Corey Jackson. 19. Gay. College Student. Killed Himself on Tuesday.

Local officials found 19-year-old Corey Jackson’s body in a wooded area of Oakland University’s Rochester, Michigan, campus last night. Corey Jackson had committed suicide by hanging himself.

On Tuesday night, when you were asking your roommate if the purple t-shirt you wore out last weekend was too dirty to wear again today for the day of activism against gay bullying, Corey Jackson killed himself. Everyone was supposed to wear purple. Did you wear purple.

Although bullying may not have been a factor in Jackson’s death, Melissa Pope, director of Oakland University’s Gender and Sexuality Center, says that it’s important to consider the high suicide rates of LGBT youth in general:

We must look beyond the term “bullying” to the overall treatment of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community to begin to grasp the long-standing epidemic of suicide among our LGBT youth.

While the national press has picked up this issue over the last two months, we have been losing high numbers of LGBT youth to suicide for decades. In recent years, we’ve labeled the cause as bullying. But the root cause goes deeper – it goes to the very core of our society that discriminates against the LGBT community on all levels, including the denial of basic human rights that are supposed to belong to every person.

As I sit with the students who regularly visit the Oakland University Gender and Sexuality Center, including the newer members of our community, drawn to the Center for affirmation and support, I am confident that these individuals know they are loved and accepted for who they are. My greater concern is the hundreds of students, faculty and staff who do not come to the Center. Those who are afraid to come out – perhaps even to themselves – for fear of the persecution they will suffer. My greatest hope is that those who feel isolated reach out to resources like the GSC to discover they are not alone. We are here to listen and offer support.

From The Oakland Post:

Jackson was a sophomore and a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He lived on campus.

Though he never chose to formally initiate, he kept in close contact with members of TKE.

TKE President Nick McCormick wore a purple shirt today in remembrance of recent gay suicides. According to him, Jackson “had recently come out and seemed to be okay with it.”

“It seems that he had been despondent about personal matters,” said Oakland County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ljubisa J. Dragovic.

However, Dragovic explained that his office’s statutory responsibility was to determine a medical cause of death.

“I think the bullying may have something to do with it; maybe it was some negative support he may have gotten,” McCormick said. “If I had to give it a guess, the perception of his lifestyle might have had an effect on him.”

McCormick stressed that the TKE brotherhood is “about being open to each other” and that there has been an outpouring of support from the TKE and campus communities.

“I couldn’t believe what happened; I thought there was a huge misunderstanding at first,” said Carl Miller, a TKE member. “People should be more accepting of others. It would help.”

Anika Khan, a sophomore majoring in information technology, is close friends with many TKE members.

“I was so shocked that I couldn’t cry when I found out,” said Khan, who also noted she felt the resources of the Gender and Sexuality Center should be advertised more. “I was close to him, but I wish we were closer.”

Because TKE members were close with Jackson, they each honored his memory by wearing black ribbons that usually signify a brother’s passing.

“We have absolutely no indication at this time that bullying or harassment was part of this,” Lucido said. “Having said that, we’re also still conducting a very lengthy investigation.”

Corey Jackson was from Pontiac, Michigan, and was a sophomore at Oakland University. This is what he looks like:

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39 Comments

  1. This is pretty much how my Tuesday night started, as long as you add in determining that the shirt was actually smelly enough to wash.

    And then finding out that Corey, a young man from my community, died from suicide through a phone call from a close friend just made me tired of having feelings.

  2. this is complete fucking bullshit.

    STOP. okay? just stop.

    I think we need to march somewhere in a large group and raise hell until people pay attention and this shit stops happening. or something. I can’t just keep reading this over and over again like some kind of recurring nightmare.

  3. This hits way too close to home. I was just about to send an application to Oakland.

    But I don’t think it’s going to stop any time soon. The suicide has been going on for a lot longer than the media has been reporting it, and it will continue so long as there’s an underlying message that we aren’t acceptable. Change has to happen.

  4. I want to know what I can do to stop this. I have no money, no valuable possesions. I don’t have political power, or media popularity. I know all too well the desire to just be done with the pain that life can bring, and there are days that I forget the beauty that I try to keep living for. I’m crying as I type, and there is one more face that will haunt me the next time that I sleep. Still, I think that maybe I can help. Someone tell me how?

    I really do want to know.

    • Post a video on the It Gets Better youtube channel listing a phone number or email where gay kids can reach you, and tell them you are willing to listen (only if that’s really true). Or, just be nice to people in your own life.

    • Research nearby queer organizations where you might be able to volunteer, or talk to someone there who can point you in the right direction.

      A very dear friend of mine volunteers for this awesome (and national) organization, so that’s another possibility to consider as well.

