Queer Studies

Reflections on Recent Suicides

May 14, 2014

The CSUN Queer Studies Program is saddened and enraged about the recent spate of queer teen suicides in the US.  Public discourse about these deaths has focused on the brutality of the individuals who were the most proximate causes of the suicides (bullies, assaulters, roommates with hidden cameras, etc.).   We believe it is vital that CSUN students, teachers, and community members who are moved by these deaths also reflect on and critique institutional and systemic homophobia, and on how such larger social forces might have played a role in the deaths of these and other teenagers. 

While the individuals who bullied, beat, and otherwise harassed these teenagers should take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, it’s equally important that we not take the easy way out by blaming only these individuals, ignoring the homophobic culture that enables and promotes their actions and dispositions.  This is a convenient way to avoid dealing with the fact that we live in a society that is structured and permeated by homophobic institutions, law, attitudes, and assumptions. 

The possibility that a teenager killed himself because his sexual activity with another man was made public is as much an indictment of a society that marginalizes, demonizes, and punishes same-sex desire as it is of the individuals who posted the manifestation of that desire on the internet.  We should not be content with punishing these individuals, but must continue to interrogate, protest, and overturn the murderous social systems and dispositions that create and sustain the assumptions and actions of these individuals.