April 30, 2012

Another Teen Tragedy: Gay Utah Teen Takes His Own Life

Jack Denton Reese Mountain Green Utah Gay Teen
 Parents, Teachers, Politicians, And Religious Leaders Have Failed Our Youth. They Are Responsible For The LGBTQ Suicide Epidemic - When Will They Do Something About It?

Q Salt Lake: “It happens here about once a week, but officially, you know, it doesn’t happen here.” Utah public official on teen suicide problem.

There has been another teen tragedy. This time it was in Mountain Green, Utah - and there has been nary a mention of it in the mainstream press.

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Mountain Green is an unincorporated town in northern Utah, with approximately 2,300 residents, and Ogden, the nearest city, is 18 miles away. Salt Lake City is 35 miles away from Mountain Green. With nowhere to turn for help, and Ogden and Salt Lake City out of reach, Jack Denton Reese, 17, of Mountain Green, ended his life on April 22, 2012.

On April 23rd Ogden native Alex Smith, 18, was speaking about the dangers of bullying before a community panel, and he also talked about the bullying that his boyfriend endured at school. Alex didn’t know that his boyfriend Jack had committed suicide the day before.

Jack’s family hasn’t made any comments to the press, nor has any of his 9 siblings. According to his obituary at Myers Mortuary:

Jack was very good with computers and loved to play his X-Box games. He enjoyed skiing, four wheeling in the mountains and working with plants. Jack loved animals and will miss his cat, Cat. He was also very good with kids and loved taking care of them. Jack was learning to speak Japanese and loved anything to do with Japan. He was also very good at drawing and photography.

The only report of Jack’s death that I have been able to find in any newspaper, was a very short obituary dated April 25th in the Ogden Standard-Examiner. Despite the lack of press attention, the Ogden Standard-Examiner printed a “letter to the editor” on April 26th, from Michael W. Jarvis of Salt Lake City. In a letter that was entitled Teach homosexuality as 'crime against nature', Jarvis wrote in part:

If anything is taught at all in the public schools about homosexuality, it should be limited to a simple definition in the 12th grade psychology textbook under crimes against nature, along with incest, pedophilia, necrophilia, human trafficking, beastiality and suicide. Those at war with religion and family are also at war with the Constitution of the United States; that provides for restriction of the civil liberties of criminals.

I don’t know what we can glean from the ignorance and hatred reflected in this letter, but you can be certain that this is the sentiment of some of the residents of Utah, and it isn’t a nurturing or welcoming place for LGBTQ students. In my opinion, it is the letter that is downright criminal.


In a blog called A Gentle Nudge, blogger Lester Leavitt shared this 2008 anecdote about a Christmas newsletter he received from his gay Salt Lake City friends, Joe & Russ Baker-Gorringe.

"In July, [Utah] Governor Jon M Huntsman and his wife, Mary Kaye, graciously hosted us, along with others from the gay community, in their home. In addition to having our picture taken with our governor, first lady, Mary Kaye, told us about a gay young man she knew who had walked into his first day of the 11th grade. In the hall that first morning, he heard kids say, “Oh no! The faggot is back!” The next day, they jumped him in the hall, and threw him in the lunchroom garbage can. On the third day, a group of guys grabbed him, shoved his head in an unflushed toilet. On the fourth day, a group of his peers told him not to sit with them at lunch, calling him “a Queer, faggot, freak.” On the fifth day, this same young man took his own life.

Mary Kaye’s comments tugged at our heartstrings, as we have done some outreach and fundraising for the Utah Homeless Youth Resource Center . Utah has the highest homeless youth rate in the nation. Of the thousands of possible reasons a youth could find themselves homeless, 54% of Utah ’s homeless youth say they were kicked out of their homes because they were gay. We can’t help but feel shame for the fruit of Utah ’s “family values.” On a national scale, gay youth suicides are 5 times the national average. In Utah , it is 8 times the national average.

In addition, we have seen countless people lost to self-loathing, and destructive addictive behavior, which have been fueled by the hurtful teachings heard from too many pulpits. It isn’t homosexuality that destroys families. It is ignorance, hate, and bigotry."


An October 21, 2011 article in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, reported that residents of the state of Utah think about suicide more than the residents of any other state. Dennis Romboy wrote:

One in 15 Utah adults seriously considered suicide in the past year, the highest rate in the nation, according to a new report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found 6.8 percent of Utahns ages 18 and older had suicidal thoughts. Georgia had the lowest rate in the country at 2.1 percent, or 1 in 50 adults. The report is the first to present state-level data regarding suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults in the United States.
        
The CDC study, based on data from the 2008-09 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, attempts to look at suicide in the planning stages. It found that young adults ages 18 to 29 had the highest rate of suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts.

Also, in 2008-09 there were 827 completed suicides, about one per day. Utah had an overall suicide rate of 16 per 100,000 population for that time period.”

The Utah Department of Health reported that in 2010 there were 45 homicides in the state, while there were 456 suicides. 77 Utahns between the age of 10-24 took their own lives.

People are uncomfortable talking about suicide and mental health issues, so the problem gets swept under a rug. Suicide is a very serious public health issue that our communities must address. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 10-14 year olds, 15-19 year olds, and 20-24 year olds, and the 2nd leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds, and the 4th leading cause of death among 35-44 year olds, and 45-54 year olds.

Adults are responsible for bringing children into the world, and they are responsible for raising their offspring in a loving and supportive home. It is a moral imperative to love and embrace one’s child, and all of the children of the world, unconditionally.

It’s more than obvious that parents and teachers, politicians and religious leaders, together with the media, have been abrogating their responsibility as adults, to the kids in our country, and it has to stop now.

Parents have a responsibility to keep children healthy, and for raising them to the best of their ability, in a nurturing and loving environment.

Parents and teachers are responsible for a child being educated and prepared for life as an adult, and that includes being safe from harm, and attending a school that is conducive to learning, and is free of bullying.

Politicians are responsible for funding our schools, and enacting legislation, to ensure that there are laws and programs in place, that provide an optimum learning environment. The laws and programs must ensure that students aren’t discriminated against for any reason, and that every teacher and school administrator has an arsenal at their disposal, to fight and wipe out bullying.

Religious leaders must stop denigrating and demeaning the LGBT community from the pulpit and in the public square. There is no documentation anywhere in the Bible that support the spreading of lies and hyperbole, that religious leaders employ, to slander the LGBT community. The slander must stop now.

It’s time that we put anti-gay politicians and religious leaders on notice, that we as a nation, will no longer tolerate intolerance. We have to communicate to them that they can’t wrap themselves in scripture, in order to promote what can only be characterized, as hateful discrimination and bigotry.

The media has long been complicit in discriminating against the LGBT community. We must demand that media outlets who allow these anti-gay people on the air, be described as hateful bigots too, because they’re knowingly spreading the gospel of hate. If they lend their airwaves to bigots, aren’t they bigots too?

All life is precious - whether gay, straight, confused, or transgender, and it’s about time that we start to show it.

It is incumbent upon all of us to work together to end the culture of suicide that has developed among our LGBTQ youth. We must talk about it, blog about it, and publicize it. Maybe then the public will be interested in combating these tragedies, because enough isn't being done today.

R.I.P. Jack Denton Reese.


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