We are saddened to learn today of two more gay teens who have turned to suicide. This brings the total to 6 known suicides in September by openly gay, or perceived gay, teenagers.
Raymond Chase, a 19-year-old openly gay sophomore studying culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, committed suicide on Wednesday by hanging himself in his dorm room.
Details of the incident are scarce and unlike previous reports, it is not known at this time what the circumstances were leading up to Chase’s death.
Johnson and Wales Vice President Ronald Martel emailed students with the news on Thursday:
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Today I contact you with the deeply sad news of the passing of Raymond Chase, sophomore, 19, culinary arts major. The campus community is mourning the loss of this vibrant young man who leaves many JWU friends and teachers, and a loving family of Monticello, New York.
We have also learned of another gay teen whose death was sadly, but unintentionally, overlooked.
In Shiocton, Wisconsin, Cody J. Barker, a 17-year-old openly gay teen, took his life on September 13.
Cody attended Shiocton High School, where he was active in choir. He recently attended a seminar aimed at helping him establish a gay/straight alliance at his school. Cody also enjoyed bicycling and gardening, and was a Lady Gaga fan.
Maria Peeples, Barker’s peer mentor through GSA for Safe Schools, said he was a passionate activist for all students, especially those, “targeted or ostracized for their sexual orientation or their gender identity and expression. … He really cared about making schools a safe place for students. That wasn’t always his own experience with school.” [Wisconsin Gazette]
Raymond and Cody mark the fifth and sixth known teen suicides in the month of September among openly gay, and perceived gay, teens in what has become an epidemic of gay suicides:
On September 9, Billy (William) Lucas, of Greensburg, IN, was was found dead in a barn at his grandmother’s home — he had hanged himself. While Billy never self-identified as gay, friends report he was tormented for years because other kids thought he was gay. Billy was 15 years old.
On September 19, Seth Walsh of of Tehachapi, CA, was found unconscious and not breathing after attempting to hang himself. Seth, age 13, spent the better part of 10 days on life support — he died on September 28. Seth was openly gay and suffered years of relentless bullying.
On September 22, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, 18, of Ridgewood, NJ, jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge, just days after his college roommate broadcast live images on the internet of him having a sexual encounter with another man.
On September 23, Asher Brown, age 13, came home from school and shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at his middle school in Houston, TX. Asher told his parents he was gay that morning.
On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign issued a nationwide action alert asking Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to speak out immediately and to push every school in the nation to implement anti-bullying policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Our schools and our nation cannot sit back and wait for the next tragedy,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Tools and resources are available to protect our children and it is adults who must act to put strong laws, policies and procedures in place.”