Editor’s note: Raised in an extremist Christian household, assaulted in classroom with a teacher present, Eric James Borges, 19, of Visalia, Calif., was repeatedly bullied, tormented and terrorized for the duration of his childhood and teen years.
Exorcisms, beatings and extreme Christianity pervaded his young life and did not “cure” him. “Disgusting, perverted, unnatural and going to hell” is what his parents told him as he was kicked out of his home.
Just last month, EricJames made a video for the “It Gets Better” project, a campaign that features personal hope-filled videos to LGBT teens to get them through difficult times. Although he said “it gets better” and asked other teens to “ never give up,” he could not live through the extensive damage to his psyche and the pain that life had brought to him.
On Jan., 11, 2012, EricJames committed suicide, shocking his friends and his co-workers at The Trevor Project. SDGLN Contributor Melanie Nathan attended one of his funerals, and obtained a copy of one of his suicide notes that gives insight on what he was thinking. This is her exclusive story.
“To my friends you gave me life and love, never think this was your fault … To Lady Gaga, you have been a fearless relentless proud LGBT advocate …”
– Excerpt from a suicide note by Eric James Borges.
Never before had the sound of “Edge of Glory” been so inconceivable; EricJames Borges chose Lady Gaga, and not only for the echo that would pave his heavenly journey but as a benefactor, leaving the last of his life’s dealings to his icon:
Five hundred dollars would go to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, $500 to the Trevor Project, $521.56 to the Human Rights Campaign and almost $2,500 to his rescuer, Jennifer McGuire, for her upcoming same-sex wedding. “I want it to go where it deserves; to life, love and equality.”
Unlike during his life, 19-year-old EricJames Borges was in control at the end; he uploaded the music and chose the people; he designed his own funeral service and it was poignant. This past Saturday, Borges was celebrated at one of three memorials held in Visalia, and the one I attended was held by the small California Central Valley town’s grieving LGBT community, those describing themselves as his new family.
His religious-extremist parents had been invited but did not attend.
Mere months before, EricJames came out, recorded an “It Gets Better” video, made a short film and gave anti-bullying suicide prevention workshops to other teens; yet he could not sustain his own pain and committed suicide just two weeks ago.
I obtained an exclusive and copyrighted copy of one of his suicide notes addressed to Jennifer McGuire (page three is found to the right), and EricJames wanted all to know that he was grateful to the Trevor Project: “I do not want my passing to reflect poorly on the Trevor Project,” he clarified. “That organization was the best decision I ever made in my life.”
A confused community packed the convention hall, trying to grasp the pain that could have caused this young suicide, further perplexed that even after the rescue which took him from a world of shame and torture to one of acknowledgment and safety, he would still want to die.
And so he did, in the home of a tender stranger, who took him in like her own, and whom he described in his last note as “mother-like” to him. She gave him love, safety, comfort and a Christmas like none other he had experienced in his life.
While officiate and friend, William Van VanLandingham, the director of the local chapter of Trevor Project, noted that “we are not here to point fingers,” Jennifer McGuire, the kind stranger who had opened her home to EricJames and grown to love him, spoke to the mourners candidly:
“I am not going to avoid the elephant in the room. He tells his story better than any of us could in his short film and ‘It Gets Better’ video, but I need it to be spoken out loud – and said for him … his parents tortured him – there is no other word to describe it. What he shared in his video was the tip of the iceberg, and that’s only compared with what he shared with me, and I am sure there was more.
“His parents tortured him by not protecting him from the extensive bullying. His parents tortured him through their relentless, extremist religious teachings. His parents tortured him with shame and intolerance and emotional and physical abuse that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. And yes, I blame them, and not just a little, but for a majority percentage … His parents killed him.”
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know needs support, please don’t hesitate to call the Trevor Project‘s Lifeline at 866-488-7386.