On Monday, April 23, an 18-year-old Ogden resident on a community panel spoke about the dangers of bullying. Alex Smith told the packed room about the bullying his boyfriend, Jack, experienced at school.
What no one in the room yet knew, including Alex, was that Jack had already taken his own life.
The death of Jack Reese is the latest known suicide of a gay teen in Northern Utah.
One official told Ogden OUTreach director Marian Edmonds, off the record: “It happens here about once a week, but officially, you know, it doesn’t happen here.”
OUTreach is hosting a community panel and discussion, A Community Stands up – Northern Utah Addresses LGBT Bullying and Suicide on May 1, 6:30 p.m., at the Ogden Amphitheater, 343 E. 25th St., Ogden. The purpose of the event is for the community to stand in solidarity with queer youth, to speak out and express grief and outrage at yet another loss of life in Northern Utah, and to witness for the need for immediate change in schools, churches and society.
Until all youth are loved and accepted in their homes, able to attend school without fear of bullying, and know that their lives are worth living, this community will continue to demand change, Edmonds said in a press release.
Numerous community leaders, educators, parents and youth will speak out for acceptance and love for LGBT youth, including active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A candlelight vigil in memory of Jack Reese will be held at the conclusion of the event.
“The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both. These youth are bright, creative and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family. It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children. Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds underscored the need for accurate education and guidance for ethnically and religiously diverse families and cited the work of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University – a research-based education, support and policy initiative that helps ethnically and religiously diverse families – including Latter-day Saint families – support their LGBT children in families, schools and faith communities to prevent suicide, substance abuse, HIV, homelessness, school victimization and family disruption. FAP uses a culturally grounded approach that strengthens families and promotes their LGBT children’s well-being. FAP’s family education materials are available online in three languages at familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications.