Remembering Billy Lucas, the boy whose suicide inspired a movement

Three years ago today, on September 9, 2010, Billy (William) Lucas, a 15-year-old from Greensburg, Ind., was was found dead in a barn at his grandmother’s home. He had hanged himself.

While Billy never self-identified as gay, friends said he was tormented for years because other kids thought he was gay.

Billy Lucas
Billy Lucas

Billy took his own life just hours after fellow students told him he didn’t deserve to live.

Ann Lucas said her son Billy talked to her just days before his suicide about being bullied. “He told me ‘Mom, you don’t know what it’s like to walk down the halls of school and be afraid of who’s going to hit you, who’s going to kick you.’”

Billy’s death was the first widely reported teen suicide in September of 2010 — within weeks, America and the world would come to know the names of at least ten more gay, or perceived gay, teens — each who would take their own life to escape the physical and emotional torture inflicted upon them by bullies.

The news of Billy’s death in 2010 was the catalyst that prompted nationally syndicated columnist Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller, both victims of bullying during their youth, to launch the “It Gets Better” project.

At the time of Billy’s death, Savage wrote in his weekly column: “I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.”

Within two months, the “It Gets Better Project” evolved into a worldwide movement, and to-date has inspired more than 500,000 user-created videos and over 50 million views, including messages by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, aimed a providing hope and encouragement to LGBT youth.

Last year, days before the second anniversary of Billy’s death, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Greensburg Community School Corporation alleging that Billy was targeted because of his learning disability, ethnicity and because some classmates thought he was gay.

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“Because of this perception of his sexual orientation, W.L. (Billy Lucas) was subjected to relentless harassment, ridicule and bullying at the school (and other schools in the district) during school hours over a period of several years,” court documents said.

Tom Blessing, an attorney formerly with the Frazier Law Firm, and who filed the suit on behalf of the Lucas family, told LGBTQ Nation on Monday that the lawsuit was settled quietly earlier this year with a confidentiality agreement between the parties that prevents discussion or disclosure of the settlement.

This year would have been Billy’s senior year in high school.

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