October 20th, 2004

For Gabi and for Bill, with all of my love and respect

I got an email last night from Gabi Clayton, a wonderful woman and mother whose 17 year old son Bill committed suicide in May of 1995. Bill was one of the numerous children who are victims of hate crimes and sexual assaults who turn their anger inward with such force that it eventually makes them come apart.

I think the most tragic element of his story is that he came from such a loving, supportive family and that while his upbringing gave him courage and wisdom well beyond his years, it still wasn't enough to save him from himself. Imagine how terrible your life circumstances have to be that you would be that desperate, that lost and hopeless.

I told Gabi last week that having read Bill's story, that "I came across your webpage and the story of Bill while researching hate crimes for a piece I am writing. Today being the 6th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, I have felt the need to honor not just him but all of those whose lives have been stolen from us, so that we may remember and appreciate the lives of those no longer with us and celebrate those that are, even if only in memory." I went on to give her some details into my past/present activism and volunteer work. I was so completely taken with her, her son, and their entire story that I felt I needed to mark the occaision. I told her that from now on, everything I do to discourage hatred; everything I do in the name of fighting homophobia; everything I do in the hope of creating a better environment for children such as her son and children that are misled into bigotry, I will do so in honor of her and in honor and memory of Bill. I asked Gabi for her permission to share her family's story with others, and she gave it to me adding "That is why I published his story and I speak out -- all that has come from doing that has been a way for me to turn the pain of his suicide into something that can help in the work to end the hate and ignorance, and hopefully save other people from what Bill went through. Thank you Jude for your support and your work. I am glad to know we are working together."

We need to put faces on these kinds of tragedy. We need constant reminders that there are people who are no longer alive for senseless reasons so that we can encourage ourselves and others to be better today than we were yesterday, more compassionate and more aware. Bill Clayton could have been my brother, my nephew, or my child. YOUR brother, YOUR nephew, YOUR child. Maybe just like me you used to BE Bill Clayton once upon a time, but you made a different choice and that choice is the reason you have the luxury of being alive to even be able to read this, unlike Bill.

We're living in a time when the powers that be and the religious reich are squawking morning, noon, and night about "Protecting Traditional Marriage" bullshit. Where people are so stupid that they iconize attention whores like Paris Hilton who have done with their lives what amounts to absolutely NOTHING. People like Bill die every day because we don't pay enough attention to real issues and problems like hatred and intolerance, let alone make ourselves proactive enough to try and do something about them. Sometimes all you need is to use your voice and raise awareness, talk to people and ask questions.

In the time it took me to write this entry, two people somewhere in this country alone killed themselves. Maybe one of those people is someone you love.

Read Bill's story, talk about it, honor and remember him and help keep that memory alive.

Bill's Story
- Suicide Statistics | Gabi Clayton | Families Organized Against Hate | Tolerance.org | PFLAG -

post a link to this entry on your own journal if you wish, here's the code:

Much love, respect, and gratitude to my dear friend michaelnolan for making this banner!