would have made it much less lonely for me to grow up with an older brother who had gone through and understood everything I was dealing with — and I wanted to be that for Tyler. I didn’t start to come out to the people in my life until I was in my early twenties, so I always thought Tyler would follow the same timeline and we wouldn’t need to address the rainbow-colored elephant for a few more years. I was terrified to talk to him, accustomed to secrecy and scared I would make everything worse somehow.

The summer after Tyler graduated from high school we made plans to see Toy Story 3 together, and I looked up the schedule online. I walked into his room without knocking to ask what times would work for him, and there was that awkward moment where he realized that I was standing behind him. I realized my little brother was looking at gay porn. Caught off guard, I acted like I hadn’t seen it, and I think he was initially relieved. But from this moment, there was a growing anxiety, an urgent pull from inside myself that was compelling me to talk to him, and I knew it was time — probably way past time. I gave myself a day to stress out over the right words, the best place, the perfect time. And then I just did it.


It was the Fourth of July. We had spent the day at the movies, the diner, the fireworks. So many opportunities, and I kept chickening out. That night, I found him in the house listening to Katy Perry, and I saw that, if I couldn’t do this now, something was really wrong with me. I overthought it — because it ended up being this simple.

Me: “I’m gay.” Tyler: “Oh. Me too.”


It was great because we had always known, but now we could talk about it. I saw so much relief and genuine happiness in his face. It felt like the beginning. We talked for hours about sex, relationships, bars, fake IDs, homophobia, everything that had been off-limits before. I was really taken aback by how assured and poised he was, how much better he understood himself and his desires than I did at 18. It was startling, but it also fit with my sense of him as a young man, still figuring it out but grounded in his own worth and value.

Two months later, he left to start his first semester at Rutgers. I think he left excited to grow up, to live life. I was looking forward to the days ahead and the years of brotherhood still to come.

You were one noisy kid. I remember walking inside and the most beautiful sounds of Tchaikovsky and Mozart would waft through every room. And I hated it.

Remember how I used to bang on your door and scream at you to stop being so loud? It was so unfair that I had to listen to your noise all the time — why couldn’t you just pick up a quieter hobby!? I would refuse to attend your recitals and concerts because I had to listen to you play all the damn time at home. Wow, do I regret that.

It is so quiet now. You were really talented; it was a gift. I’m not sure I ever told you that… maybe you didn’t care. It’s not like you needed my validation; I know nothing about classical music and you knew you were the shit when it came to that damn violin. I just feel really bad for not telling you how awesome you are, how much I respect your skills and dedication. I regret not listening to every note with open ears, not going to more concerts. Fuck you for making me feel bad; it’s not fair that you did that to me. But I would tell you now if I could, I really miss the noise!

Hey Ty,
So the other day I was at Barnes & Noble, trying to find a book to read since I have a lot of free time now that I can’t sleep, can’t hold a job, don’t want to be around friends or family, and pretty much need to escape my life. Anyway, I was browsing at the newsstand and I saw you. I always do. This time you were staring back at me from the cover of People. I keep thinking that I’ll look up and see you for real, the way you should be, but it’s always more reminders of the way you are. I’m sure the other customers found my anxiety attack entertaining. How am I supposed to respond to seeing you on People, though? It’s a lot to digest, you being a celebrity and all. I always knew you would make it big; I just thought you’d be around to enjoy it.

I wonder what you would think, seeing all the commotion you’ve caused. It is surreal and meaningless to see you as a mere story on The New York Times, a brief glimpse at a life with none of the detail. You were a typical college freshman, trying to adjust to a dorm room, make some friends, meet a cute guy, and enjoy your independence, and no one noticed. The headlines tell of how you were violated and ridiculed; your last moments are a cautionary tale, a scandal, something to sell and entertain.

You are on every talk show, newspaper, and blog, being held up as the issue du jour for the masses to “care about,” like they ever read you a story or wiped away your tears or spun you around in the air until you were dizzy. I wish it didn’t take you dying for your soul to know peace. I wish you could read the hundreds of letters we got, hear the thousands who rallied and marched for you, know the millions who followed your story on the 6 o’clock news. You were never alone; it just felt like it.

When you were here with me, you had no idea how important you were, and it took your death to make that point. Now you are gone. How will you know how much I love you, how much we all do? It’s not like you can read your big cover story. It’s not as though you can hear me crying.



Little Peanut,
I always thought that, between you and I, you were the stronger one. That’s why, as protective as I felt toward you, I never worried that much. I saw the best parts of myself in you. Of course, we looked like twins, albeit six years and a foot and a half apart. But — let’s face it — you were better. Where I dabbled (pretty pitifully) in painting, you devoted hours of every day to the violin since you were eight, then picked up the piano, and even taught yourself the freaking harmonica. Never one to be outdone, when I was biking a mile, you were unicycling two. Where I was shy, you were fearless. When I tiptoed out of the closet at 22, you were out and proud at 18.

I remember asking if you had a boyfriend, or if you wanted one, and you scoffed at me. “I just want to hook up.” That’s what you said — and that’s fine — but I think maybe you didn’t see how much more you deserved.

Sometimes I wonder who that guy was, the one in your dorm room. He doesn’t matter. You were so young, and there were going to be others. But in that moment, what did it mean for you? Were you bored, scared, over it, into it, what? Everyone knows their first, but who ever thinks of their last? I’m sure you didn’t even realize that it was the final time you’d be close to someone. He shouldn’t matter, but being the last gives him a strange importance. Did he make you happy?

You had a lot of growing up to do and a lot of baggage to work through before you could really feel comfortable with who you were. You’d roll your eyes at me and dismiss it with one of your “whatevers,” but it’s true. Libidos aside, when you told me you were only looking for hook-ups, I totally didn’t believe you. Sure, sex is amazing, but love is the best part. It was there within your grasp.

Dear Tyler,
I guess I never really told you how much I admire you, how much I wish I was more like you. We came from the same gene pool, the same family, the same town, the same schools, the same church, everything the same. But I always saw a confidence and strength in you that I didn’t
recognize in myself. Where did you get that? When I thought about where I was going to be in five or 10 years, I could never picture it — my mind would be blank. But when I imagined your future, I saw the world at your feet. You were supposed to show me up, do it better than I could. I wanted that for you. I saw amazing professional accomplishments for you, but also personal ones. I know now that you felt so alone, but Jesus Christ — you are so, so easy to love, with your kind eyes and gentle heart. I know so many people you had yet to meet that would one day love you almost as much as I do. Even after what you did, I cannot see you as a sad or depressed or lonely kid. To me, you will always be my sweet, tender little brother.

I’ve heard the story so many times: how you did it, the night you jumped. The first time, and every time I’ve been told about it, read it in a paper, heard it on TV, or dreamt about it at night, it still confuses me. I know you and I know that is not who you are. And that is never how I will think of you, alone and cold and at the end.

You are youth, potential just beginning to unfold. You are blood, my connection to the past, and my hope for the future. You are beauty, fleeting and marvelous. I know there was pain, and I’m sorry for that, but you were joy, too. Your voice, your smile, tiny hands clinging to mine. I will never let go.