Rest in Peace, Jamie Hubley

“I’m tired of life, really. It’s so hard, I’m sorry, I can’t take it anymore.”

“I don’t want my parents to think this is their fault, either. I love my mom and dad. It’s just too hard. I don’t want to wait three more years, this hurts too much.”

As carefully as he worded his final blog entry, the pain being experienced by 15-year old Jamie Hubley of Ottawa is clear and heart-breaking. Jamie ended his life on Friday.

His father, Kanata Councillor Allan Hubley. released a statement citing bullying as one of the factors in Jamie’s death.

In a blog post from three weeks ago, Jamie wrote that he hated being the only openly gay guy attending A.Y. Jackson Secondary School in Kanata.

“I hate being the only open gay guy in my school… It f***ing sucks, I really want to end it. Like all of it, I not getting better theres 3 more years of highschool left…How do you even know It will get better?”

He also said neither the medications he was taking nor psychological therapy was working to alleviate depression.

Bullied as I was – by peers, yes, but far worse by a teacher – in elementary school and then by the back-of-the-bus crowd in high school, I don’t know sometimes how I could have survived when I can relate so strongly to the tragedy of youth suicides, and the hopelessness preceding them, today.  I certainly scoffed at all claims by my parents that these were the best years of my life!  At least the “It Gets Better” campaign makes no such present-day claims.

Jamie chose figure skating over hockey.  So that makes bullying him okay?  As someone who chose the band and drama club over any sport I can relate to following one’s passions over the pack mentality.  I would trade my worst day of rehearsing Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid or Lionel Bart’s Oliver! over my best shift on the ice trying to skate away from the puck.

As is more often the case nowadays than in my school in the 1970s Jamie not only knew he was gay but was open about it and he bravely tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance in his school.  He was a courageous kid who did not live to see the many accolades and tributes from around the world.

My chosen method of indirect suicide, I guess, was the prolonged torture of excessive drinking, where some days were better than others for a long time thus numbing me to the damage that I was doing.  What had started as experimentation in high school plunged into the real thing once I was away at college.  Struggling to accept myself – let alone seek the acceptance of others – made for easily identifiable signs of problem-drinking just as I was turning eighteen (the last year anyone in Ontario could legally drink at that age).  These were hellish years as I tried to fit in to the socially conservative milieu I found myself in while barn-storming around looking for love in all the gay places (Buffalo and Toronto).

I guess that’s it then.  As unworthy as I felt, as hopeless as life seemed, my faith that an intoxicant of one form or another would at least temporarily change the way I felt probably kept me sufficiently comforted – however delusional – that even the frequent thought of ramming into an overpass abutment usually came after I was safely home.

“It Gets Better” only when teenagers such as Jamie, and peers who are on different paths, are taught about the varieties of sexual orientation early enough – before individuals have even begun to experience strong feelings – so that everyone might find her/his place and grow into as non-judgmental a school environment as possible.

Clearly setting out his last few words, it’s such a pity that Jamie was so desperate and feeling so devoid of hope.

I hope that his parents take Jamie at his word that they bear no blame for his final decision.

It’s just so sad for his survivors to say good-bye.


Clint McCance is a man who should be run out of Arkansas

This idiot’s 15 minutes (I don’t expect he’d know what that means) will, hopefully, soon be over but surely not before he loses his elected job on the Midland, Arkansas school board.

Anderson Cooper set the story up this way last evening and then had a couple of great guests, including the whistle-blower:

A screen-shot of McCance’s Facebook page (which has been taken down), quoted by Anderson Cooper,  is kicking around the internet:

It turns out McCance is a bit afraid for the safety of his family – really? While I do not doubt there will be some who have some threatening words for this idiot, there are far more children – the ones he was ridiculing, just recent, public examples – who have, or have considered, suicide and who are in danger.

Was wearing purple last Wednesday, to remember kids who had killed themselves and to draw attention to bullying (by other kids mostly, mind you) just too much for this heat-seeking missile of a crack-pot to stand for?  I’m a little over-heated myself, I grant you.

I don’t know if the women of “The View” will be able to discuss this without smashing the furniture but it’s over-heated reactions – and by a school board vice-president no less – to grassroots movements of commemoration and education such as we saw a week ago Wednesday that make them all the more necessary.

No blogger, not even Anderson Cooper, is going to change the mind of a monster like Clint McCance (and should he ever apologize my guess it would be along the lines of “If I have offended anyone…”) but this is an opportunity for the people of Midland, and everywhere else in need of some soul-searching, to talk to one another and make an effort to see that there is nothing to be feared in difference.  Your children’s lives may depend on it!

This is an occasion when a wide variety of people, not just queer activists, should make their views about this known to Mr. McCance, the school board, and each other.

Now I need to remind myself (thank you Jo-Anne), with six hours sleep ahead if I’m lucky, that I am 51 years old and no one in my circles today is a bully. C. G. (“Mr. G” to me) is long dead and gone.

That will not stop me from calling out others like him as I see them.

Sticks and Stones…

I’d imagine it must be painful for a parent to have to impart to their children those familiar words, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

I was certainly skeptical.

Long before summoning the courage to come out to my parents at age 21, I had known that I was different from other kids in elementary school. I instinctively knew that I shouldn’t express my admiration for the exemplary physiques of Batman or Tarzan. So it was for many years – all the way through high school – that, while feeling no sticks and stones of any consequence, plenty of names hurt me and none moreso than those flung at me by my elementary school head teacher/principal. I attribute his monstrous bullying and physical abuse with setting the stage for all kinds of acting out behaviour detailed in other parts of this blog.

It is difficult to imagine that a man with such responsibility would have a place in today’s schools. To that extent, IT GETS BETTER.

Perhaps because we’ve applied ourselves to studying more diligently, or are just naturally gifted, it has been my observation that lgbt kids are smarter than average. There’s something to be said for being a nerd! I know, because I remember, that as a teen it seems like the freedom of adulthood will never arrive. It will, and IT GETS BETTER.

Almost without exception nowadays, schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Use that for all it’s worth. You have a right to being safe in school. The same goes for the internet.

I won’t lie to you. What your parents have probably called “the best years of your life” (I know mine did) will seem unbearable at times. Just remember that things have come a long way in terms of lgbt rights and acceptance since I, or your parents, were in school. Hang in there, IT GETS BETTER.

I’m going to close with three of my favourite messages from the YouTube “It Gets Better” campaign.

Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinsom

Fort Worth, Texas Councilman Joel Burns

New York City Gay Men’s Chorus

The Ride Home

I may add more to this story as details come back to me. As I told a friend tonight, these rides home all seemed alike to me so it’s difficult to recall specific details of any one ride. It just boils down to a large chunk of bad memories during, as adults called them, “the best years of your life” and may add to the explanation of my tendency to go inward as much as I do, seeking a refuge-like higher power.

These many years later it is difficult to separate the good days from bad – my lasting impression is that they were all bad – as I recall the bullying I endured on the school bus ride home from school each day.

The trip took about thirty-five minutes, depending on whether or not we had to stop for a ship going under the seaway lift-bridge, from Ormstown to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. There were a couple of stops leaving Ormstown, as we dropped kids at the end of their laneways, but most of us disembarked at close to our respective homes in Valleyfield.

The bullying included being squeezed in my seat by Debbie, a large-size girl who hugged me with head-locks and peppered me with mocking kisses. The older guys in the back (the smokers) taunted me about my dental work (“Give us a smile Kenny!”), often leading to a wedgie, and they took particular interest in me when, on rare occasions, I brought my tuba home. Now this was not the wraparound sousaphone seen in marching bands but rather an upper torso-sized model which I perched between my legs. Since my repertoire was limited, particularly without music, the most frequent request I could play from memory was the big bear’s theme from A & W root beer commercials of that time. It was a big hit, ridicule misinterpreted as appreciation notwithstanding.

Arriving at my stop, at the corner of Boulevard du Havre and Simpson Street, the gang would count down as I got off the bus and, with all sorts of relief and adrenaline coursing through my veins, raced down the block to my house. It was great to get home where, after a brief snack and a chat with Mom, if she wasn’t teaching piano in the living room, I would immediately start packing my newspaper carrier bags with the afternoon’s Montreal Star, destined for the forty or so customers on my route. Although I was sure one or two of the buildings I entered were haunted I mostly enjoyed a very good relationship with my customers, my good manners and conscientiousness appreciated by people who were much older than the trouble-makers on that bus.