Michael Aaron

By Our Own Hand

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I know of three lovely Utah gay people who committed suicide in the past few weeks. I don’t even want to go through the obituaries to find if there are others.

I just want to scream and cry and rant and soapbox and tell people how hateful they are to their friends and family for being so damned selfish to do this. But I don’t. And I just did. I understand and I don’t. I feel for them and I hate them. I want to resurrect them just to kill them again for being so cruel. I want to travel back in time to be there and plead and strangle them with my own hands if they reject my reasoning. They scare me because I don’t know who is next. They anger me because they didn’t come to me for help. How did you end all resources for living if you didn’t talk to me or a dozen other friends who would go to great lengths to stop you? I call you a coward, but braver than most. You escaped life and its troubles, but you also left me. You left a future you might have changed. I believe you will go to hell, but I hope and pray not. And I don’t even believe in hell.

I read the obituaries often to glean who was the latest suicide. Why am I so powerless to help with this? Why are we, as a community — yes, a gay community, and the community of Utah — unable to fix this. Suicide is a choice. How do we get people to not choose this? How did so many of us — friends of Todd and others — not see the signs and recognize that this was on our horizon?

Suicide. They didn’t pass away. They killed themselves. Murdered by their own hands. Murdered by our lack of understanding, compassion, awareness, vigilance or simple capacity to make change in their world.

I’m angry, I’m hurt. I feel guilty. I hate myself; I hate my communities; I hate my god. Much like I was when I was 16 and a friend did the same thing. Much like I was when a complete stranger drove his car into a concrete retaining wall only to have a group of Boy Scouts, including me, run to his “aid” to hear him plead, “Just let me die.”

I wish for a better world and pray that people out there considering the same thing know there are also people out there who will help. Please call 866-488-7386 right now. Call your best friend. Call a distant friend. Call someone you met today. Who cares what time it is? If they don’t answer, just dial a random number. Just keep trying. For one more minute. For one more hour. For one more day.

A few years ago I met a beautiful man. An artist. He gave me a beautiful fused glass Burning Man pin he designed and made, and we danced naked around a fire. His smile was resonant. He made my night; my week. He made my heart glow. A week later he was dead by his own hand. How does someone go from such a beautiful moment to utter despair in a week?

So, we are now survivors of suicide. The ones left behind. We hurt. Sometimes desperately. What now?

We go through what I have done above. Anger. Grief. We can’t go around those feelings. And, hopefully, we can come to a point of forgiveness. As tough as that might be. Frankly, I’m not there with my lost friends yet, even after decades.

But we can also work harder to build a community where people feel loved and accepted. We can continue our work — that is working, by the way — toward a more accepting general community. And, yes, I’ll say it — a more accepting, understanding, (or at least tolerant) membership of the local predominant church.

I can’t help but feel that these recent victims were simply not patient enough. It just feels that things are truly turning, especially in Utah. Compared to when I started my own activism in the early ’80s, we have moved attitudes by miles. I remember being asked by a certain radio host (see Troy Williams’ column) whether I thought we would see gay marriage or any degree of equality in my lifetime, I answered, “no.” And I believed it. I truly thought I was helping set the stage for a battle I would never actually see. It feels we have pushed the fast forward button the past several years. Can’t people see that?

In response to these recent suicides, QSaltLake has teamed up with The Trevor Project to bring awareness to their mission of saving our youth from their own hands. Please feel free to tear the next page out and hang it in public places.

Let’s end this.

Utah Suicide Stats:

  • Every 11 days a Utah teen commits suicide
  • Utah leads the nation in suicide among men 15-24
  • Utah has the 11th highest overall suicide rate in the nation

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this, Michael. It’s beautiful and brings to light the extensive responsibility we have to ourselves, our friends and acquaintances, and those coming out younger and younger and living with the pressures of our own and the broader community. LIFE CAN BE SO POWERFUL! Let us share this with each other more fully!

  2. I too wish to thank you Michael for this article. My little brother committed suicide in 1987 and I made the attempt in 1976. Thank you for teaming with the Trevor Project to try and make a difference. And if you are wondering, this is the Bryan Stone-Daly that you met long ago in politics when David Nelson and yourself were active and visible. And thank you for surviving as a gay publication for so long when others have not.

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