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Todd Ransom: Mormon family breaks silence about gay man’s suicide

Friday, July 23, 2010

Updated: Monday, July 26, 2010:

Last week, Todd Ransom, a 28 year-old gay man from Orem, Utah, committed suicide.

While it is unclear why exactly Ransom took his life, friends report that he struggled to reconcile his sexual orientation with his Mormon upbringing.

Todd Ransom

There have been few reports of Ransom’s death in the media. Local news outlets have published only brief accounts from when Ransom’s body was discovered July 19.

But in a website memorial launched this weekend, Ransom’s family released this statement:

“Our beloved son, brother and friend took his own life at Battle Creek Canyon near Pleasant Grove, Utah after a long and painful battle with depression.

Some people have said that Todd ended his life because he was gay or felt persecuted by the LDS Church and his family, but this is not true. We loved him unconditionally. We were always there for him.

Todd attempted suicide previously and we know from that experience that his manic depression was a constant thorn in his side and that there were other factors that influenced his suicide. Todd didn’t always agree with us or want to share his life with us, but he was loved by us. That is the undeniable truth.”

Ransom’s death has fueled new debate about suicide among gay Mormons.

Utah bloggers have written that this is the third gay suicide in Utah this month, all of which have been largely ignored by local news outlets — David Standley, 21 of Ogden, took his life on June 30, and Weber State University student Tim Tilley, 20, killed himself on July 11.

And according to the Deseret News, a LDS owned and cultured newspaper:

- Every 11 days a Utah teen commits suicide
- Utah leads the nation in suicide among men 15-24
- Utah has the 11th highest overall suicide rate in the nation
- Suicide is the #1 cause of death among Utah teens

Last year, Ransom signed up to participate in Reed Cowan’s film, 8: The Mormon Proposition, a documentary that chronicled the Mormon Church’s involvement in the passage of California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

According to Cowan, Ransom left inexplicably before he could appear in front of the camera.

A candlelight vigil for Todd Ransom was held Tuesday at the Utah state capital. (Photo via David Daniels Photography)

But the memorial website goes beyond speculation, and explains with much candor, Ransom’s life and struggles:

“Our lives changed when Todd announced to his family in 2001 that he was gay. Thus began the difficult dance that takes place between a faithful Mormon family and a much-loved son and brother who chooses to live a gay lifestyle.

It was difficult for his parents to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, and this hurt Todd in ways that his parents did not intend. On the other hand, in spite of his upbringing in the LDS Church, Todd insisted that family members affirm his sexuality in ways that put them at odds with their conscience and beliefs.

Todd was very hurt when his parents felt that they could not attend his commitment ceremony with Jake Jacquez, his partner of eight years, however he and Jake were both welcome in our home.”

Ransom was born July 11, 1982 in Princeton, New Jersey. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona and Orem, Utah. He graduated with honors from the University of Utah in May 2009, earning a BS degree in biomedical engineering.

Friends say Ransom left behind a note reading “Sunrise – Accept This Offering.”

A candlelight vigil was held last Tuesday evening on the steps of the Utah state capital. Photos at David Daniels Photography.

Ransom’s obituary here.

With thanks to Laurie Beth’s Grotto for calling our attention to the memorial website.

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8 more reader comments:

  1. It’s so sad when gays don’t get recognition from their families… it makes me sick. Rest in peace Todd

    Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 11:17pm
  2. I’ve backlinked an extensive blog post I wrote on the subject, with updates and the family statement, if anyone is interested. May he rest in peace. Thank you for calling attention to this horrible tragedy.

    Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 11:19pm
  3. Brooke- you seem to be ignoring the fact that his family did love an recognize him. They have made that clear in their statement above. If they were ashamed of him, they would have said nothing. As both a survivor of depression and a gay LDS man, I am here to tell all of you that “Gay” is not at the root of these deaths; Depression is. I had to constantly fight intrusive thoughts of suicide during the eight months I spent in a severe depression. Depression is a deadly disease and I admire those who survive it as well as those who make their best effort before putting an end to their life. If you have not been there, you just cannot comprehend the unrelenting anguish that obliterates everything else in one’s life. Many people say, after the fact, “If only I had known” or “if only they had come to me”. A Depressed mind is generally terrified of confiding in anyone except a paid professional. From personal experience, I was only compfortable talking about it to my mother who is also a survivor of depression and my father as an MD and also having lived through the depression with my mother. I couldn’t talk to even my closest friends or my siblings. It is the ultimate isolation although one may be surrounded by people.

    To all, Don’t mistake suicide for an act of cowardice or selfishness; unless you have experienced “the pit” firsthand, you just don’t have any idea of how bad it can be. for many, suicide does end up being the only solution.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:30pm
  4. Dear Dan, This young man did not "choose a gay lifestyle" as his family said, he was gay. His family did not accept him because they did not accept the truth. As far as his family recognizing him I am sure they did. It is simple to recognize the "spiritual error" (as our Bishop used to say). His family may have loved him but if my experience in the church is indicative of other church stakes, they would never accept him. Being a liberal or an atheist teen in the Mormon church is a hard way to grow up. I cannot imagine dealing with being gay and having bipolar as well.

    Replied on Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 8:17pm
  5. Dan – You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing your comments and personal experiences.

    Posted on Friday, July 30, 2010 at 1:17pm
  6. Dan- a few points I agree and disagree with. Firstly, I have suffered from depression my whole life. I first contemplated suicide when I was just 11 years old. I agree no one could come close to understanding what it is like until they have lived through the anguish of wanting to die and having nothing to live for. No one can understand the pure torment of living when you daily endure mental visions of what you would look like floating there in a bath of blood and water, all the suffering over and finally free of the torment. It seems like a promise.

    However I still, after a life spent thinking these things, think that suicide is a selfish act. I have never given in, I have always fought it and do you now why? I could not be so selfish to do that to my family and others that love me. There have been times in my life where the only thing that has kept me alive is the thought of the pain and agony that would go through the heart and soul of the person that found me. I have been going through on of those times this whole year in fact since I lost my fiance to a heart attack in January. Suicide is selfish. It is deciding an end to your suffering is worth the suffering of others. The only time it is not selfish is if there is someone in this world whom no one loves. I’ve wished that no one did love me so I could put an end to this painful hell, but as long as one person lives that does, I will endure.

    I also must disagree with your statement “his family did love an(sic) recognize him. They have made that clear in their statement above.” In MHO the one thing that seemed clearest to me in all their statements were the following “chooses to live a gay lifestyle.”, “It was difficult for his parents to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality”, “his parents felt that they could not attend his commitment ceremony”. I’m not saying that these parents did not love their child, I’m not saying they are not suffering at the loss of him, but I do feel that in a religion that is based on a belief that god is your heavenly “father” and loves you unconditionally, too many parents do not seem to have learned the lesson “hate the sinner not the sin”. I do not feel homosexuality is a sin, but obviously they did. It seems it broke their son’s heart irreparably. Just as Jake Jacquez, his partner of eight years, has now had his heart irreparably broken by this poor tortured man’s last selfish act.

    — “He killed him with their love. That’s how it is everyday, all over the world” Stephen King

    Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 7:10am
  7. So you folks who think being gay has nothing whatsoever to do with depression – that is an inexplicably naive conclusion. Don't you think you'd be depressed if you were gay and everyone around you considered you a sinner? Including your parents? Gay teens whose parents reject them even in very subtle ways, such as limiting their contact with people who accept them for who they are and support them are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than other teens.

    Posted on Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 4:22pm
  8. scooby dooby doo!

    Posted on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 9:38pm