Remembering Brandon Bitner (1996 - 2010)
Brandon Bitner was buried on Wednesday, November 10. The 14-year-old high school freshman from rural Middleburg, Pennsylvania committed suicide by running into the path of a tractor trailer. He left a note that he wanted to draw attention to bullying. Brandon was a talented musician, who aspired to be a classical violinist. According to the note, he was tired of being called "faggot" and "sissy." According to his mother, Tammy Simpson, "He was the most wonderful child anyone could ask for."
"We need to stop the carnage of gay teen suicides," said Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum, a national LGBT civil rights organization headquartered in Philadelphia.
In October 2010, Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, brought national attention to the epidemic of gay teen suicides that resulted from bullying. It is estimated that about 500 gay teens each year or 40 gay teens per month take their lives as a result of homophobia.
"In most public, middle and high schools, homophobic taunts are hurled without any disciplinary action," stated Lazin. "Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can really harm you."
Currently, there are two bills in Congress, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. "Preventing bullying is a non-partisan issue," said Lazin. "Congress needs to unanimously pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act to make resoundingly clear that our nation demands safe schools for all children."
Equality Forum produced the documentary film "JIM IN BOLD" (www.jiminbold.com) about the impact of homophobia on gay youth. The film centers on James Wheeler, a 19-year-old talented youth who committed suicide. Jim was surrounded in his high school's locker room and urinated on. There was no disciplinary action. The award-winning film has been screened at over 50 film festivals and at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association.