      Best of luck to you, sugar. There’s stuff you can do. Trust.

    • Don’t hesitate to ask someone, “Are you okay?” If your gut tells you a friend is acting “off,” if they seem overwhelmed or withdrawn, or you are just not sure, reach out to them or get them some help.

  5. You know what is the only thing making me feel better right now? Because I don’t have the resources to do much, either.

    I overheard a conversation between a few of my students today, totally unprovoked by me, in which two of the kids were explaining to others why they were wearing purple. And the overall response was, “shit, I didn’t know.” And, “wait, how many? oh my god.”

    Then they all looked at me and my purple shirt and started asking questions. And so we had a chat about bullying. And a bunch of 13 year olds were disgusted. By bullies, not homosexuals.

    Good for them.

    I wish I could have that chat with every kid. That chat and the moments when there is stunned/awkward silence in my class because someone dared to use the word gay to mean stupid. And then another kid explains why that is wrong and I don’t have to. Because they’ve all heard it before.

    I want to send those thirteen year olds everywhere.

  6. Fucking hell, why is this happening? The next article I read about another kid killing him/herself, I’m going to cry. The heaviness surrounding this issue is taking a toll, and the world needs to come to its senses.

    I want to do something about this. I think I’m going to come out to one of my roommates tonight, and then make an It Gets Better video.

  7. I cannot stress enough the importance of this:

    “…begin to grasp the long-standing epidemic of suicide among our LGBT youth.

    While the national press has picked up this issue over the last two months, we have been losing high numbers of LGBT youth to suicide for decades. In recent years, we’ve labeled the cause as bullying. But the root cause goes deeper – it goes to the very core of our society that discriminates against the LGBT community on all levels, including the denial of basic human rights that are supposed to belong to every person.”

    This is why voting matters.
    This is why DADT matters.
    This is why gay marriage matters, whether or not you believe in the institution.
    This is why EQUALITY matters, in every imaginable way.

    We have to be present and alert and proactive and yes, it’s exhausting, but do you want this to stop or do you want this to stop?

    Inertia kills, folks.

  8. There’s nothing to say. I just keep commenting so that people will know even strangers care about them. All the way from the other side of the Atlantic, I cried over my cereal bowl for Corey Jackson, 19, Gay, college student. Ironically enough, my cereal bowl is purple today, from all of the blueberries I put in it.

    All we can do is fight for our rights and keep reaching out to others.
    People care, please talk to someone.

  9. Jesus. What is happening?

    Is it weird that I feel SO guilty? Overwhelmingly guilty. Maybe I’m just confusing the feeling of guilt with the feeling of “what the fuck, all these kids keep dying, what are we going to do?” But at any rate, thinking about this makes it hard to breathe, literally.

    RIP, Corey.

  10. I feel bad today because I missed an opportunity to encourage a gay kid. I was sitting at the exit of my apartment complex, and these two girls were walking down the street holding hands. I’m in TEXAS by the way, and I so badly wanted to stick my head out the window and yell “That’s right girls! Stay brave! Be YOU! No matter what anyone tells you there is NOTHING for you to feel bad or weird about!” But I didn’t. I was too afraid i’d freak these poor girls out, or they wouldn’t hear me and would just see a crazy lady yelling, thinking i was one of the crazy gayters (gay haters)…

  11. I’m glad that people are FINALLY realizing the need for a campaign like It Gets Better.
    I live in a town of 29. The school I go to is made up of kids from several towns with populations of around 300 or less. Last year I petitioned my school to form a GSA but was told it was “inappropriate” bc I’m the only gay kid in my school. Which is pretty much statistically impossible for my (considered large in these parts) school of 400. Truth is, im the only OUT queer. I AM the gay scene. I have only met one other out homosexual in my life, an uncle who was so badly harassed by our family he moved from Illinois, our home state, to New Mexico. It’s hard being a lesbian here. I think about how lucky kids in the city are- they get LGBT centers, clinics, clubs and peers. Mostly though, I hurt for the kids in my school who are scared to be themselves. 2010 is far too late for the kind of predjudice and ignorance I see here daily. My greatest goal in life is to get out of here and go someplace that I can get a good education, so I can someday make sure that no kid feels as forgotten, unsafe, and alone as I do. Meanwhile, I urge you to act up and reach out. Make sure you don’t forget us rural gays-we don’t necessarily need more help but we have nothing in the first place. Lastly, like fit for a femme said, get out and get active in the community. I may not be old enough to vote or in an area to be politically active, but when you do, I can’t help but feel like you’re doing it for me. And that feels great.

    • I am so proud of you. If you need help or support or a reassuring word, please email me (lebrellj@gmail.com). I’m horribly personable and overly confident in my email correspondence abilities.

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