Let me warn you – this may make me appear to be less than sympathetic. Please believe me when I say that I am not. I beg of you to just let me say my piece. There is no need to send me hate mail or to comment that I’m not being very kind. I just feel like this has to be said.
I got a very nice message from someone on the Kindness Matters Facebook page the other day. I get a lot of those and I appreciate every one of them. But this one…this one set me back. Part of the message said how sorry the writer was that gay children like Peyton felt that suicide was the only way. When I read it, I stopped short. Gay? Peyton wasn’t gay. So, after I thanked her for her kind words, I asked her why she thought my son was gay. What she said made me stop and think.
You see, this woman also follows The Peyton Heart Project, which is run by a woman named Jill while Peyton’s dad and my ex-husband, David helps as an administrator. In the last few months, Jill and The Peyton Heart Project have been working with the Tyler Clementi Foundation to make 12,000 hearts to pass out in his honor at a gay rights parade this summer. In doing so, there have been several hashtags and links referring to the LGBT community and I think that may be where the confusion lies.
In talking to my ex-husband about this misconception, he stated that LGBT teens are at a higher risk for suicide than other teens. There are mixed reviews about that. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention doesn’t break it down into groups like that, The Jason Foundation mentions it but doesn’t give any hard data and Healthy Children.org states that adolescent boys are the more at risk than gay or lesbian teens. I conducted a very unofficial poll on a forum for parents who have lost children to suicide and only 13 of the 36 people to respond said that their child was gay. So, I don’t really know what the truth is. I just think it’s easier for people to think that a child that dies by suicide must be gay. After all, “those” kids have the most issues and struggles, right? I guess people need to have a clear cut reason about why someone would take their life. But, in the end, the reason doesn’t really matter. The fact of the matter is that suicide exists. It exists in boys and girls, young and old, gay and straight. The only common denominator is that each and every one of those that die by suicide could no longer face the life they were living.
So then, why am I so bothered that strangers may think my boy was gay?
The simple answer is this: I’m bothered because it’s a lie. I’m bothered because that’s one more stigma that Peyton just doesn’t need to have tacked on to his life’s resume’. He already has enough stacked against him – he suffered from depression and anxiety, he had ADHD, he was a red head and wore glasses, he would rather read than play sports. And he died by suicide. All of those things already make people judge him. I just can’t sit idly by and allow people to judge him for something that isn’t even true.
Being the main person behind a national campaign like Kindness Matters is a big job and one that I welcome with all my heart, but it’s just one of many hats that I wear. The job that I hold most dear is that of protector to my son’s name, reputation and legacy. So, I hope that you won’t take offense to what I’ve said. It’s just the momma bear in me coming out to protect her cub.